Chinese New Year

The Year of the Dragon

February 4-8, 2000

Friday, February 4, 2000

Today we arrived in Beijing. But, the day started back in Hong Kong with a drive to the new Hong Kong airport. Airport LoungeThough we have been in and out of this airport several times during the past few months, it never ceases to amaze me with its size. A particularly nice feature of the place is how the airport lounges are designed: rather than compartmentalized rooms they are blended into the open space of the facility.

Flight CA 102 took just under three hours to reach Beijing.

The hotel limousine took 30 minutes to reach The Palace Hotel.

Wangfujing SuiteThe elevator took 30 seconds to reach the Wangfujing Suite on the 13th floor.

Before dinner we walked down Wangfujing Street to the Beijing Hotel. This historic hotel complex is made up of three distinct buildings, each with its own architectural style ... the middle one being the only one of any interest ... the "bookends" are boring example of functionality. Unfortunately, the corridor that links their cores has been plugged so it is no longer possible to walk the breadth of the place free of the elements. The latest addition to this row house of hotels is the Grand Hotel Beijing. Its virtue is that it overlooks the Forbidden City.

Tiring of hotels, Linda and I walked over to Tiananmen Square. As tonight is the start of the Year of the Dragon, the square appeared splashed with color; but, not overly so. Guard at Mao's MausoleumCuriously absent were people. Granted, Mao's Mausoleum and the gates to the Forbidden City were closed, as was the museum. Also shut was the Communist Party headquarters. So, too, the house where they rubber-stamp the laws. No wonder that everyone was shopping over on Wangfujing Street. Not so curious after all: the absence.

Later we spent two hours with garlic shrimp and spicy scallops. And, fried rice. Some steamed broccoli too.

Our suite has two of everything. One works quite well for us.

Tomorrow, if it doesn't snow, we are going to visit a section of the Great Wall.

Saturday, February 5, 2000

My friend, Sandra Holt (aka Kenni Holt, aka Sandra Stinson, aka Kenni Stinson) is paranoid. My asides for February 5, 6 and 7 have been dedicated to her worries.

This morning's useful tip from the WORST-CASE SECENARIO SURVIVAL HANDBOOK tells you what to do if you are suspicious of what came in the post. As this is a three-part help-yourself section you won't be fully prepared for life (or death) unless you remember to check back here on Sunday and Monday. On those days your advisors will tell you how to search for a bomb; furthermore, they will point you in the right direction when you go shopping for detection devices.


1) If a carrier delivers an unexpected bulky letter or parcel, inspect it for lumps, bulges, or protrusions, without applying pressure. [Check for unevenly balanced parcels.]

2) Handwritten addresses or labels from companies are unusual. [Check to see if the company exists and if they sent a package or letter.]

3) Be suspicious of packages wrapped in string - modern packaging materials have eliminated the need for twine or string.

4) Watch out for excess postage on small packages or letters - this indicates that the object was not weighed by the post office. [It is no longer legal to mail stamped parcels weighing more than sixteen ounces at mailboxes in the United States - they must be taken to the post office.

5) Watch out for leaks, stains (especially oily stains), protruding wires, or excessive tape.

6) Watch out for articles with no return address or a nonsensical return address.

FireworksSince New Years (Chinese or otherwise) would not be very "New-Yearsy" without loud pyrotechnics, our first stop of the day was at a roadside fireworks stand on the edge of Beijing. With no awkward safety regulations to girdle them, these street vendors can easily ladle up assortments of hand maiming explosives that humble anything found in any Georgia Stuckey's stand. With several hundred bangs we were able to destroy a tree in a few seconds.

After we killed that poor baby elm we moved our attention toward a section of the Great Wall. Attacking via cable cars we found the place almost totally undefended. Only a few trinket salesmen worried us with their wares.

Tonight we walked the streets of Beijing ... taking photographs. Here are a few of them.

Good night!

Sunday, February 6, 2000

Is today Groundhog Day? I don't know. I think it falls on a Sunday, but I'm not sure.

Sandra, here is Part II of your guide on how to deal with bombs that are aimed at you:


Government agencies use well-defined search procedures for bombs and explosive devices. After a bomb threat, the following can be used as a guide for searching a room, using a two-person search team.

1) Divide the area and select a search height. [The first searching sweep should cover all items resting on the floor up to the height of furniture; subsequent sweeps should move up from there.]

2) Start back-to-back and work around the room, in opposite directions, moving toward each other.

3) Search around the walls and proceed inward in concentric circles toward the center of the room.

4) If you find a suspicious parcel or device, do not touch it - call the bomb squad.

Sandra, tomorrow the agenda calls or a lecture on detection devices. It is somewhat boring as it goes on an on about such things as Semtex, ion mobility spectroscopy and Polaroid radiographic film cassettes. Do you really want to hear about this or should I jump over to the next "Worst-Case Scenario" which is HOW TO DELIVER A BABY IN A TAXICAB? Let me know via e-mail.

