Tuesday, April 30, 2013


We've had a great time in China--it's a fascinating and beautiful country. As we sit at the airport waiting to board our flight home, here are a few of my parting thoughts.
-The people. I had read a few travel articles and travel forum posts about the Chinese being very reserved and not overly friendly. Our experience was just the opposite! We felt very welcome in China; the Chinese were friendly, helpful and kind.
-Beautiful old buildings, temples, pagodas and palaces. Interesting architecture, beautiful details. I love the ancientness ( is that a word?) of China's long history.
-Stunningly beautiful gardens. Cool, calm green oasis of peace & serenity in the middle of bustling big cities. The parks and gardens we visited were well used by the locals--families enjoying a walk in the park, friends playing cards, even singing and dancing. Tai-Chi every morning in the park was fun to watch!
-Our guides! We lucked out with the guides we chose--they were all wonderful! We learned so much from them and really enjoyed their company. They each added something special to our trip, and I wish we didn't have to say goodbye.
-The food! I had really been looking forward to eating Chinese food every day. While we did have some good meals, most often we found that the food was just too greasy for us. Even steamed vegetables were loaded with oil. When we travel we enjoy eating local street food, but in most places we visited in China it was not very appetizing and we had serious reservations about "food hygiene" issues. We were not bothered by the unusual (to us) food items such as snake, donkey meat, dog meat, pig feet, chicken feet and various "innards"; in fact I appreciate that nothing is wasted! And YES, we really ate fried scorpions!
-In some of the smaller, more rural locations we were quite the curiosity! We were often the only non-Asian tourists, and it was an interesting experience being on the other end of the camera lens.
-The beautiful children with their sweet, shy smiles. Parents are very proud of their babies and children, and seemed delighted when we talked to them. We had lovely conversations with some young grade and middle schoolers, and I played some sweet games of peek-a-boo!
-"Lost in Translation" signs--sometimes funny, sometimes puzzling. A few we couldn't even figure out!
-Cute little baby bottoms. The Chinese have different ideas about potty training their babies. They start very young, dressing the babies as young as 6 months in cute little "split crotch" bottoms with no diaper. They somehow know when their baby has to potty, and they then just hold them in a squatting position over the sidewalk, street, grass or dirt; no toilet necessary--anywhere will do! They don't fill up their landfills with disposable diapers--that's a good thing. Lots of cute little baby bums on display!
-Funny menu translations! There were some hilarious "lost in translations" on menus. I've done a separate blog entry with pictures!
-Public toilets--you should all be VERY thankful that I don't have "smell-a-vision" feature. 'Nuff said!
-Squat toilets--the norm in China. A little hard to manage with a camera, coat, purse, etc. Don't ask me how I learned NOT to leave my sunglasses perched on top of my head while using a squat toilet. Really---you just don't want to know!
-The Great Firewall of China--internet censorship. It seemed quite odd to not be able to look up certain facts and figures (such as the date and details of the Tiananmen Square "incident". If I had used the words "Tiananmen Square Massacre" I would NOT have been able to access my alternate blog at all while in China! If the Chinese government doesn't want you to read about it--the page just won't load.  As it was--I couldn't post or access this, my regular blog.  Instead, I used another blog without the word "blog" in the address/title! No Facebook, no Twitter, no Google blogs. Oh, how I love and appreciate the freedoms we have in America. Never, ever take them for granted!
-Crazy traffic and drivers. We felt like we'd cheated death each time we crossed a street without getting run over! I did get run into by a bike. Pedestrians have absolutely no right of way. A red light is just maybe, possibly (but only if they feel like it), a small suggestion to slow down--or NOT. Sidewalks are not for walking, they are for parking, riding bikes, driving scooters and cars. It's a free-for-all!
-The crowds of people! Especially the pushy, shoving kind.
All in all, it was a wonderful 4 1/2 weeks in China. Would we come back? I would come back to visit other areas of China--especially some more of the beautiful southern China countryside and Tibet. Will we ever come back? Probably not--it's a big world we live in, and these two travelers want to see it all!
So what's next for The Travelin' Lundburys? We're thinking Poland. Germany, Austria and Czech Republic this fall. Stay tuned..............


The funny (and often disgusting) menu translations really tickled our funny bones! These are from several different cities and restaurants--I think they all buy their menus from the same vendor!

