Big Beijing Adventure

June 2, 2011 at 5:34 pm 2 comments

4 February 2010

Flew direct to Beijing from Dubai with Emirates. Big treat for my youngest son Nathan as he was having an extra week off school at half term. I was invited by Harrow International school to take dragons to China (!) and Nathan came along for the ride (with snowboard, I might add).

Seemed very cold on arrival with snow hanging around…but
boiling indoors as the Government regulate the heating! It is turned on all over the city on a specified date, and turned off on a specified date, regardless of the weather!

We were met by my librarian friend from
Harrow and a driver and taken to Clare’s appartment in the expat quarter (Sanlitur). After a good nights sleep Nathan and I awoke early and set out to the Olympic Park (It was a school day for my teacher
friend Clare). We travelled very efficiently by Metro and enjoyed the snow park
which had been set up in the Olympic Bird’s Nest, as well as sightseeing the Water Cube etc. Nathan was mobbed by teenage girls who wanted their photos taken with him – they thought he was Justin Bieber!!

5 February

Nathan and I rose early and joined a school
staff bus tour to Longqing Gorge to see the Ice Festival. Several hours drive
north of Beijing and it started snowing! In the summer it is all lakes and boat
rides in the gorge but in the winter the lakes freeze over and they carve
buildings to replicate the Forbidden City etc out of huge blocks of ice.
Amazing and well worth the long bus ride. Jolly cold though!

6 Feb

Shopping day with Clare and Nathan was born
to shop! Clare took us by taxi to the Temple of Heaven which was very serene
and snow covered. Beautiful and peaceful. It’s Clare’s favourite place in
Beijing. Fabulous Peking Duck meal out in the evening. (It has to be done, and Nathan loved it!)

7 Feb and 8 Feb

Up early to catch the 0700 school bus into
Harrow. 2 days spent in school dragoning the year 3-7’s. Very keen bright
Chinese pupils from wealthy families and a few expat children. Not very many
children in the huge new school building as a long way out from the centre of Beijing (Grassetown).

9 and 10 Feb

Private car to Nan Shan Ski resort North of
Beijing. This was Nathan’s part of the holiday! We stayed in a very basic
chalet on the ski resort where everyone was Chinese and no one spoke English
but we got by with the phrase book and a bit of pointing! Nathan was very happy to
‘shred the slopes’ on his snowboard which he took from Dubai for the
experience. It was better than Ski Dubai he reckoned, although the snow was also manufactured although outdoors! I spent the day in the chalet huddled by the fire and writing the Chinese part of Book 5 The Silver Claw, based on what I’d seen, with occaisonal forays outside well wrapped up, to watch the snowboard king who was in his element!

On arrival back in the city I took Nathan to
see the Chinese Acrobats show at the Cheoyoung Theatre (same as the Beijing
Olympics opening ceremony). It really was very good and Nathan impressed the girls
in the souvenir shop with his Diablo skills (the big cotton reel on a string
between 2 sticks – he’s pretty good at it!)

11 Feb

Back into Harrow for last day of half term –
before Chinese New Year. The children took part in a huge assembly and presented
everything about dragons after their workshops with me. Very
impressive creative writing from poems, to ‘what happened next’ and their own
short stories as well as letters to the SSDP asking to join. I then visited
British School Beijing and sold out of the rest of my stock, visiting their
years 4-6. That was a bit of moment seizing!

Nathan met George (his look alike, who is the son
of my librarian friend Karen) and we moved into their flat as Clare had ex
Dubai friends arriving. Nathan and George hit it off immediately and played a
lot of computer games.


We woke early and cycled to Ho Hai
lake…totally frozen over and the boys played for ages. Karen and I found a
Starbucks for a much needed warming coffee! We enjoyed a big cycle ride all
round Beijing inner area…the roads were quiet due to Chinese New Year and there
are dedicated cycle lanes on all the busy roads. Its also completely flat and
there are bicycle pump wielding men on street corners to pump up your tyres for
a few coins in event of a flat tyre! It seems the whole population of Beijing travel by

The firecrackers started during the
afternoon….to ward off the demons prior to the Year of the Tiger starting. That
was just a prelude! Saturday evening we all went to an apartment with a
fabulous view over the Drum and Bell Tower in the centre of Beijing. All Harrow
staff there. The fireworks were phenomenal. People just set them off in the
street and they go on all day and all night. The sound is incredible – like
being in a war zone – and I doubt that ‘Elf and Safety have much of a standing
here! You have not seen fireworks until you have spent Chinese New Year in
Beijing! Home to bed by 0230…we were lucky to find taxis and the debri in the
streets from the fireworks was already being swept away by a gang of lady’s on
bicycles wielding brooms!


