Zhengyangmen – The Front Gate To Old Inner Beijing

Hi Honey:

Right after the Mao’s Mausoleum, I was supposed to head straight to the Forbidden City. Change of plans.

When I walked out, I saw that imposing gate right in front of the Mausoleum. I walked closer and then read with interest what this gate meant to the city. So I decided to go in and have a look.


Apparently this gate is considered the Front Gate to Beijing in those olden days. Officially, this is called Zhengyangmen but it is more known as Qianmen which mean the Front Gate.


I got the map above from Wikipedia. When Beijing was established as the capital of China, they build a wall around the city to protect itself. The Inner City (in blue) was totally surrounded by a wall and access into the city is through 9 gates. Remember the number nine because it is a number of significance in China in those days. I’ll tell you more about it but just remember the number 9.

The wall stood for almost 600 years.

The sad thing is that about 50 years ago, they … (more…)

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Starting the Real Vacation in Beijing

Hi Honey:

Wohoo! No more work … my mission’s done. I can put work behind me and start my discovery of Beijing proper.


I moved into this new hotel last night. It is a little closer to the central city locations. There are quite a few eating places around here and so that is a plus. I know that after a full day of sightseeing and with my body all sticky and all, the last thing I want to do is to go too far to look for food.

The hotel is a bit old. Certainly not nearly as luxurious as the one I stayed in the past week. Yeah, it is not as comfortable too. The pillows is not as firm and you know how fussy I am with my pillows. The air conditioning is not as powerful as I wanted it to be. What upsets me a bit here is that the towels smells of cigarette smoke. Oh well, this is definitely more affordable and I really did not have time to really look for a better hotel, especially when I only had less than 2 days to make my way to Beijing and the past week was work, work, work.

They have a few restaurants in the hotel — a Japanese, a Cantonese, a buffet and also a Pizza Hut. Pizza Huts here are so upscale and fancy. Not like the rundown huts that we have on Wesminster Hwy in Richmond. LOL! I have no desire to check out the Pizza Hut here because the pictures of their food does not look like great pizza. It is more like Chinese flat bread if you ask me.


The location of the hotel is … (more…)

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Getting Around Beijing

Hi Honey:

One thing I find about Beijing is how remarkably flat the entire city is. When I first got here, I was quite perplexed why the Chinese dynasties of the old days would want to choose a location like this for their great capital city. The area is close by the edge of the Gobi dessert. It is dry and arid. The soil is baked solid hard. Because it is so flat it is also devoid of any natural landmarks except for a few lakes.

Many great ancient cities in the world are located next to a great body of water or by a mighty river. But why not Beijing?

I’ll tell you about that in a later post.


The good thing about the flatness of Beijing is that it is walkable. That explains why too there are so many bicycles in this city. It used to have more bicycles but the number is dwindling as people opts for other mode of transportation these days. Still the roads here have separate bicycle lanes right next to freeways.


So I had been doing a lot of walking the past few days. The furthest I walked must have been the day I went to the Forbidden City. It must have been at least 12 km in all. The attractions here are vast. It takes a lot of legwork to cover them.

Oh, I am proud to report that I have learned how to jaywalk after the past few days. Yeah, I can cross a 6 lane road on myself … (more…)

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The Hotel I Stayed In Beijing

Hey honey:

I want to tell you about the hotel I stayed in. In all my business travels, I must say I was most impressed with this one that my company’s travel services booked me into.


I was kind of worried to tell the truth when I first checked into the hotel when I was told that I have a reservation for the executive suite and that it is $300 a day. Already a $300 a day room in the US is quite a bit of money for a room night but in Beijing, this is a princely sum.


Needless to say, service was superb. They directed me to a sofa to wait and served me tea. Then the front desk manager (not just any bell boy) personally walked me to the room. So I was thinking … (more…)

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My Other Work Days

Hey Honey:

Last week was almost all about work and no play. Besides dealing with the jet lag (a 9 hour time zone difference), the meetings can be described as a roller coaster ride. There were days where agreements were easier to come by and there are testy moments. Am just glad we managed to get to all the agenda items by Friday and agreed to a way forward.

So by the time I got back to the hotel, there were more internal team meetings to recap the day before we broke up by about 6:30 PM. So you can imagine how long the day is. My American team members prefer to lounge in the comfortable confines of the hotel but me, I wanted to get out and absorb as much as I can of the life in Beijing.

One of the days, I walked across the pedestrian bridge spanning the main road and found this!


This is just so amazing. What you see here is just one of …


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Working in Beijing

Hi Honey:

The first two days of work was grueling. There were so many agenda items to cover and there are a lot of missing information that it was a lot of to and fro on issues. It is to be expected since the teams met for the first time. Both parties have their own interests and goals and so we just need to take one issue at a time and work through every one of them.

Cultural differences is in the way a little bit but not too much. It is the language fluency that is something most of us struggled with. I felt the Chinese had difficulties in expressing themselves in English but they sure are experts in their field. I am actually impressed with their technical knowledge of the subject matter.


My mornings started with breakfast at the 24th Floor Club. I’ll tell you more about the 24th Floor later. There is a very nice view from the Club and I almost always sat at the same spot that faces the CCTV Tower. Look at the traffic jams below. There is a jam every peak hour.

We took a taxi ride to the office which is quite a bit of distance from where I am staying. On a good day, the journey takes 25 minutes but mostly it is 40-45 minutes because of the traffic.


