Posted by: rkurzweil | 10/27/2011

Beijing, China

Map of China


It’s no secret to anyone that knows me that I love to travel. This past year has actually been a slow travel year for me. We went to London in April and did not take any trips after that – until earlier this month (October 2011).

It has been a long term desire of mine to visit China. The logistics of travel to China is quite daunting however. It is also hard to decide where to go. I knew that I wanted to visit the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and the Terra Cotta warriors in Xian. But putting together the right trip (or finding the right tour) can be difficult.

Earlier this year, though, we were told about a tour being put together by the Austin Chamber of Commerce. It is the first tour organized by the Chamber here. But a friend of mine actually went to China on a tour with her Chamber of Commerce in Santa Cruz, CA. When I told her about this trip, she strongly encouraged me to go. John and I were hesitant because we are not in love with the idea of tours where every minute is planned out for you. However, given the incredible cost of the trip ($1999 per person, including all hotels, meals, airfare from LA to China, and air and bus travel within China), we decided to go.

This will be my first post on our experiences over in China (there was way too much to put it all in one post). We got to visit four cities on this trip – Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou, starting with Beijing.

We left LAX at around 1 pm and after a stopover in Shanghai, arrived in Beijing in the late evening. This allowed us to get to the hotel and go right to sleep. This schedule worked really well as we never really experienced any jet-lag after arriving.

Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven

The next day, bright and early, we started our tour of Beijing by visiting the Temple of Heaven, which dates back to the 15th Century. In the words of the World Heritage Centre: “In its overall layout and that of its individual buildings, [the Temple of Heaven] symbolizes the relationship between earth and heaven – the human world and God’s world – which stands at the heart of Chinese cosmogony, and also the special role played by the emperors within that relationship.” This was a temple that the Chinese emperors would come to for sacrifices. It was off limits to the public. Fortunately it is now open to everyone.

Temple of Heaven
Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven

What a beautiful complex! Much of it was restored prior to the 2008 Olympics. It is just beautiful! This was only our first stop in our week in China and I was already amazed and delighted.

Jade Museum

John and I with Jade Warrior

Since the trip was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, a good part of the trip was spent at various factories where we would learn about various things – and then get the high pressure sales. The first such stop was to a Jade factory. I have to say that the items we saw were spectacular – from birds to cabbage to pagodas, ships and so many other types of jade goods. I ended up buying a jade pagoda (I have such a fascination with pagodas). Of course most of the things that I liked were way too expensive. But one can dream, n’est-ce pas?

Ming Tombs

Ming Tombs

Ming Tombs

Ming Tombs Map

Ming Tombs - Silk Burner

Ming Tombs - Silk Burner

After the Jade Factory, our next stop was to the Ming Tombs (or to be more precise – a small section of the Ming Tombs complex). We were at the tombs at Changling, which is the tomb of Emperor Zhu Di and his empresses. The complex dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries. Again, it is a magnificent complex of buildings. Some of the side buildings, such as vendor carts and silk burners, are almost as beautiful as the main buildings of the complex.

The Great Wall

The Great Wall of China

While the Tombs and the Temple of Heaven were fantastic, what was to come later that afternoon was one of the highlights of the trip. We went to the Great Wall and had about 90 minutes to climb as far as we wanted and enjoy the amazing site.

The Wall was started around 476 BC, with construction ongoing until the 17th Century. The wall is over 4,000 miles long – that would stretch from Miami to Seattle and from there down to San Francisco. Needless to say – it is monumental. Unfortunately not all 4,000+ miles still remain. The section we climbed ended. You could see the ruins of other parts of the Wall right in front of you.

Great Wall

Great Wall

We took our time and climbed as far as we could go on this section of the Wall. If you look at our picture above, we climbed to the little red building you can see on the top left. The stairs are all different sizes, ranging from just a few inches to nearly 3 feet. The day we went up, the air pollution was fairly bad. This limited visibility to some extent. But it was just glorious up there. And so quiet (until the train came through). I highly recommend visiting the Wall and climbing as far as you can go. Take it slow – there’s no rush. It is worth the effort.

Great Wall

Great Wall

We finished off our day with a Roast Peking Duck dinner. This was one of the few meals we had in China that I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, most of the food we were served was not great. But this meal was. I love Peking Duck, especially the skin. Yum yum yum!!

In the next post, I will talk more about the sites we saw in Beijing. To see my photos from Beijing, click here.


  1. Great overview of trip and pictures. Suzanne

  2. One of your best blogs. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to your other blogs. Love, Lynda

  3. Hey Robert, wonderful blog! You were on the same schedule we were – except a direct flight to Beijing from SF on the outbound. Nice to relive my trip through you altho this is about you :), I am thrilled you were able to go and cannot wait to read the rest!

  4. Robert what a great blog. It made me re-live the trip. What a wonderful trip and great to meet new friends like you and John. Thanks.

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