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Mark D. Simpson



Journal Pages
for 2000 Trip to
Beijing, China
(more China photos)
(even more China photos)


Sunday January 21, 2001

I finally typed in Kathleen's (e-mail) Beijing trip journal (with some editing and notes from me)  ... and a few pictures. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed the experience of actually being there !

Mark D. Simpson  (e-mail)

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Lamasery entrance


Hampton Inn

Monday, November 20, 2000

Mark and I left our home in Ruckersville, Virginia at 4:10 pm and made our way to the Hampton Inn Dulles in Sterling, VA by 6:15 pm. Checked into our room 146; nice ground-level, king-sized bed, no smoking room directly across from the Holiday Inn where we had a nice dinner including steak, salmon, rice, mixed vegetables, warm rolls, wine, coffee, and cheesecake. We ate too much .

Back in our room; 9:00 PM, I’m writing in my journal while Mark relaxes from all the driving, and watches the Redskins vs. Rams football game on Monday night TV.

We planed to rise at 7:00 am, perhaps partake of the complimentary breakfast, and be ready to ride the hotel’s shuttle to Dulles Airport by 10:00 am for our 12:25 PM flight to Detroit.


Washington D.C., Detroit, Beijing

Tuesday, November 21, 2000

Up in time for an excellent breakfast at the Hampton Inn. Mostly typical continental items but also including eggs, and biscuits with sausage gravy.

The hotel shuttle took us to Dulles Airport by 10:30 am where we met our guides (Mr. & Mrs. Jenkins) and several of the people who will be in our group of 30. Included were Lebron Holden (also from GE) and his wife Kay; Patty and Ralph T. who are friends of Bill and Nan Massie. Bill & Nan were not on the trip but are mutual friends. The group also included Betty Parrish (who knows our cleaning lady, Karen). All nice folks in the group!

Took off for Detroit right on time. Short, maybe 1.5-hour flight. Cold in Detroit; windy too.

Our flight to Beijing is delayed about an hour due to the wings of our Northwest 747 needing to be de-iced!

Some snow flurries but not enough to hold us back.

About 5:00 PM, we leave. VERY LONG FLIGHT… They feed us several times. Snack first (beer, wine, sodas and peanuts all free), then dinner, then another snack. Much later, breakfast (more like brunch) and later ice cream sandwiches.

Two great in-flight films: "The Gladiator" and then "The Patriot" (Mel Gibson).

We slept some, not much. Very uncomfortable; had to stand and walk around quite a bit to keep our blood flowing. At least the plane has plenty of flight attendants, and 13 bathrooms.


Arrival in Beijing, China

Wednesday, November 22, 2000

Landed at the brand-new one year old Beijing Airport at 6:30pm. Sooooo happy to finally get here.

Met "Jessica" (our Chinese tour guide) who is so cute and very helpful. Speaks English really well.

Off to the bus and a 40 minute ride to our Gloria Plaza (4 star) Hotel. Nicely appointed and very comfortable (once we turned off the heat in our room). Beautiful view from our huge picture window. Especially pretty with all the city lights at night.

Bedtime – 10:00 PM (but we’ve been up for 2 days)!


Tienammen Square, Forbidden City, Summer Palace

Thursday, November 23, 2000

Happy Thanksgiving!

We rise at 6:00 am, down to a wonderful breakfast in the Sports City Café on the third floor of our hotel. Lots of choices on the buffet; the coffee is awful (way too strong). We’ll have tea from now\on.

Onto the bus by 8:30AM and off to Tienammen Square. Big square! Lots of Chinese people! Many of them run up to us wanting us to buy all kinds of stuff. They are quite annoying!

Next we got to the Forbidden City. I was particularly interested in the Hall of Supreme Harmony

– where Jessica pointed out the little animal statues in a line on the roof edges. This most important hall has the most animals of all (9) and you can tell the importance or a hall (or building) by the number of animals on the roof line. I noticed that the toilets had only 3, but they were much more important than that to many of us in the group!!!

