CHINA  2008


Departed San Francisco July 27 for Beijing, on a United Airlines 747.   I met up with some familiar faces from the Ring of Fire group at the spectacular new Beijing Terminal.

It's a stunning, glossy building.

We stayed at the Dongjiaominxiang Hotel,  just a few blocks from Tiananmen Square.


The atmosphere seemed lousy at first sight, but most of the problem is condensation mist, not smog.  The mist covered the entire land mass as we flew in over the mountains, so most of what is seen in the press as 'smog' is actually just natural mist. 

The terminal is so big that the mist could be seen in the far end, actually forming inside the building.


The first morning, I was wide awake at 4AM (a la Bill Murray in Lost in Translation) so I set out just before dawn and walked by myself to Tiananmen Square.  It was quite an experience, walking past amid Stalinist era buildings, and exploring the ancient square  seen so often in news photographs. Preparations for the Olympics were nearing completion.




 all kinds of vehicles on the streets






Not sure what the warning sign means, but it seems like a good idea none the less.


Lots of neon signs in the Old City - don't see many in the States anymore.




In the afternoon, four of us rented a cab and drove 75 km to a section of the Great Wall. Leaving the mists of Beijing behind, the weather turned clear and sunny, and there was virtually no-one at the Wall.  We took a ski lift up, and came back down on rather fast toboggans down a stainless steel bobsled track.  It was great.  Started out with a can of Coke in one hand, and steering with the other, and quickly found myself zipping down at about 30 mph.  Seeing skid marks of sleds which had left the track in hi speed curves, "I slowed down". Made it to the bottom with Coke intact..






At Dunhuang, two of us broke from the organized tour group and explored 2500 foot sand dunes on quadrunners.  Weather was fantastic and with the low sun angle, the views were tremendous.


The Dunhuang Night Market was a great place to spend the evening.  One night a fight broke out in an outdoor food court between locals which almost turned into a melee.  Shops, food, live music made it a great place, and the fight sort of kicked it up a few notches.  


Paul Scherbina hired a ride into the green hills around town.






All images copyright Thomas G Cave 2015