A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Category — China

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

A New Game


We had not yet taken a long distance train on our trip, so we were all looking forward to our overnight train to Beijing.

At the same time, we knew we were entering uncharted territory.  China is one of those places we couldn’t figure out how to tackle, so we decided to just plunge in.

Our train left Hung Hom train station at 3:15 pm and was due to arrive at Beijing’s West Train Station 24 hours later.

We booked a “soft sleeper” – four bunks in one compartment.  At first blush, it looked incredibly small, but once we found the storage spaces, it turned out to be quite roomy.  We settled in for the ride.

Shortly after dark, there was a knock on our compartment door.  When we opened the door, a young female train attendant seemed as surprised to see us as we were to see her.

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April 10, 2009   6 Comments

ADIP: Hong Kong

A Day in Pictures
Hong Kong, SAR, China


Even in the 16th century the Chinese exported far more than they imported, sending growing quantities of silk and tea to Europe with Portuguese traders.

That changed for a time after the British arrived in Hong Kong because the British brought with them one imported good that could not be resisted: Opium.

The British drug trade led to the First and Second Opium Wars – and ultimately a 99-year British “lease” of Hong Kong. The lease ended in 1997, and Hong Kong was returned to Chinese control.


Today, nearly 12 years after the British handover to the Chinese, Hong Kong remains a global economic center.


Hong Kong’s harbor is one of the world’s most scenic – and busiest. Skyscrapers ring the harbor, and nothing seems to slow the pace of construction.


At night, the harbor comes alive, putting on one of the world’s biggest light shows.


And a streetside version of one of our favorites: Hong Kong Idol.


There are more pictures from Hong Kong here.

April 8, 2009   4 Comments

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