The Forbidden City is much bigger than I ever imagined and we walked from one end to the other (but we did not go into all 800 buildings) – it was truly awesome!


Back to the Tienammen Square and the People’s Museum where we had an incredible lunch on the third floor. Ornately decorated; huge round tables at which could be seated ten people each, with a giant "lazy Susan" in the middle of the table laden with dozens of Chinese dishes all for us!

Next we went to the Summer Palace to walk off our huge lunch for an hour and a half, along with dozens of those bothersome street peddlers again.

The Summer Palace was simply beautiful all around a frozen lake.

After that we visited the Cloisonné factory. Saw the workers making the pots and vases, then had time to purchase many items in the buyer-friendly gift shop.

Back to the Gloria Plaza by 6:30 PM, Mark and I ate a delicious dinner in the Sampan Restaurant on the first floor. Mine was spicy pan-fried chicken and Mark’s was a hot pot of meats and vegetables. I cut my spicy meal with a couple of Chinese beers so I was fine!

Now we need to get a decent night’s sleep for the Great Wall tomorrow.

*Sent some e-mail from the Business Center just off the hotel lobby at 9:00pm


The Great Wall, Ming Tombs, Sacred Way!

Friday November 24, 2000

I am so tired I can barely write, but I must do this now before I forget. It’s 8:10 PM and we’ve had ONE FULL DAY!

After breakfast we took off (8:15am) for the Jade Factory. Lovely things there! We bought a jade unicorn statue.

Then…. The Great Wall!

I cannot find the right words to describe this. I felt myself becoming so emotional as we approached the Wall and my eyes teared up. It was a very hazy, gray morning but we could still appreciate what we experienced. I only hope our pictures and video turn out well.

Mark bought 17 T-shirts for my second graders! I know they’ll love them. The shirts are light gray with black Chinese and English letters that say, "I climbed the Great Wall" and a graphic of the Great Wall!

The section of the Wall that we went to is in Badaling, which is the most famous section; the one you usually see in all the pictures.

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Kathleen at the
Great Wall of China
at Badaling


After our Great Wall adventure, we went to the Friendship Store for another delicious "Lazy Susan" lunch. The beer was excellent and the food was even better than yesterday’s lunch.

We shopped for about an hour there in the Friendship Store after lunch. One of our purchases was an oil painting of the Great Wall and we had it written on in Chinese characters to say that it was "Badaling."


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Mark & Kathleen
with one of the Sacred Way generals.

Next we rode the bus to the Ming Tombs and then the Road of Animals (Sacred Way) nearby. It took about 20 minutes to walk down that road from the entrance near the Statues of Generals all the way past the 24 animals (12 on each side) to the large open palace (Chang Ling Exhibition Hall) at the other end. Inside the palace there stood a giant stone turtle with a very tall (10 or 12 meter) Chinese tablet on its back.

When we left the Ming Tombs, the bus took us to the Pearl Factory, but we were just too tired (and not wealthy enough) to buy anything. Didn’t see anything that we had to have anyway.

Mark just left (8:31pm) to walk to McDonald’s for a bite to eat (I’m not hungry). I’m going to bed. Another full and exciting day awaits us tomorrow!


*Note from Mark:
"On my way to/from McDonald’s, I encountered a Chinese woman with a little girl (probably her daughter). The woman pushed the little girl out in front of me as I walked by. The little girl had her arm and hand extended toward me and was "begging". On my way back to the hotel they were still in the same location and I gave the woman some Chinese money. It was so pitiful because by the time I returned, the woman had the child, who was now sleeping, in her arms and carried her out in front of me as she begged.

While at McDonald’s there were young Chinese girls just outside the entrance asking me (in English) if I was looking for a "girl". Having ignored the touring precautions advice to not be out alone at night, I ignored the "girls", got my Big Mac and Fries, and got out of there as quickly as possible. I had gone against all the warnings and was lucky that I did not pay a higher price for my errors."


