Goodness Gracious, Great Wall of China

Greetings from the future, dear readers!

Descriptions of Beijing are rarely complete without an adjective pointing to size.   “Big,” “very big”, and “huge,” would be appropriate, but many of you at home, in the present, may not be aware of what kind of “super huge,” we are seeking to describe.  China’s capital is large in both population, boasting somewhere north of 20 million people, as well as area.  Walking around most of Beijing (with some exceptions) is a decidedly tamer experience than Manhattan.  Those of you who have travelled to Jacksonville, Florida (the largest city by area in the continental United States) will understand the experience of a 2 hour drive beginning and ending in the same city.

Our trip to The Great Wall of China involved a three hour trip on a bus to Jinshanling from our hostel, one mile north of the Forbidden City.  Jinshanling is in Beijing, on the border of Hebei Province.  The Wall was initially built to keep out the Mongolians, who previously controlled what is now Northern Hebei Province as well as the currrent Chinese province of Inner Mongolia.

There are several places to view The Great Wall near Beijing, with Badaling being the easiest to access and thereby the most popular.  While I was averse to the extra time and money needed to get to Jinshanling, the experience of walking on the Great Wall without thousands of other tourists was well worth it.


We hiked about four miles in total, from Jinshanling to our pickup point at Simatai.  The above picture shows Maria sporting a red sweater given to her by my Grandmother.  The red sweater, which is a color revered in China, got a lot favorable comments from the locals on the Wall.

We will have more videos moving forward, as we slowly, but surely, figure out how to use iMovie.

For now though, we’re off to have breakfast.

Have a good night!

Here are some more photos from the Wall …

The Weirdest Part of Waking Up

Greetings from the future, dear friends!

Here, in the north capital of the middle kingdom, we await your tomorrow.  Coffee’s in the pot, a bottle of wine at the ready, and  Dwight Yokum, Dolly Parton and Notorious B.I.G. are playing on speakers that project throughout the restaurant and echo across the street.

That doesn’t work?  Do you have an iPod?  Nevermind, we’ll take requests.

Get comfortable, tell your friends, and have some spaghetti, why don’t you?

Smoke?  Absolutely!

Or … don’t.  We’ll tell everyone to stop immediately!

Nimen hui lai. (Ya’ll come back.)

The rise of the Chinese economy has created an environment which initially courted foreign investment, later manpower and now, tourism.  A 2013 HSBC survey of 7000 expatriates ranked China as the number one foreign location to live and work.  This ranks ahead of Singapore (a former British Colony) and Germany.

Recognizing the gulf of language and culture between China and the west, one might ask how the hospitality industry in China is courting the interests of western clientel.  On the high-end, this translates to luxury cars, polo, scuba diving on Hainan island, upscale nightlife and golf.  The answer to the traveler who is a bit lower-to-the ground: the western coffee shop.

The Chinese have paid that 12-hour head-start on the Eastern Daylight Timezone toward building an interesting welcome mat.  “Western coffee shops” are ubiquitous in areas with youth hostels and are visible throughout the country.  Wiggly Jiggly’s, next door to our current abode, boasts upholstered furniture, does not allow smoking before 4pm and was bizarely playing Christian music this morning.

Dolly Parton serves as an interesting backdrop for one attempting to pantomime “Tabasco sauce” to accompany their “American Breakfast.”

Western coffee shops have on offer WIFI, coffee, beer, wine, ice cream and … spaghetti.   A sort of faux French bistro coupled with an expat bar that generally offeres a better WIFI connection than the hostel across the street.  While a 25 yuan cup of coffee might be more costly than the price of a hearty breakfast of baozi, we will undoubtedly pay that tax from time to time in order to reach our dear readers.

This full Beijing breakfast for two of baozi and bean curd soup costs only 19 yuan.

This full Beijing breakfast for two of baozi and bean curd soup cost only 19 yuan.

Here at Wiggly Jiggly's a small cup of coffee costs 25 yuan.

Here at Wiggly Jiggly’s a small cup of coffee costs 25 yuan.

That said, I’m heading to bed.

Good Morning!



Rise and Shine

Long time, no see.  Hopefully you slept well.

Have you eaten?


The future is almost here and we are waiting for you; burning money in effigy to honor our family, driving cars for the first time, and occasionally putting beans in our ice cream.  We talk about going to the moon, we take long lunches, and all of our grandparents have been awake, alert, and working out since 4 a.m.  A lot of us smoke cigarettes, but nobody can be perfect.

(Xinhua photo)

Some rice wine?  A little early you say?

Please, get comfortable.

It is here, in the future, that we will use our vantage on the edge of tomorrow to transmit these dispatches to you, our dear readers.  New advances in transportation, vocational pursuits, entertainment, short-term accommodations and expression (both artistic and otherwise) will be recorded for purposes of posterity and because none of you have time machines (or plane tickets to China.)

Sit tight, we’ll let you know what’s about to happen … just as soon as it happens.