A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Posts from — April 2009

Observed in Tokyo


A Shibuya street band, playing an energizing mash-up of 1970’s funk and old-school big band. Sounds crazy, but it worked!

April 30, 2009   1 Comment

Signs II

Our Tokyo taxi was about to pull away from the curb when there was a rap on the window.  An older Japanese woman was standing next to the cab peering in.

When she had our attention, she began pointing to the rolling backpack on the sidewalk.

Our rolling backpack.

If there hadn’t been heavy traffic, we would have pulled away and left it behind.

Inside were two laptops, two Ipods, a video camera and a point and shoot camera.  One of the laptops held all our photos, our music, our videos — documentation of our life on the road.

For nearly nine months we had moved from place to place flawlessly, never once misplacing a piece of luggage.  Was leaving the backpack a sign, perhaps, that we were losing our travelers’ edge?

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April 29, 2009   11 Comments

Our Time in China


We didn’t know exactly what to expect in China, but I can say this: China exceeded every possible expectation.

Our report on Hong Kong and Beijing is here.

April 27, 2009   3 Comments

China Dreams

April 24, 2009   3 Comments

Diaper-Free Zone


As a former diaper changer, I have participated in the modern American debate over whether cloth or disposable is the best way to go.

Piles of smelly laundry confronting an already exhausted new mother is a drawback of cloth diapers but, of course, the ever-growing landfills can barely hold another string of plastic bundles from the Diaper Genie.

China provides a third option: Ditch the diaper altogether!


If you buy a snowsuit for your wee one in China, you can be sure that it will have a handy opening in the back. On the coldest days, babies hoisted up on a parent’s shoulder have their tiny bottoms out for the world to see and for, well, convenience.

We saw Chinese moms holding their little ones bent at the waist, tushie down, releasing. But these were toddlers. What happens when an infant needs to “go?” Never got a glimpse of that, but I think I’d rather clean a baby’s smeared derriere than my own winter coat’s sleeves.

For the older set, once you’ve mastered the art of using a toilet, there are still differences from our approach.

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April 22, 2009   3 Comments

Yeah, It Is Pretty Great


It’s hard for any site as famous as The Great Wall to live up to its reputation.  But I have to admit, it is great.  Truly impressive. But then I suppose you can get a lot done with slave and prisoner labor.

We considered many alternatives for visiting China’s leading tourist attraction. Should we do the “shopping” trip to the Wall at Badaling or perhaps the eight kilometer hike along a section that has not been reconstructed?

Ultimately we decided to take the advice of our friend Ian Pilbeam. We hired a taxi to take us to the Great Wall at Mutianyu.

Good call, Ian.



We hiked along a beautifully restored stretch of the Great Wall while avoiding the Jade Factory tour that was part of the organized outing to the more touristy Badaling section.

As a special bonus, we got to ride a luge from the top of The Wall down a one-mile track, back to the parking area.

For the record, The Wall never did perform its function as an inpenetratable line of defense.

Genghis Khan explained: “The strength of a wall depends on the courage of those who defend it.”


April 20, 2009   7 Comments

The Last Emperor


We snatched our hostel’s copy of Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor to prepare for our visit to The Forbidden City.

The movie tells the story of Puyi, who became Emperor of China in 1908 at the age of three.  While still very young, he became a symbol and a pawn in revolution and war.  He was forced to abdicate the throne in 1911 when China first became a republic.

Later, he allegedly colluded with the Japanese when they invaded Manchuria in 1937.  After World War II ended he spent ten years in a “re-education camp” before spending his final years in Beijing working as a humble gardner.

The movie can be a bit slow at times, but it is an epic story and it does have a role for the always excellent Peter O’Toole. It also gave us some context for our visit.

The Forbidden City was off-limits to all but the Emperor and his court for 500 years.  It is considered to be the best preserved cluster of ancient buildings in China.



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April 17, 2009   2 Comments

Observed on Tiananmen Square


SpongeBob and Chairman Mao, together at last.

April 15, 2009   6 Comments

Home Sweet Hutong


You always take a chance when booking accomodation over the Internet.  Will the place be as advertised?  Are the reviews accurate?  Have I read the message between the lines?

For our arrival in Beijing I had booked us into the Downtown Beijing Backpackers Accommodation, a hostel in a hutong not too far from Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City.

A lucky choice, as it turned out.

Now, you might ask, what the heck’s a hutong?  Before we stayed in one I couldn’t have told you.

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April 15, 2009   1 Comment

I’m On A Train

Caroline conceived, shot and edited this video offering her unique take on our overnight train trip from Hong Kong to Beijing.

April 13, 2009   6 Comments

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