Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Lanzhou

Today I turned down an offer to have a student show me around a part of Lanzhou as I wanted to write in this blog, prepare my Bible study presentation for Sunday, and just let things soak in. I feel like so many interesting experiences are just stacking up and I hardly have time to process them.

In my last posting I basically covered my first day. I will try to summarize what I did during the rest of my visit to Beijing. On the second day, Saturday, we had "errands" to run such as check out the train station we will be using later, make our reservation at the hostel and print out the info Ruth still needed for her visa. Of course, doing all this in a huge city is quite a process. We rode the bus and taxi. I was always looking around taking in as much as possible. In addition to the type of buildings we had already seen, we saw big high rises that could perhaps be seen in any large city. For lunch we thought it would be fun to try one of the fast food chains from the USA that have come into Beijing. We had seen KFC, Subway, Burger King, and MacDonald's. We went into MacDonald's. It was very crowded even though it would be too expensive for most people. It looked very much an American MacDonald's and I ordered the small hamburger. It tasted just the same. When I went to the bathroom, it was very clean but it was a squat toilet so I knew I was in a different part of the world!

In the afternoon we went to visit The Temple of Heaven. It is a beautiful park which features a circular temple that has been restored. The colors on the building were so pretty-blue, green, red and gold. It was also nice to walk around the peaceful and cool parkland. In general, Beijing was hot and humid. Fortunately, our hostel was air conditioned as were some of the taxi cabs.

In the evening Ruth and I went to a performance of the Beijing Opera. It was interesting but neither of us felt we needed to go again.

Sunday was our trip to the Great Wall. We hired a car and driver and left first thing to keep the trip as cool as possible. We drove about two hours to get to a section that neither Ruth nor Daniel had seen. It was interesting to get outside of the big city and see some countryside. The terrain changed from flat to hilly. It was very thrilling to come around a corner and see the wall snaking across the mountainside. This section is not one of the main places that tourists go. We paid the land owner a small fee to hike up through his land. When we got to the wall itself, we climbed a ladder to get on top. Part of this section had been restored and part was original and in need of some work. We walked along the top of the wall and went into one of the square tower sections. It was one of the times I felt I needed to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming. We had wonderful views and took many pictures. I hope to get some pictures posted eventually. We had lunch on the way back at a restaurant where we had several good dishes and a tea that is good for hot weather.

On Monday we had planned to fly to Lanzhou in the morning but Ruth needed to stay because of the hangup at the Russian Embassy on Friday. Daniel needed to get back so he left early. My ticket could be changed and Ruth just had to bite the bullet and get a new ticket.

It was a little scary having our translator and helper gone, but Ruth is an intrepid traveler and we just carried on. She arranged for a car and driver through the hostel rather than us trying to take taxis alone. The driver first dropped off Ruth at the Russian Embassy and then took me to the Summer Palace. This large park which used to be just for the emperors' use was even bigger than the Temple of Heaven park. I strolled along taking in the beautiful grounds around a lake and looking at beautiful bridges, pavilions, and buildings. The driver returned for Ruth and we met up around 1:00. We had a designated meeting place but cell phones helped us get together earlier. I am glad to report that Ruth got her Russian visa so the last half of our trip can continue! We continued to look at other parts of the Summer Palace including the marble boat. We did a lot of walking and saw many Chinese and international tourists. We met our driver at the gate and he took us to the airport.

Our flight to Beijing was very nice. All the announcements were done in Chinese and English even though I think Ruth and I were the only ones who needed the English. We were served dinner on this two hour flight. Ruth and I chose mulberry and mango juice to drink. When the flight attendant saw us sampling from each other, she gave us two more glasses so we each could have a glass of both kinds. Everyone was offered a newspaper and we were given the English edition of China Daily.

After we arrived in Lanzhou we caught a bus from the airport to a downtown hotel. Daniel was there to meet us and had a bouquet of flowers to welcome me to the city. We then took a taxi to Ruth's apt. It was very nice to get a shower and fall into bed!

Comments:
Wow, I re-lived much of what you were seeing and feeling. I was also impressed at how cool and comfortable the Summer Palace was even in the middle of the hot city. Grass, trees and a lake do cool the air. I remember that Daniel had presented me with flowers too. He is a thoughtful young man. I'll be interested to see your Great Wall photos. That was the highlight of my Beijing experience. Love Byrna
 
Sounds like a great start to the trip. I was merely jealous before, now I'm very jealous.
I'll be looking forward to seeing all the pictures when you guys stop in Milwaukee.
 
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