Trip Start Mar 02, 2008
Trip End Jul 15, 2008

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Flag of China  ,
Saturday, April 26, 2008

Right after checking in at LAX for our 12 hour flight to Beijing, we ran into Hahn Rohan -- a old colleague from PayMyBills. Her mother was on the same flight as us, going to visit Hahn's sister. She asked us to "take care of her" because she did not speak English (much). (Eh, we don't speak Vietnamese or Mandrin.) It turned out that there are signs in English everwhere, as the city is ramping up for the Olympics. We eneded up helping Hahn's mom out with her customs card, and Trae ran around and got her luggage for her. Hahn's sister, Lee, and her driver met us and graciously offered to drive us to the hostel. She said that many places were hard to find in the city and taxi drivers might just end up driving in circles. It was an amazing offer. We rode with them to Lee's house, visited for a minute while the driver called for directions, then got back in the car with him. Boy, was it lucky that we had him. He drove into the approx. area and started leaning out the window to ask directions every 100 feet. He turned down an alley (Hutong), then parked and walked away. About 6 or 7 minutes later he came back with a woman who did not speak English. We thanked him and followed the woman down a tiny alley. The hostel was only a few turns away, burried in a maze of old, grey walls. I don't know how we would have ever found it on our own.

The hostel was amazing -- we know that this is not a normal hostel situation and that we are being spoiled. Check out the pictures.

That first day we took a bus to the Lama Temple. The Lama Temple was simply beautiful, and full of tons of incredible buddhas. Then we took the subway to the Temple of Heaven -- which was huge. It was like a giant Chinese Central Park, with everyone out enjoying a beautiful Saturday. There were children with kites, a whole section of choir groups practicing, the card-playing section (they all had little bungee cords to hold the cards down in the wind), dancers with flags and wooden clackers, and a section off in a forest area where multiple groups (in close proximity) were practicing the traditional screetchy-string-thingy. Oh, what a mess of noise that was. All in all, a real feel for what a Saturday afternoon looks like to the locals.

Sunday we went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is massive, and almost all of the old structures are now museums. We spent about 5 hours there and it was an overwhelming amount to try to see in that amount of time. I'm sure I took too many pictures.
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