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Mutianyu Great Wall

Decided to go to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall – it is located about 45 miles northeast of Beijing but adding in the traffice and many twist-and-turns on the way there, it took about 2 hours by car. We reached there about 11:00 am and the weather was pleasant – upper 80’s (compared to the upper 90’s) – sunny and blue skies. Took the cable car up and what a sight! The surroundings were green with lush vegetation – made for a very awesome scenery with the wall snaking itself up the mountain. Some of the hiking was strenuous – especially the climb to Towers 20 and 21 – only I attempted it but it was worth it. Met a few Americans.
Mutianyu Great Wall is less crowded than the Badaling Great Wall which is closer to Beijing. IMO, the scenery was much better but I didn’t walked as far at Badaling as I did here.
We trekked to Tower 6 and rode the chute/slide down back. That was a blast. Left the area by 3:30 pm – very memorable.
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Trip to Xian

We visited the city of Xian that is about 700 miles southwest of Beijing from 7/19 -7/22. It’s also commonly compared to Egypt in terms of its ancient history being the capital of China for the longest time – over 1000 years. The Terracotta Warriors converted the city into international fame since they were discovered in 1974. These amazing warriors were meant to protect the burial site of the First Emperor of China which to this is day remains unexavated because of unknown mercury level and possible deadly protection by elaborate weapons
Xian itself is a walled city – its wall is the best preserved wall in China. Beijing used to be surrounded by a more elaborate wall but most of it was torn down to expand the city. The population of Xian is about 3 million. Beijing’s is ~13 million and these walls will only mess with the flow of traffic, commerce and expansion.
Our tour guide was fantastic. Not only did he speak English but actually went everywhere with us, including climbing the strenuous Mt. Huashang which is an amazing place but crowded due to steps built into the paths to make it easier to walk up the mountain.
The city of Xian is special and very vibrant at nights. Wished we could have stayed longer – too hot and humid in summer but very lively and unique
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Forbidden City

Made it to the Forbidden City on Sat, 7/17 – likely the busiest day of the week. Seems like half of Beijing was there – and it was warm and humid. Went in from the rear of the palace – where it’s less crowded but it was bad going against the main crowd. Saw lots of treasures/art and clocks that were given to the emperors as gifts. Wanted to go across to Tianamen Square right across from the Forbidden City – but it was a tiring day for Roger and had to cross an 8-lane road was too much.
Pollution continues to be a problem. Have yet to see any blue sky although the sun was out. Traffic is a mess but somehow folks avoid accidents.  All the stores seem to be very busy and everyone appears to be using their cell phones either talking, texting or surfing.
Trying as many different dishes as possible. Finally mustered the courage to taste the fruit durian – suprisingly very sweet – like an over-ripe jackfruit. Just need to get by the smell of rotten egg first.
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Beijing 2010 – July

Made it to Beijing via San Francisco after a 12 hrs flight. Watched about 4 movies (lost count). Arrived ~3:20pm @ Beijing Airport which is like a huge hanger but very impressive and modern. They are apparently trying to save electricity – was warm. Immigration folks were real friendly – they had an electronic survey right by their desk to allow you to instantly grade their service. China is adapting really well – thanks to the visibility of the Beijing Olympics. Traffic was busy and weather is crummy – cloudy (or smoggy).
Dinner was great – Peking Duck plus other "stuff"
Now to adjust to time change.
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Lijiang sites

adding links for reference
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July 21 – We keft for Guilin from Kunming while Grandparents and Pei returned to Beijing. Guilin was about 1 hr’s flight east of Kunming. There, we were to visit Dad’s cousin and his family for the first time. Landed at around 3:30 pm and to our surprise, there was a girl with my name on a placard waiting for us just as the airplane door opened. She escorted us to the VIP waiting area where my cousin was waiting for us – we avoided all the crowd. While we sat there, our luggage was brought to us. Made us felt first-class. Cousin was the 2nd of 3 sons of my uncle (Dad’s cousin). He actually drove to the airport in his mini-van with his son and older brother’s son. Mini-van was practically new, fully loaded and was great.
That night we had dinner with our uncle and his 2 older sons’ families. The youngest one was out of town. This Uncle is one of Dad’s last remaining relatives. He was my grandfather’s brother’s son – so Dad’s first cousin. He is about 5 years older than Dad. He was suppose to have escaped to Guyana with Dad but never made it.  Although my Cantonese was poor, I was able to communicate with him. His sons (my cousins) seem to be doing quite well. The older one was an architect and now running his own business – journalism I believe. The second one works for the city in the Financial Dept – responsible for collecting taxes. Supposedly works only 4 hrs out of 7 hrs per day.
After dinner, we took a night cruise down part of the Li River river and into 2 lakes with beautiful lighted structures – buildings, pagodas, bridges, trees, and even a mountain. Views were stunning and it felt like Christmas – cruise lasted for 1.5 hrs and included being "lifted" and "lowered" into the lakes like the Panama Canal.  We were dead tired by the end of the cruise – about 11:00 pm. Surprisingly, our cousin was gracious enough to wait for us at the pick up point and drive us back to the hotel – Sheraton Guilen.
There were people swimming in the river late at night – and there were lots of cruises. Area was lively and bustling. Quite an impressive first night.
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China trip

Off we go … July 8
Departed DFW at around 12:05 pm  CST. We were all looking forward to our trip, especially Roger. Never saw him so enthusiastic since the first time we set off for LegoLand. The plane was an American Airlines 777 and it was jam-packed. Didn’t expect that many people flying to Tokyo from DFW on a Saturday. But the flight left on schedule and needless to say,  Roger was impressed with the size of the aircraft. Each seat had its own TV console allowing you to pick from movies, news, etc. Also included GPS flight information that gives you an idea where the plane is flying by, its altitude, speed and time to Tokyo. So we knew when we flew by Vancouver (Canada), Alaskan coastline, Bering Straits off the Russian coast, International Dateline and the Japanese Islands. Because we were flying west, our time was practically the same all the way – around midday. So we were in the bright daylight for the entire 13 hr trip.
The International Dateline is fascinating. Jumped into the future the sec we crossed. Difficult explaining concept to Roger.
Arrive in Tokyo at ~1:00 am, Sunday, Dallas time. Had a 3 hr layover there and flew for another 3 hr to Beijing.
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