Sunday 14 Feb

Shunyi Kway La! (Happy New Year in Mandarin)

We awoke early and got the boys up….big cycle
ride to Tianamen Square – the biggest Square in the world (shhh don’t tell Sheikh
Mohammed or he’s want to make one!). Roads empty. Then on to Jingshan Park
where we chained up our bikes and climbed Cole Hill to look down on the
sweeping terracotta tile roof tops of the amazing Forbidden City. Superb blue sky day (in fact
all week the air quality was good as the factories were closed due to public holiday).

Spaghetti supper at Clare’s for us all, and
nice to see Clare’s ex Dubai visitors Graham and Geraldine who have become
great friends of ours.

Monday 15 Feb

Extra treat for Nathan and George as the
young male staff of Harrow were doing a day trip to Nan Shan to ski and offered
to take the boys. They jumped at the chance! I spent a lovely day with Clare
and Geraldine and Graham at the Summer Palace – my favourite place in
Beijing…so beautiful in the winter with the lakes frozen over and the peach and
mulberry trees (for the Imperial silk worms) bare against a blue sky and those
stunning buildings….once we got away from the crowds near the buildings we took a
3 hour walk around the lake and enjoyed the solitude. Would love to see it in
Spring at blossom time…



Tuesday 16 Feb

Cycled to Lama Temple, home of the largest
standing Buddha in the world, carved from a single piece of sandalwood (again
don’t tell Sheikh Mohammed or he’ll make a bigger one!) Being New Year we were
surprised to find the temple was heaving with Chinese all burning incense
sticks in braziers in the courtyards and very definitely praying. Things seem
to be changing in Communist China! Apparantly one of Mao se Tungs generals
saved the Lama Temple when so many others were destroyed by boarding it
up…..the Chinese government are quite tolerant of religion these days except
Catholicism –  apparently – because they swear allegience to a man (the
Pope) rather than a ‘being’ and could therefore raise an army! All very

Wed 17 Feb

We saved the best day til last. We all joined
a Harrow staff and visitors bus trip to Simatai, the furthest accessible point
of the Great Wall from Beijing. It had been my ambition to fly a kite on the
Great Wall since my visit in 2008 to a different (busier) part. 15 of us pretty
much had the Wall to ourselves and it was a blue sky day. Climbing the Wall is
not for the fainthearted and the Chinese didn’t use spirit levels during its
construction. The wall loops up and down between turrets and stretches more
than 2000 miles….we were up there for 4 hours and it was an amazing experience.
To Nathan it surpassed even the snowboarding! I must confess I was hopeless at flying the kite – so excited by the moment that I forgot about the air currents and soon became entangled on the stonework of the wall and the thorn bushes below!

Fish Pie supper at Clare’s (ash Wednesday) on
our return to the City, and then she and I went for an amazing Chinese massage
at Bodhi’s (you wear cotton pyjamas and the masseuses

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 never see naked flesh!)…very cheap
and excellent way of ensuring no aching muscles for the flight home. Bed and up
at 0400 to hail a taxi and check in for the excellent Emirates direct flight
home (8 hours).

Neither of us can believe how much we saw in
2 weeks, and we certainly kept fit with cycling, walking, climbing and in
Nathan’s case, snowboarding! The local cuisine was superb and we have some lovely new
friends, happy memories and millions of photos….just a selection are attached for your viewing pleasure!


Entry filed under: travel. Tags: , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mychronicledlife  |  June 2, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Wonderful pics and equally wonderful narration. Thank you for being my Beijing guide! 🙂


    • 2. debievans  |  June 3, 2011 at 7:49 pm

      thank you! If you are planning to be in Beijing for any length of time it’s really worth taking a sleeper train to Xian to see the Terracotta Army…I did that on a previous visit and will add that page shortly!



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Debi Evans

Debi Evans

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