And......just in case you are wondering, we didn't try any of these!

 Later in our trip we found the translation for this lovely looking dish--it's fried ox penis--no thanks!!

We're pretty sure this is just a noodle and chicken dish--but it did make us laugh!

I have absolutely NO idea what this means--although stir fried romaine lettuce is delicious.  Fuel consumption???

If you're still with me--these two were our very favorites:

Lost your appetite yet?

Monday, April 29, 2013


Today was our last full day in China, we fly home tomorrow morning. We have a 5 am car to the airport--so it will be a VERY long day for these two travelers.
We had a wonderful day today with a long drive out of Beijing to the old village of Chaundixia. Our driver and guide Joe picked us up at 9 am for the long drive through the pretty countryside west of Beijing. Joe pointed out many interesting sights along the way.
Finally we arrived in Chaundixia and paid our small admission fee charged by the Chinese government to help maintain this beautiful old village. Chaundixia dates to the Ming dynasty (early 1600's), and now is home to about 15 families with a total population of 80 residents.  Every family has the surname of Han--the original two settlers of the village. The Chinese government has maintained the original village as a historical landmark. They have done some restoration but have not over-restored it as we've seen in some other locations. Many of the original painted surfaces remain, as well as most of the original buildings and stonework. A few of the families have opened their homes to visitors, even allowing overnight stays and serving meals.  We had a wonderful time roaming through the small village, down the narrow lanes and passageways and into some courtyards. 

Here are some photos from around the village:

This is some old "Mao" propaganda painted on the side of a building in the village.  Joe translated it for us, but I can't remember what it says!

David in front of a mural in the village:

David and our guide Joe, roaming around the village:

Here we are--in a doorway leading to one of the old buildings:


The village is built into a small mountainside, so we climbed the various levels, ending at the very top with a visit to a small temple and pagoda.

Looking up towards a pagoda near the temple:

Here we are at the entrance gate to the temple grounds:

Large incense burner in the temple courtyard:

Inside the temple:

Our guide Joe:

The view from the top of the mountain:

The pretty pagoda:

After enjoying the temple grounds and pagoda, and the amazing view across the valley, we walked back down to the village.
 There is a small gift shop selling a few items, so of course I did a little souvenir shopping! Just as we were leaving the village there were a few vendors along the road selling dried fruit and nuts, we stopped and bought a little snack for our drive home--they were delicious.
It was a 2 hour drive back to Beijing, and we enjoyed visiting with Joe along the way. He's such a nice guy and cheerfully answered our many questions about life in China. He dropped us at our hotel, we thanked him and wished him good luck. He wished us a long and prosperous life! What a great guide he has been for us.
We relaxed for a while, then walked several blocks to the same restaurant we'd eaten at Wednesday night for our Roast Duck dinner. We had a great dinner, trying a couple of new dishes--my favorite was sliced lamb with vanilla. It had a wonderful subtle vanilla flavor that was so delicious!

Lamb with vanilla--REALLY good.

Glazed chicken with walnuts, beautifully garnished with edamame, fern leaves and rose petals.  

We relaxed over dinner, enjoying the good food and great service while talking about our 4 1/2 weeks in China--what a trip it has been. Fascinating and frustrating, delicious and disgusting, and welcoming and secretive all at the same time. A country of contrasts, for sure. We are so glad we came!
Tomorrow: The long trip home.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Saturday At The Dirt Market!

The good news--David woke up this morning feeling much better!  The bad news:  I woke up with a sore throat and I’m coming down with a cold--crap!  I think we’ve just worn ourselves out, but what a  trip it has been!

We managed to get a fairly early start this morning, we ate a quick breakfast here at the hotel and walked to the subway for our ride to the  Panjiayuan Market.  The subway was really crowded this morning, and we had 3 line changes--but we made it!  Coming out of the subway station we weren’t sure which direction to go, but decided to follow the crowd, and that got us there.

The market wasn’t quite what I expected--but it was great fun.  I had been expecting a big, tourist oriented market selling mostly souvenirs with maybe a little of the good stuff thrown in.  I was so wrong!  We didn’t see another caucasian at the market--it was all locals.  There were no stalls or booths, each vendor just threw a tarp or blanket on the ground and laid out their wares.  It was about half old tools, clothes and household goods, and half wonderful antiques and interesting items.  I’m quite sure many of the antiques were of the “I buried them in my backyard for 6 months and then dug them up, so they look really old” variety.  But I did see some lovely items, and engaged in some pretty hard bargaining for a few treasures.  We wandered the 3 block area, up and down between the rows for almost 2 hours--it was great fun!  Don’t tell David I told you, but he enjoyed it, too!