We always drive past the CCTV building everyday. See that building next to the CCTV building? Well, that whole building burnt down and they are in the process of rebuilding it.

It is both sad and hilarious. You see … (more…)

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Exploring South of Tiananmen

Hi Honey:

It’s actually already Wednesday morning right now. The past two days at work was grueling to say the least. So yesterday when I got back to the hotel, I had a quick dinner and crashed. Just got up at 5AM. Had a good sleep. 🙂 Yesterday I had dinner at this Kung Fu Fast Food place that many people were telling me about. It was awesome — simple goodness and it is soooo cheap. I’ll tell you more about it later.


I’ll just continue to tell you about the what happened on Sunday … and picking up from the visit to the National Museum of China (above).


It was after 3:00 PM already when I got out. I wanted to head to the … (more…)

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A Sunday On My Own: Roots

Hi All: Sorry about this but I just wanted to write this post with Suanne in mind. Somehow I felt everything I wanted to say is for her. It also makes it easier to write what is on my mind. So if you want to continue to read this, you don’t have to pretend you are Suanne. Just pretend you are eavesdropping on us and then if you want to chime in with a comment or two, please feel free. 🙂

Hey honey:

I must have been so dead tired and I did not realize it. It was Sunday, my second day in Beijing. This is a free day for me and I wanted to make full use of it. Actually the whole idea for me to arrive in Beijing on Saturday is so that I can have at least 1-2 days to deal with the jetlag before a series of meetings start on  Monday.

I was woken up by my team members at 9:30 AM in the morning when they called my room saying “Hey Ben, are you coming with us?” They wanted to go to the Jade Market and the Forbidden City. Since I just woke up, I needed to have time on my own to deal with some matters and told them to just go ahead and I’ll probably catch up with them later on.

Frankly I wanted to go on my own. Sometimes it sucks going in a group and you wanted to see something and others wanted to see something else … or I wanted to spend more time in one area and they did not. Done that before and so I prefer to just go on my own.


LOL! My executive suite had what they call Club Floor Privileges on the 24th floor. Free breakfast and I reckon it is nothing to sniff at. I was not interested. Instead I am hell bent on eating where Beijingers eat.

So after settling my stuff, I walked across the street from the hotel and just went into a restaurant. It is weird. The moment I walked in I hear a lot of people speaking in Cantonese. And then I saw Bolo Bau on some of the tables … and also milk tea. Since I could not read Chinese, I did not realize it is a HK Style Cafe.

Well, guess what I got. Bolo Bau (Pineapple Bun) just like everyone. They normally sell this at a pair at 13 RMB which is like just $1.00 Canadian each. I told the lady … (more…)

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My First Day in Beijing

Hi Honey:

Oh how I wish you are here today with me. Been going around Beijing for the past two days and all I think of is how delighted you will be experiencing what I had been seeing the past couple of days. Exploring China and Beijing is something we should be doing together.

For all I care, this is the first time I am in China. Being in Shenzhen so many years ago for just a day trip from Hong Kong doesn’t count. This one is the real trip.

I am surprised I can blend in more than I thought I could. That is until I open my mouth. For the most part, I get along better speaking English and pretending not to speak Mandarin at all than if I were to try to speak my weird Mandarin. LOL!


At the airport, I wanted to be adventurous to take the subway to the hotel. It is so cheap. Each use of the subway regardless of the distance is just 2 RMB which is like 30 cents! Can you believe that? LOL! Actually it is a bit more expensive taking the subway from the airport to the city. There is a surcharge. But at 30 cents, it is so ridiculously cheap. I keep wondering why a two zone transit in Vancouver is, what, $3.50?

Actually, good thing I decided not to take the train. It is super crowded and it is unbelievably packed. I won’t be able to make it with my luggage and all. So I decided to take a taxi.

At the taxi stand, people does not respect lines. For the most part people does but a few bad apples could ruin everything. Anyway getting a taxi is easy at the airport. And yes, people smoke in the public. So I know you will hate it.

My taxi driver was a chatty man. I tried to speak to him in Mandarin and we got along quite well. He was patient when I tell him once every two minute “Woh Bu Min Bai” (I don’t understand). When I told him that I am Canadian and that my family left China about 120 years ago, he told me that I am a “Wah Qiao” (Overseas Chinese). He asked me which province I was from and so I told him that mum and dad are Fujianese. The one thing I did not expect to hear from him was that China will “take me home” if ever I get into trouble … giving me the example how Chinese in Libya was rescued. It was a strange feeling to hear that, although from a taxi driver.

The past two days made me think about my heritage as a Chinese and how all these fits togther. I had never considered myself as a true Chinese and for sure I had never felt any allegiance to the country of China. But in my muddled mind right now, there are a lot of questions for sure.

The picture above was taken just a block away from my hotel. It is the CCTV HQ building, I think. Amazing structure! I sure don’t want to work in the section of the building where there is nothing below. Next door to this was a all burnt out building. LOL! I remember reading about how they had a fireworks celebration and light up the building … and ended up burning it down!


After having a shower, it was already about 3:00 PM. I decided to walk around the block to get some food. I wasn’t really hungry but my first act has to be food.

There were a LOT of eating places of all types. Fancy ones, run down ones, food court, fast food type … they are everywhere. I am not kidding … (more…)

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