OK, now on to what we did today:

This morning we took a "Hutong" tour. From the glossy brochure it looked a bit "quacky", but it turned out to be lots of fun. So, what is it? Rickshaw TourIt's a rickshaw tour of a traditional residential area of Beijing ... topped with a lunch with a Chinese family.

After receiving instructions on passenger etiquette from our rickshaw driver we were meandered through the alleys (Hotongs) of old Beijing. After stopping here for a while ... and then there for a while ... and over on that side for a bit ... we wound up at the Beijing Drum Tower. Sixty-nine steps up the core of the tower lies a broken and decayed drum that is not all that interesting to look at. But, the view in every other direction is nice. The Beijing Bell Tower is part of that view. We learned that in the 13th century the drums woke people up. Linda Makes DumplingsLater on in the day the bells told people that it was time to lay down their tools. Or, it might have been the other way around.

After suffering the cold and braving the stairs, Linda was pressed into kitchen duties: dumpling-making. Our lunch was just that. This took place in a traditional Chinese residence with traditional Chinese residents using traditional Chinese ingredients. It was fun.

A week is not nearly enough time to visit Beijing's Forbidden CityForbidden City. With its 9,999 rooms, that would still only give us seconds of peeks per room. Today we were there for a little less than three hours. By necessity we limited ourselves to a walk from the south entrance of the Palace to the exit facing Coal Hill. Though I have been to Beijing more than twenty times since 1982 I always manage to see something new on each of my visits to its Forbidden City. This time it was the apartment that belonged to a 5th level concubine; she eventually became the Empress Dowager. The photos that I took are in no particular order. None are terribly important.

We are keeping tonight a secret.

Monday, February 7, 2000

Sandra, though I have not heard from you as to whether or not you want to explore the topic of what to do when you find a bomb in your apartment, I have made a judgment call: that you really don't want to know more stuff about (1) Particulate Explosives Detectors, (2) Portable X-Ray Systems, (3) Spray Bomb Detectors and (4) Bomb Range Detectors.

Instead, your interest would be peaked and better served by: HOW TO DELIVER A BABY IN A TAXICAB.

Having said that I need to back pedal. The author's five steps to a freshly born kid apparently assume that everything in the chain is working so perfectly that a yawn and the cab fare is all that is needed to get you to the hospital.

So, if all goes well here's how it goes:


1) Time the uterine contractions.

2) As the baby moves out of the womb, its head - the biggest part of its body - will open the cervix so the rest of it can pass through.

3) When the baby is out of the mother, dry it off and keep it warm.

4) Tie off the umbilical cord.

5) It is not necessary to cut the umbilical cord, unless you are hours away from the hospital.

Each of these steps has some black letter caveats attached to them. Such as: don't slap the baby to make it cry, use a shoelace to tie off the cord, have clean towels handy, etc.

Returning to the little section on BOMB DETECTION, keep in mind that a mobile version of the Bomb Range Detector is available for use in automobiles:


"This detector of radio-controlled explosives is mounted in a car. The unit automatically scans and transmits on every radio frequency in a one-kilometer radius. When a radio-controlled explosive is in the area, the device jams it to render it harmless."

Yes, we are still in Beijing.

Summer PalaceThis morning, for starters, we visited the Summer Palace. While there have been imperial palaces on this site for almost 900 years, the present one dates from the 18th century. However, it is most closely associated with the 19th century Empress Dowager Cixi. She selfishly siphoned off monies that were budgeted for the Chinese navy in order that her palatial whims could be satisfied. In retrospect it was probably a beneficial siphon.

Like yesterday, my photographs are in no particular order and are of no unusual significance. The things and people were just there as I raised my lens.

Lunar FairThis is only the third or fourth time that I have been out to the Summer Palace. As this is Linda's first visit to Beijing, I am benefiting from her novice status by playing the tour guide.

Later we walked around a Chinese Lunar Fair; this one was held in the Temple of Earth Park. Whether it be a county fair in Minnesota, a rural fair in England or this one in Beijing, they are pretty much alike ... same faces ... same booths ... same stuff to eat ... same kids ... same parents ... same noise ... just plain same everything. And my photos are the same as the ones I would have taken in Winona, Minnesota or Maidstone, England.

Tuesday, February 8, 2000

Handy though it might appear upon first reading, today's tip is something that you probably will never have to recall from memory.


1) Wear a high-quality helmet and a leather jacket plus leather pants and boots.

2) Make sure both vehicles are moving at the same speed.

3) Wait for a long straight section of road.

4) Get the vehicles as close as possible to each other.

5) Stand crouched with both of your feet on either the running board or the seat.

6) Hold the throttle until the last instant.

7) If the car has a handle inside (above the door) grab it with your free hand.

8) Have the driver swerve away from the bike as soon as you are inside.

9) If you miss the window, tuck and roll away from the vehicles.

"In the movies and in stunt shows, these transfers are usually performed at slow speeds, and in fact often employ the use of a metal step installed on one side of the bike or car, which allows the rider to step off while keeping the bike balanced. You are not likely to have this option."

So far, our day has been uneventful. We went shopping in a Friendship Store.

Next: Shanghai

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