David enjoying the market

Cute little boy and his very proud mama, she was so pleased when I asked to take his picture!

We walked back to the subway, passing up a huge antique “mall” along the way--I figured it would be mostly furniture, or too rich for my tiny budget!  We headed to the Nanluoguxiang hutong, where we had a relaxing lunch of panini sandwiches and a cold beer.  We walked through the hutong again-it was much less crowded than last week.   The lanes were decorated for a festival--lots of hanging lanterns and flowers:

We bought a souvenir Starbucks Beijing mug (stop rolling your eyes, Matt!) for our “worldly” collection, and walked back to the subway--I think we must have walked 10 miles today! 

After getting off the subway at our "home" station we walked through a pretty park on the way back to the hotel.  What a lively scene!  Lots of locals enjoying the park--playing cards, singing karaoke and doing Tai Chi.

Chinese checkers??

Tai Chi in the park

We came back to the hotel to unload our “treasures”, and I went right back out to do a little last minute shopping nearby and hit an ATM.  David stayed at the hotel to start packing--hmmmm, we seem to have a little (a lot?) more than we came with.  Good thing I always travel with an extra duffle bag!

Our guide from The Great Wall, Joe, is picking us up at 6 pm for the Peking Acrobat Show this evening.  We though we should have a quick bite of dinner, so we ordered a pizza from room service--did I mention we are both tired of Chinese food??  The pizza was just OK, but at least it wasn’t greasy stir-fry!

Joe was here right on the dot, and it was a pretty slow drive in rush hour traffic across town to the theater.
He already had our tickets for the show, so he parked the car and even showed us right to our seats--what a great guide!  He found us really good seats--just a few rows back from the stage and right in the middle.
The show was certainly different than we expected--I think we both were expecting it to be just like when the Chinese Acrobats did the Ed Sullivan show in the 60’s.  Things have changed a little since then!  The acrobats performed in front of an animated screen--somewhat “cartoonish”.  The show started with a clown making balloon animals for kids in the audience--kind of corny, but fun for the kids.  Even though we both thought it a bit over-rated, the acrobats are incredibly talented, and some of their routines were pretty spectacular.  No photos to share--not allowed in the theater.

After the show we walked a block or so to the subway and made our way back to the hotel.  We’re just plain tired--but did manage to just about finish our packing--we’re leaving very early Monday morning.

It will be an early night for us--we have an early start planned for tomorrow, our last day in Beijing. Joe is picking us up at 8 am tomorrow to drive out into the coutryside to a small old village, Chaundixia.  We’ll spend a few hours wandering and exploring with Joe, then head back into town.  We have a VERY early ride to the airport Monday morning.


Brenda Lewis Hello Di...please let me apologize first for taking so long to get back to your blog. Went to Tioga last weekend and well....just not enough time in the day for this girl. Tomorrow, I see you leave China to come home. Safe travels dear Di and David...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Friday--A Lazy Day in Beijing

Friday in Beijing--and we had a "do-nothing" kind of day. David has picked up a "tummy bug", and has not felt very well for the past 2 days. Today I started him on some Cipro, so hopefully he will be much better soon. We have some fun things scheduled for our last two days in Beijing!
We had a quick breakfast at the hotel this morning--David just ate dry toast, so you know he's not feeling well. We did go out for a while, cruised up and down Wangfujing Street and did a little gift shopping. David came back to rest for bit while I continued shopping. I had a lot of fun bargaining for some treasures--some of the vendors are pretty funny. I think I have several new best friends ;}
After relaxing for an hour or so we decided to go back out, as David was feeling a bit better, and it's not too much fun staying in this teeny, tiny hotel room. We explored a few small side streets near our hotel, enjohying the small retaurants and shops. I went into a very small tea shop, and the sweet old gentleman helped me choose a few kinds of tea to try. We didn't understand a word the other was saying, but we managed just fine!
We sat down at a small local restaturant and shared a beer--purely medicinal reasons, of course. I'm pretty sure the alcohol will help "kill" whatever bad bacteria is in David's stomach! The young cashier was very nice, asking us where we were from, and telling us "welcome to China". We have sure enjoyed the kind and friendly Chinese people. (Ok--maybe NOT the pushy old ladies at The Forbidden City!)
We slowly made our way back to the hotel for another rest before going out for the evening.
For dinner we walked back over to Wangfujing Street (I just love that name!) where we'd noticed a Japanese restaurant. We thought a nice soothing bowl of noodles would be a good dinner choice for David's tummy. We ordered the udon noodles in broth with some sliced pork. Well, that's what we thought we ordered--what came was slightly different, but it was fine. In the short time we've been in China we've learned that ordering meals is an adventure in itself--we're never quite sure what will be delivered to our table!
A quick walk back to the hotel, and we're all settled in for the night. I'm hoping an easy day and a good night's sleep will help David kick this "bug".
No photos to share today--I didn't take any pictures!
Tomorrow in Beijing: We are going to get an early start--taking the subway to an area on the outskirts of Beijing to go to the Panjiayuan Market--a big antique and flea market.