Temple of Heaven, Hutong, Peking Duck

Saturday, November 25, 2000

This has been my most favorite day so far. The bus took us to the Temple of Heaven. Absolutely gorgeous temple where only the Emperor would go to pray for rain, good harvest, and harmony for China and her people.

Then around 9:30 am, the bus took us to the entrance to the Hutong (Mongolian for alley or narrow street). This is where several thousand ancient houses (more like huts) all run together in a huge village with thousands of narrow alleyways or lanes every which way. Each couple in our tour group got into a pedicab (the bicycle version of a rickshaw).

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Our driver peddled us first to the ancient Drum Tower. Mark and I climbed the extremely steep 69 steps to the top of the Drum Tower. What an amazing view from up there!

You could really see a lot of the Hutong area, including the Bell Tower.

From the Drum Tower, our "rickshaw" drove us to the heart of the Hutong where we then walked to the home of Mr. Wu ("woo") , one of the wealthiest men in the Hutong of Beijing. Actually there are 25 Hutong areas in Beijing housing about 2 million people! We were invited into Mr. Wu’s home where we sat on little stools in his living room. We met his wife and his 17 year old cat. Mr & Mrs. Wu have a total of 9 rooms, but they only occupy 3 of them (living, kitchen, bedroom) . Their two married sons and one 5 year old grand-daughter live in the other 6 rooms, which we did not see. These people live very simply, yet they do have a color TV with cable, a telephone, and electricity. We were allowed to ask questions through the local tour guide who interpreted Mr. Wu’s responses. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Our rickshaw gave us our third ( and final) ride to the restaurant nearby for another large family-style lunch.

After lunch, our bus brought us back to the hotel where we tried to rest a bit. It was about 1:30pm

We left the hotel at 5:00 pm and headed for the Peking Duck dinner at a nearby restaurant. The food was plentiful ( so was the beer) and the best we’ve had so far, in my opinion. Mark was disappointed with the duck; not the taste but just the whole presentation. Personally, I thought it was fine. Mark refers to it as a "duck borrito" when describing Peking Duck.

At 6:30 pm we went (by bus) to the Chao Yang Theater to see the Chinese Acrobatics. Those young men and women were unreal! I’m certain their bones are made of rubber. What a spectacular performance!

Must go to bed now. 9:30pm


Luilichang Cultural Street,  Opera

Sunday, November 26, 2000

Sent more e-mail today from the Business Center in our hotel. Actually had several responses from the e-mails we had sent the other day from here!

After breakfast, our bus took us to the Luilichang Cultural Street, which is an old, famous place lined with shops selling antiques, books, paintings, carvings, and calligraphy all revealing much about the lore of Old China. We even turned the corner at the end of the older street and discovered the food market packed with Chinese people of all ages, walking or riding bikes (no autos), doing their personal shopping…. Buying eggs, cabbages, fresh meats, and food items, which we did not recognize. Mark and I did not go very far into that section…. It was a bit claustrophobic and I felt a bit uneasy.

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The man back to the left is selecting eggs from a large crate on the street.
The man at the window is ordering meat.


We went back to the main intersection, fought our way across the busy street (you really have to watch out for the cyclists zipping by) and perused more shops. We came upon 3 men, 2 looking down at the third who was sitting, playing with his pet "painted" cricket on his knee! It was real – we saw it move!
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Kathleen is in there somewhere

We were approached by a perky young man speaking fairly good English. He invited us upstairs in one of the old shops to a students art gallery and studio. He showed us about 50 or more paintings, including 2 he himself had done.

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One of the artworks we bought.

We bought 2 of his paintings and one other, which I chose. Took the artist’s picture holding one of his creations, a Mongolian horse.

Left the cultural shops at noon (after 2 full hours of hard-core yuan spending) and headed back to our hotel. Mark and I walked to the Beijing Mac Donald’s (actually there are about 45 of them in Beijing) and had a Big Mac, fries, and a Coke for $2.10 (17 yuan) each! Ah, a taste of home. We both love Chinese food, but the burger and fries really hit the spot!

