Friday, September 09, 2011

Night time stroll in Beijing September 9

Last night, after dinner at a hotel, our group walked about an hour to try and find a street celebration of Autumn Festival, a major holiday that ranks up there with New Year. It is a time to celebrate family and the harvest season - there is a full moon. Naturally, I was most interested in trying the Moon Cookies - but alas, we found no cookies or celebration. Happily, we did stumble upon some adorable kids racing on their inline skates and eager parents cheering them on in what appeared to be amateur, but spirited races. Nearby, we were astonished and mesmerized by the recently built performing arts center, nicknamed, "The Egg." We were treated to an amazing light display as the building appeared, blue, purple, silver, alternatively as huge spot lights beamed upon it. Truly space age and breath-taking. All the more so because the builiding was surrounded by a reflecting pool. This was a highlight so far and all the more delightful because we just stumbled up on it - not part of our "official tour."

Kids racing on inline skates

Amazing light show for the new performing art center known as The Egg

Building turned blue, purple, silver, as huge colored spot lights beamed upon it

Silver Egg

Bookstore in Beijing September 9

This huge bookstore was packed with people. Very reassuring to see a bookstore with such a huge bustling, buying populations, kind of like Apple stores in the U.S.

Large statue celebrating reading

Busy bookstore in Beijing

Beijing September 9

People Watch Report: People in Beijing are more fashionable that I expected, wearing jeans and Western-style clothes; almost no one on the streets wears hats, sunglasses or helmets (on scooters or bicycles).
A few fellow bikers from my Imagine Tours group celebrate in the lobby of Guangzhou Hotel

No sunglasses or hats but women do carry umbrellas

More fashion-conscious than I had imagined

Watch out for the Dumplings! September 9

I made it to Beijing after the longest flight of my life - 12 hours - which got longer when our United flight was delayed 2.5 hours by mechanical problems. On the flight, I met most of our 15-person group and instantly liked our group leader, Nancy Redway, the owner of Imagine Tours, based in Davis, California. Very quick "check out" of Beijing Airport and our private bus took us through the rush hour traffic to our hotel, an hour's drive. Rush hour is no joke in a city of 9 million people. I slept a solid 8 hours at our hotel Guanghzou Hotel (

Biggest danger in Beijing, besides smog, crazy traffic and cigarette smoke in the hotel, is the dumplings! They were served at our breakfast buffet.I could live on these fattening treats.

The dumplings were delicious--and addictive.

Imagine Tours: Karen's China Bike Trip


2011 China's Yunnan & Tibet Cycling Tour with Beijing extension

September 8: ARRIVAL IN BEIJING. After clearing customs and claiming your baggage, your tour guide will meet you at the airport and you’ll transfer to our hotel, located in the heart of the city. You can join other arriving participants to do some sightseeing for a day at leisure. Overnight at a 4-star hotel Beijing [extra cost is $80 US per room].

September 9: BEIJING. Plan to arrive in China’s vibrant capital at least by mid-afternoon, but most flights arrive in the morning. This evening the group will enjoy a special Beijing Food tonight. Overnight at a 4-star hotel Beijing [included in tour fees].

Day 4: September 10. BEIJING. Start your day with a visit to the Forbidden City, the former seat of the emperors throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties. It’s a true architectural masterpiece and home to the National Palace Museum. After lunch you'll visit the Summer Palace, built in classical Chinese style in 1750 as a royal recreational resort. Among its famous features are the 700-meter-long corridor with its wonderful Painted Gallery, the Marble Barge, and several magnificently painted pavilions and pagodas. Tonight you'll enjoy a mesmerizing acrobatic show. Overnight at a 4-star hotel in Beijing.

Day 5: September 11. BEIJING. On today’s exciting excursion you’ll scale the ramparts of the legendary Great Wall, built 2600 years ago and extending over 3,700 miles. Walk atop this ancient wonder of the world, one of the two man-made structures seen by US astronaut Neil Armstrong from outer space. Next you’ll visit the Ming Tombs, the burial place of thirteen emperors of the Ming Dynasty and their families. Overnight at a 4-star hotel in Beijing.

Day 6: September 12. BEIJING / KUNMING. This morning we will fly to Kunming ( 07:35 -10:55), your tour guide will meet and transfer to our hotel. We'll have a city tour in the afternoon, if time permits. Overnight at a 4-star hotel in Kunming.

Day 7: September 13: DALI. We’ll have an early breakfast in hotel, then transfer by bus to Dali, home to over 1.5 million Bai minority people whose culture, crafts and warm hospitality create its renowned laid-back atmosphere. Lunch will be served in our hotel. In the afternoon we'll take our bicycles for a test ride and adjustments, then cycle to the Park of Three Pagodas and around the old town of Dali. There are plenty of places to explore or cafes to visit within the town's old city walls. Overnight at a 4-star hotel in Dali.

Day 8: September 14: DALI. This morning we cycle on the scenic and rolling road around the gorgeous Er Hai Lake (60km). The Cang Shan Mountains rise behind Dali city as we skirt the shores of this huge inland sea, passing through fishing villages and farming communities. A picnic lunch will be served on the road. Alternatively, visit the colorful Shaping markets and the preserved architecture of Xizhou. Overnight at 4-star hotel in Dali.

Day 9: September 15. LIJIANG. After breakfast at the hotel we'll cycle out of Dali city on the rolling and beautiful countryside. Experience the local rural life as we pedal through several Naxi and Yi minority villages on our way to Lijiang. We’ll have a picnic on the road and in the late afternoon transfer by bus to Lijiang. This UNESCO World Heritage site of ageless charm is home to the Naxi, an ancient matriarchal society descended from Tibetan nomads. Overnight at 4-star hotel in Lijiang.

