Subject: Re: China - Beijing, Lanzhou
Dear Cindy,

I did not go to Gansu Province. Why are you going? I don't know much about that region. But I'm fascinated with China and interested in learning more about every part. I did go to the neighboring Shaanxi Province to Xi'an, the first capital of China and the terminus of one of the Silk Roads. Also went to the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to go to Guilin. Took the Li River cruise and got to see all those magical rock formations. We skipped the Yangtze River this trip. We ended up with 4 days in Shanghai, which I predict will be the major city in the 21st c. There was so much original, sleek, interesting, modern architecture there. We took a side trip by train to Suzhow.

Now to Beijing which I loved. It was hot in June just like it will be for you. My girlfriend and I wore nice bermuda short sets, no short shorts. It was acceptable for us but the Chinese don't wear them. You will be stared at regardless of what you wear because westerners are rare in China now.

We stayed at the Qianmen Hotel in the southern part of Beijing. They had a good outdoor restaurant where we ate two times. I had my first Chinese meal in China there--sweet and sour pork--and it was so delicious! If you like Chinese food, you're in for a treat. All of our meals were fabulous, we drank the water out of the tap and we didn't get sick. My brother travels with a lot of things from home and warned me not to eat the lunch on the Li River cruise and he gets sick. He had been to China the preceding October and did take the Yangtze cruise. By the way, our luncheon on the cruise was the best we had. They also have great beer. Always order the beer of the region. They come in a wine bottle size so it's fortunate if you have someone to share the beer with you.

The Beijing Opera is located in this hotel and was very interesting to see. The first part was a Chinese tale sung the way our opera is but it has a very different sound. We loved the supertitles that they provided. The second part was mainly acrobatic which the Chinese are famous for.

Every night around our hotel, there was free entertainment on the wide sidewalks and in front of the buildings. One night, a senior citizens women's group did a fan dance to the accompaniment of about four people playing instruments. They entertain each other and it doesn't cost anything. Another night there was a ballroom dancing contest. The contestants were middle age and wore elaborate costumes. After it was over, I was able to take pics of several of the couples. There are two famous Peking Duck Restaurants nearby. Don't miss those.

My girlfriend and I went by ourselves. The first day we took a pedicab to the Temple of Heaven complex. I liked taking pedicabs because they went so slow. You could see everything. This complex is as large as the Forbidden City. In fact, it took us longer to go through all of it. We did a lot of shopping as well. When you have too much to carry, then it's time to go back to your hotel. We came here the first day because it was rainy but it cleared up.

Our second day was sunny and beautiful so we went to the Forbidden City. Took a pedicab all around Tian'anmen Square and the driver stopped to let me take pictures whenever I wanted to. This saved us for all the walking in the Forbidden City. You don't need a guide or tapes because unlike being in France or Italy, everything here is written in Chinese and English so you could read about each building as you walked through it.

We finished much earlier than we thought-1:00-so we took another pedicab pass the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower (northern Beijing) to the Lamasery-Yong Hegong (northeastern Beijing). It was such a fascinating place--where they practice Tibetan Buddhism. We saw complete freedom of worship all over China as we visited religious sites. In the last temple of this complex, it has a 85 ft. statue of Buddha carved out of a single trunk of white sandalwood. It used to hold the Guinness World Record but now it is second. But the whole place is magnificent. After that, we took a cab to the 5 star Palace Hotel, where my brother had stayed. Had a drink in the lobby where a quartet played western classical music.

We took a tour the next day to go to the Ming Tombs and the Great Wall. It's much easier than to try to do this on your own. Then our last day, we took a cab to the Summer Palace where we spent the day and rode on the Dragoon Boats on the lake.

We had a great time. I hope the best for you.