The Bank of China (2 doors down from MacDonald’s) was closed. We’ll try again tomorrow to get some yuan coins for the second graders. Came back to the Gloria Plaza Hotel and requested a taxi which took us to the Hard Rock Café, Beijing where we had a beer and bought T-shirts, a denim shirt, and a hat. They gave us a collectors plate for a gift (actually for spending so much money there). Mark was very disappointed that they did not have souvenir shot glasses so he could add one to his collection!)

Resting up now in our hotel room – Chinese Opera at 6:45 tonight.

The Chinese Opera … hmmmmmm … what can I say? The seats were extremely uncomfortable and we sat in them for 1.5 hours! The costumes were gorgeous, very colorful. The group performances were lively, involving quite a bit of acrobatics. When only one performer was featured it became rather slow and monotonous /boring. Maybe if the seats had been better, we would have enjoyed it more. It was helpful to have English subtitles on the screen (one large video screen on each side of the stage) to explain in English what was going on or being said in the "songs."

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All in all, it was a good learning experience!

Hey! When we returned to our hotel after the opera, our room "keys" (plastic cards) wouldn’t unlock our room door! Several other people in our group had the same trouble, but the folks at the front desk in the lobby just apologized graciously and gave us all new keys.


Beijing Zoo

Monday, November 27, 2000

It’s our last full day here. After breakfast, we rode our tour bus to the Beijing Zoo to see the Giant Pandas. They were so cute! One of the younger ones was very playful and funny. I took several pictures and Mark got lots of video footage.

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Next we went to the Lamasery, which is the sacred religious temple and living quarters for the Lamas (monks). Very interesting and beautiful place. One of our group members was chastised (by a stick wielding guard) for taking pictures of the inside of a temple building (from the outside) even though the photographer was not actually inside the building. Walked a few blocks from the Lamasery to the Temple of Confucius which was also a very lovely, interesting place. Chinese "Lazy-Susan" lunch included after visiting the temples.

Back to our hotel by 2:00PM and the rest of the day is ours; free time. Mark and I will send our last e-mail from Beijing, and then we plan to walk to Dairy Queen and Baskin-Robins, which are located side-by-side across the street from the MacDonald’s near our hotel. No need to go back to the Bank of China to get yuan coins for the second graders – Jessica (our tour guide) already took care of it for us! She has been wonderful this entire trip! I love her laugh! We’ll miss Jessica Zhang.

Now we’re back from our walk and boy was my vanilla DQ cone delicious! Mark had a strawberry Blizzard; I had suggested he try the sesame and cashew nuts Blizzard, but he wanted strawberry. The DQ was full of customers but the Baskin-Robbins had no customers (its probably more expensive than DQ). We didn’t go into the B-R. There is also a Starbucks Coffee Shop near there, and a Pizza Hut too. Beijing is "on the map" now!

Well, this will be my final entry in my journal while still in Beijing. Tonight we must settle our "bar tab" at the front desk, and get all packed up to leave. We won’t have enough time in the morning. We must get up at 4:30AM, put our check-in suitcases outside our room door at 5:30AM, grab a quick breakfast at 6:00AM and depart for the airport by 6:45AM It’s going to be a long day!



Back to Detroit and Washington D.C.

Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Well, we made it! We actually survived the long flight back, the 4-hour layover in Detroit, and the final touchdown at Dulles. Mark felt well enough (awake) to drive home, so we did not stay overnight in D.C. as we had originally planned.

Stopped at 7:00PM in Madison at MacDonald’s for burgers and coffee. I drove the short 10 or 12 miles home from there. Called Mom & Dad then went to bed and slept until 9:00AM Wednesday!

Our incredible journey to China is over. What a fabulous adventure, but it’s good to be home!


Last updated 03/28/2011 06:01:15 PM ®MDSimpson 2002 thru 2010 and beyond