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Adventures in China

June 2016



My dad, Reuben, has always wanted to go to China, and I just want to go anywhere. So last fall I found a great deal for a trip to China from Sinorama Holidays . The original deal was for 12 days, all-inclusive, for $1,800pp. It sounded too good to be true. It included airfare to and from China, 4- or 5-star hotels, all meals, all internal travel, travel guides, taxes, fees, tips - everything. I read all the fine print and couldn't find a thing wrong with it. As we were booking, of course, they offered us a couple of add-ons. It seemed to make sense, as long as we were there, to go ahead and add on a few more stops. So, in the end the trip was 19 days for $3,400pp - still an amazing deal.

We had all year long to look forward to this trip. And we did. Christmas presents were things for the trip - books about China, new luggage, travel pillow, blanket, etc. But it gave us both something to look forward to.

My dad is 88 years old and walks a bit slower than he used to. Since this was going to be a tour with other people I thought perhaps it would be difficult for us to keep up. So I told him we would need to take a wheelchair. He did not want it, but in the end he agreed.

Finally the time had come and we flew to Newark, NJ to pick up our transcontinental flight. Actually the wheelchair made going through security a bit easier in many cases. I had practiced pushing the wheelchair and the luggage as I suspected I might have to do that at some point, but I never did. In the airports we checked our wheelchair and used the airport's wheelchair which came with someone to assist pushing. It's free of charge aside from a nice tip to the pusher.

So we're finally on the plane. The information screen says we will be flying over the Arctic for 7,200 miles and slightly more than 14 hours. We took off and had beautiful views of New York City. There are so many new buildings since I used to live there. It was lovely to see. The plane was mostly full of Chinese people with very few westerners.

We flew straight north across Hudson Bay, then across Baffin Bay next to Greenland. It was fairly cloudy so there wasn't much to see, unfortunately. We never lost the sun, but then the sun never sets up here this time of year. The pilot told me later that we flew 400 miles left of the North Pole. Nice. Our approach to Beijing was across Russia and down.


Screen map on the airplane

We arrived in Beijing at 1:45 P.M. The airport is beautiful, but the walks are extremely long. Right off the bat I was glad to have that wheelchair! After getting our luggage and going through customs, etc., we met our guide and some of our group just outside. The first people we met were Jim and Debra, and Caroll and Peter - our first friends on this tour and some of the ones we knew best by the end. Nice folks. Our guide packed all of our checked bags on the bus and off we went for the hotel. Our first hotel was the Ritan Hotel in downtown Beijing. It's a beautiful place with lovely rooms. There was nothing scheduled for the remainder of the arrival day so that we could be well rested to begin our tour the next morning.


Ritan Hotel - Exterior
Ritan Hotel - Lobby
Guest Room
Guest Room
Guest Room - Bathroom
Guest Room - Bathroom

I have a good friend, Mr. Shu Zhang, who lives in Beijing. We met in 1982 when I was working at Disney World. He brought the Shanghai Song and Dance Ensemble to perform in the grand opening of EPCOT. That was a 3-day spectacular. I was assigned to manage their group. So we worked rather closely for those few days. We've stayed in touch over the years. We saw one another again in 1985, but that was the last time. So now I'm in Beijing and I think I should try to visit him. This was going to be the only day I had available so my dad and I got in a taxi and headed to his home. The taxi ride was almost an hour east of downtown, but it was very interesting to see all the buildings, and the fact that we drove for an hour on the motorway and were still in the city. Beijing has a population of 12 million people. Amazing. There are high-rise buildings everywhere you look. And construction everywhere. That turned out to be the case all over China.


Beijing Buildings
Beijing Buildings
Beijing Buildings
Beijing Buildings
Beijing Buildings
Beijing Buildings
Beijing Buildings

We finally arrived. It was amazing to see him again after all these years. He got to meet my father and I got to meet his daughter, Shu Shu. Very pretty girl. Mr. Shu had dinner brought in for us and we had a nice time visiting. However, I knew we had to get back as we had a very early morning the next day. Mr. Shu was trying to give me many presents of different kinds of tea and suddenly I remembered that I didn't have the cake that I had brought to him from Florida. OMG! In all of the confusion of paying the taxi driver, still unsure we were in the right place, and getting the wheelchair out of the trunk of the car, I realized that we must have left it in the taxi. I was terribly upset but didn't think there was anything I could do. Shu Shu, however, called the number that was on our receipt and spoke with them for several minutes. When she hung up she told me that the driver was someone she knew and that he would bring the cake by in a day or so. I really thought that she was just trying to make me feel better because how could I just get a random taxi in a city of 12 million people and have it be someone she knew?! We arranged for another taxi to take us back to the hotel. Once back, my dad said he couldn't find his jacket and that's when we realized that the jacket also got left in the taxi. Not the best way to start our vacation!


Shu Shu, Shu Zhang, Irma Hale, Reuben Hale

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Irma Hale
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