Brenda Lewis Ahh I'm sorry to hear that David has a stomach bug...but by now he should be better...On your recent post you said you were catching a cold Diana...Guess its time to come home. You have been away a long time. Do you ever get homesick Di? You never mention that once. I bet you don't!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Thursday in Beijing--Olympic Park

A very lazy start to our day today--we relaxed, ate a late breakfast and left the hotel at almost 11 a.m.  All that climbing and walking yesterday must have worn us out!

Our plan for the day was to take the subway over to Beijing Olympic Park to see the Bird’s Nest Stadium and the Water Cube.  I think the Bird’s Nest is a beautifully designed masterpiece of architecture--so to see it in person was a treat for me. 

The beautiful Bird's Nest Stadium--it's HUGE!

I loved the matching landscape lighting:

We walked around the Park, almost all the way around the Bird’s Nest, looked at the Olympic Torch and Water Cube, enjoyed some interesting sculptures and took a few photos.  There were quite a few people enjoying the park, with a couple of children’s events were pretty lively.  The main square is huge--I could not imagine being there with tens of thousands of people!

Interesting sculptures:

The Olympic Flame:

The Water Cube:

VERY interesting architecture nearby--IBM Building

After wandering around the park we walked back to the subway, made a few line changes and came out in an older area of town.   The subway station is right next to the YongHeGong Lama Temple, so we didn’t even get lost!

We decided to have lunch first, so walked along a restored hutong alleyway, checking out a few restaurants.  As usual, we passed on the fast food chains, including KFC-which seem to be on every block here in China.  We eventually decided on ............Mexican food!  Yup--I think we are both officially tired of Chinese food.  We shared a plate of nachos and a cold beer.  The nachos were very good, and of course the beer was great.

The YongHeGong Temple, built in 1694, was originally designed as an imperial palace for a Manchu prince.  It was converted to a Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery in 1744.  The temple grounds are beautiful, and even though there were bus loads of other tourists, it seemed very calm, hushed and peaceful.  The grounds were lush, green and impeccably manicured, and the pagodas and temple halls were very clean and well maintained.  We even saw a man on a ladder dusting the wood carvings!

The park like setting leading into the Lamasery:

Entrance Gate:


Inside the grounds:

Dusting, dusting!

Scenes from around the Lamasery grounds:

We strolled around the temple, looking in the many halls and pagodas, really enjoying the respite from the noisy city.  We took a few exterior photos, but there were signs posted outside the halls and temples:  “Please no burning of incense or film inside”, so we didn’t burn film!

Soon we noticed the monks were closing and locking the doors--they close to visitors at 5 pm.  Darn--we would have enjoyed more time in this lovely place.  We walked out and back to the subway--it was a long ride “home”, with 3 line changes during rush hour. It was pretty packed!

We decided to stay in for the night, we were both tired and a little cranky!  We have found that at about the 4 week point in our trips we both seem to have less reserve and tolerance, but we always manage to get through it!  Of course, a wise person would just take shorter trips, but you all know my motto: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing”!

Dinner tonight?  Just a bowl of noodles from room service, and a nice relaxing evening at “home”.

Tomorrow in Beijing:  No set plans--but I’m sure it will be something interesting!  We have 3 full days left here, and we want to make the most of them.