Thursday, June 4, 2009


Post by: Beth

Okay, so as referenced before, I'm here to tell you about the bathtub. ;) Just playing.. sort of.

No, really, one of the things I love most about traveling is staying in different hotels. One would think after all this moving around and living out of bags, that I would simply want to stay home and not have to pack for a while, but I love the process of reading hotel reviews, looking at hotel locations, and helping pick out the best hotel for our travel situation for that particular trip.

We planned Beijing pretty quickly, and there are lots of logistical details that had to be taken care of, since we'd technically be entering another country. We needed a Visa to enter China, which can be a daunting process in a large city where your native language is no longer THE native language. Raja worked out a bunch of details and filled in tons of paperwork, and while he was at work, I ran around all over the place distributing the paperwork where it needed to go, standing in lines, collecting necessary pieces of information, and generally making a fool of myself by not being able to read or understand Chinese, yet insisting that I wanted to spend 5 days IN China and I needed to make that possible within 4 days.

Since that left me with no time to help with the virtual selection of hotel accommodations, I missed out on the entire process, and it was all left solely to Raja. When we left for Beijing 4 days later, I didn't know our flight number, had no idea about our hotel's location, was clueless as to how long we'd be in the air, but I DID know that we had secured the proper visas and documents to pass through China's immigration center without worry.

Sure enough, my papers and information got us through the airport authority's staunch line of questioning and many fever-checking temperature readings, and Raja's part came into play once we stepped onto solid ground. We navigated safely to the hotel, and upon entering our room, I promptly decided that I was letting Raja do ALL of the accommodation selection from now on. The cause for my excitement? Please feast your eyes.... on the bathtub....

Biggest. Bathtub. EVER. WITH a TV suspended above it! I could fit three of me in there! All this AND bath salts! Can you see why Raja told me not to even TRY to fake sick so I could stay in this thing all day? I jumped in hastily, with clothes, without water, and grinned like the Cheshire cat. If you know me well, you know there's rarely a day that passes where I'm NOT in the bathtub reading for at least an hour, usually more. (Except for India where bathtubs didn't exist for us.. Thank goodness that's over.) I was BEYOND excited, and I tentatively ventured just staying at home that night and relaxing, since we'd had "such a long travel day." (I was shut down.) I know some of you don't care about bathtubs the way I do, and I'm sorry for you that Raja isn't here to micromanage and ensure that 40% of this post isn't devoted to this wonderful bathtub, but ... I could not help posting pictures!

For your sake, I will graciously move on to some other photos of our room and the hotel, though. In all seriousness, this was a WONDERFUL stay, and if you ever travel to Beijing, we can pass on some recommendations. Service was wonderful, lots of attention to detail, and the whole thing is just so pretty. Ada & I fawned over the lobby each and every morning after breakfast, like the excited little girls that we are. Sorry for a post that may be meaningless to some of you, but as I said, hotels really are one of the highlights of traveling for me, so it becomes another way to share our experience. :)

bedroom area:

sitting room/dining area in the suite:

shower... again.. enormous!:


bedroom (from a different angle):

lobby of the hotel:

Aren't these candles just so big and pretty?:

In true Asian style, we have birdcages in the lobby!:

breakfast area, where Raja ate an un-Godly amount of food each morning:

So we can safely say that the bathtub was my favorite part, and the breakfast area was Raja's. Traveling and living all over obviously hasn't changed us one bit! :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

“The few wonders of the world only exist while there are those with the sight to see them.” - Charles de Lindt

Post by: Beth
(Gear up.. this one's long, but it's The Great Wall.. What else can I do?!)

Last Thursday was a holiday, so to make it a really long weekend, Raja took off Friday and we planned a trip to the capital of China: Beijing! We were lucky enough to have friends (Ada & Stefano) that were also considering that weekend for the same trip, so we got together, made travel plans, and then we were off!

I'm posting the obligatory trip to the The Great Wall of China first. I have to admit that on our vacations, I'm much less likely to get excited about the tourist-y activities that include staring at old buildings, monuments, and concrete creations. I much prefer exploring the more tucked away "souls" of each city... tiny bookstores, small cafes passed down through generations of family members, and I'll even vote for dinner/nightlife and shopping options over staring at a building alongside thousands of other tourists. I was forewarned by Raja to not try to feign sickness and secretly waste away my time in my bathtub reading my books (more on the bathtub to come in a later post) when it came time to visit the major tourist attractions in Beijing. Luckily, I was pretty enthusiastic about visiting The Great Wall... It's one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the weather was great that day, a tour with a guide had been arranged, and all four of us (Raja, myself, Ada, & Stefano) were going together.

A little background info:

First built in the 7th century B.C, rebuilt and maintained between the 6th century BC and the 16th century, the great wall was built to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire from Mongolian attacks during the rule of successive dynasties.

The Great Wall stretches over approximately 6,400 km (4,000 miles)from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Nur in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia, but stretches to over 6,700 km (4,160 miles) in total.

It was built by over a million people who happened to be peasants, prisoners and soldiers and thousands of them died in the process.

It used to be called the Ten Thousand Li Wall which referred to the wall’s length. (1 li equals half a kilometer or one third of a mile).

A list of facts can't come close to summing up how it feels and what it's like to climb a portion of this wall. We visited the Mutianya site, which is visited by less tourists, is a little further away, and is much less crowded than the popular Badaling section. In order to reach the site we wanted to visit, we rode in a chair lift for about 10 minutes, then were let off on the ground once we reached our site. From there, we climbed up hundreds of brick and stone steps to reach several watchtowers and explore the area.

Lots of photos to share... I don't think any of them TRULY capture the steepness of some of the walls, the vastness of the land around the site, the size of the mountains surrounding you, or the enormity of the wall itself, but hopefully it will give a general idea. :) It was an amazing experience... Hope you enjoy the photos!

Our first unobstructed view of the wall is depicted below. We drove up into the mountains for about 20 minutes or so before we got to the parking area. We could see little glimpsed of the wall every once in a while while driving up, but there was always forest or hills in the way, keeping it from being a very clear view.

Ada & Stefano getting onto the chair lift ahead of us:

In order to get back down the mountain to the main entrance of the wall area, you can take this huge slide that winds down and around. You operate the sled by pushing a large lever forward to go, pulling backwards to brake, and leaning left or right to turn. It's really fun, and a quick way to return to the bottom. You're not allowed to take pictures while sledding, but here are Stefano & Ada loading into their sleds.

I took this shot while we were riding up on the chair lifts. You can see this man sliding down the huge slide to get to the bottom:

We took all these stairs all the way to the last watch tower at this site, which you can see in this photo:

Looking up into a stairway to leads to the top of a watchtower:

Here, we're on top of one of the watch towers. You can follow that beige line snaking along behind us... That is the wall curving around the mountains. It seems to go on forever, in multiple directions!