Day 10: September 16: TIGER LEAPING GORGE. Today we head off along the Tibetan Highway for dramatic Tiger Leaping Gorge, the world's deepest gorge. On the way we'll visit the ancient Stone Drum Town set on the first bend of the Yangtze River. Here the Yangtze makes sudden V-shaped bend, nearly 180-degrees, and creates beautiful views. At the river's bend stands Stone Drum (Shigu) Town, named after a drum-shaped marble plaque commemorating the victory of Lijiang's Naxi ruler over an invading Tibetan army. We cycle to the famous Stone Drum Town along a beautiful river (round trip 20 km), known here as the Jinsha River, then we continue to cycle about 40 km to Tiger Leaping Gorge. Here we can admire the majestic snow capped peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Mountain above us. We'll hike to the Gorge (round trip about 5 km). Overnight at Yi Xiang Hotel in the town of Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Day 11: September 17: SHANGRI-LA. After our breakfast at the hotel we cycle 60km on a scenic and challenging road to Shangri-La (Zhongdian). We’ll stop for a picnic lunch on the road, and in the afternoon we cycle through beautiful Tibetan villages to Zhongdia. Visit the Songzanlin Monastery which was built 300 years ago under the instruction of the 5th Dalai Lama. Now there are still 800 monks and 3 living Buddhas inside.

Day 12: September 18: SHANGRI-LA / LIJIANG / CHENGDU. After our breakfast at the hotel we transfer back to Lijiang. We will pedal about 30 km to Yunshanping of Jade Snow Mountain. At this scenic spot a ski lift has been built with a view of the majestic snow capped peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain above us. Sightseeing at Yunshanping of Jade Snow Mountain. Later afternoon we'll will fly to Chengdu (17:40 -18:50). Meet and transfer to our hotel. Overnight at 3 star hotel in Chengdu.

Day 13: September 19: CHENGDU / LHASA / SHANNAN. Early morning we'll fly to Lhasa (06:30-08:30), our tour guide will meet us at airport and transfer to Shannan (Tsedang) by bus. On the way you'll enjoy spectacular scenery, driving through typical Tibetan villages and past Yak-skin boats cruising the Yalung Zangbo River. In the afternoon we'll cycle to Yumbulakhang Palace and Traduk Monastery. Overnight at 3-star hotel in Shannan.

Day 14: September 20: TO BE DECIDED


Day 16: September 22: TO BE DECIDED

Day 17: September 23. XINING / GUANGZHOU. Early morning we will arrive in Xining, our guide will meet us and transfer to city center for breakfast. We'll have a city tour in Xining. In the afternoon we'll transfer to airport to fly to Guangzhou (16:50 --21:45). Meet and transfer to our hotel in Guangzhou. Overnight at 4-star hotel in Guangzhou.

Day 18: September 24. GUANGZHOU. Visit Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, Memorial Hall of the Chen Family, Temple of Six Banyan Trees. Tonight enjoy the dinner with famous Cantonese local flavor. Overnight at 4 star hotel in Guangzhou. (B,L,D).

Day 19: September 25. HONG KONG. Breakfast at the hotel, then take an early express train to Hong Kong and transfer to hotel on your own by taxi. Overnight included at 3-star hotel in Hong Kong. Dinner is not included in tour package. Additional days in Hong Kong are an option (all Imagine Tours cyclists will stay an additional day).

Day 20: September 26. Imagine Tours cyclists depart. Breakfast in the hotel, then transfer to Hong Kong Airport on your own by shuttle bus from hotel. Depart for US and arrive in the US on the same day!

I love welcome home messages! Feel free to call and know that I may be very out of it with jet lag for several days! See you in 3 weeks!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

In Transit! Santa Cruz to San Francisco to Beijing

It's strange to think that on September 11, 2011, I'll be on the Great Wall of China, for the somber 10-year marker of the 9-11 attacks. For now, though I am focused on getting to Beijing. I'm at San Francisco Airport now.
My trip so far, by the numbers:

2:30 a.m. - Time I went to sleep

5:00 a.m. - Time I got up

1 stop - at Emily's Bakery for pumpkin muffins and sandwiches for the plane ride

8 a.m. - Time Saskia got me to San Francisco Airport

33 pounds - weight of my 1 checked suitcase! (with 50 pound allowance)

40 minutes - time to get thru security line

1 - thing I forgot so far: hairbrush

1 - thing I miss already but deliberately left at home: my cell phone

12 hours - flight time directly from San Francisco to Beijing (United)

133 - number of yuan, Chinese currency that I have (thanks Bobby!) About $20

16 hours - China is 16 hours ahead of Santa Cruz time - it's tomorrow there already!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

My First Trip to China is a Bicycle Tour - Travel Preparation is Challenging!

The flag of the People's Republic of China is a red background with five golden stars: one large star, with four smaller stars in a semicircle. The red represents revolution; the five stars and their relationship represent the unity of the Chinese people under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC). This flag is flown in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau.
I'm so excited to ride my bike in China on a guided, organized trip in September with Imagine Tours. I'm less excited trying to figure out what I need to pack for a 21-day trip that includes, planes, trains and bicycling. Happily, I don't have to carry my gear on my bike while I am riding - my suitcase will be in a car. Stay tuned here on this blog for China trip details. Click here if you want to get email notices when this blog is updated with new posts and photos.
There is a suitcase buried underneath my pile of stuff. Packing light is NOT my specialty! I need either a bigger suitcase or less stuff!