Thursday, November 6, 2008

We made it home...

We made it home last night. Jenny, Eileen, Amy and Raul all came by to the apartment to say goodbye. We spent most of the last days cleaning and packing up the apartment. We left our apartment at 3:30 PM. Jenny hired a van to take us out to the airport. I expected them to drop us off at the curb and was surprised when the driver and his partner escorted us and our baggage right to the check in counter. We flew out of terminal 3 which was newly opened for the Olympics. The place is vast and it felt strangely empty. We ended up having pizza hut before we boarded for our long flight home. Luckily the plane was not full and we were happy when a man moved from our aisle giving us an extra seat for Olivia. We left right on time. The flight was pleasant enough but Olivia did not sleep well. She took a 2 hour nap falling out around 10. She was up most of the flight and fell asleep for another 2 hours before we landed. We arrived in Dulles right on time. We deplaned followed the herd and ended up going to the wrong customs hall. Lucky for us one of the flight attendants told us we were in the wrong place and put us with airport staff that could help us. We had to wait about a half hour for our bags to come over. They arrived and we went thought customs and were off to our connection. The connecting flight left the terminal on time but we did wait about 30 minutes in line waiting to take off. We finally got back to Albany at 11:30 PM. My Mom and an nephew Dan picked us up and we were home by 12:30 AM. 21 hours door to door. What a trip!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Tiananmen Square National Flag and Wangfujing Street

With only 3 days left in Beijing one starts to think...What do I want to see before I leave? I was interested in seeing the National Flag come down. Since the raising of the flag occurs at sunrise and the taking down happens at dusk we opted for the latter. Sandy has been wanting to visit Wangfujing Street which is a short distance from Tiananmen so we decided to bundle to 2 together. We left the apartment around 3:30 and took the subway down to Qianmen. The square was full of people apparently there for the same reason we were. We were able to get some pictures of the Soldiers and the Workers memorial statues on either side of Mao's tomb. In the past this area had been blocked off to visitors. This is the soldier's memorial statue:

Us in front of the statue:

Close up of some of the figures:

The Hero's Memorial:

The crowd gathering at dusk:

Even the street sweepers gathered to show their respect:

The flag is slowly lowered down the pole. I had thought that they'd play the national anthem but I was wrong. The honor guard takes the flag down and places it on a smaller pole and carries it over to Tiananmen gate and the ceremony is over:

After the ceremony was over we hopped on the #1 subway for 1 stop to Wangfujing Street. This area is a combination of 5th Ave and Times Square all in one. It is a pedestrian only street that is lined with expensive designer name shops as well as cheap souvenir shops.

One of the unique attractions is the snack street. Snack Street is a small alley off of Wangfujing where you can buy snacks. This is a picture of the gate:

The alley is lined with small stalls selling assorted delicacies such as...
Scorpions and Sea Horses:

Beetles on a stick:

Star Fish and Lizards:

Sandy is wondering what all these things taste like...
What is that your eating? Looks like yak eyes...

The alley was swarming with people and was very crowded:

Me and Olivia at a souvenir stand:

It was time to go as you can see Olivia is passed out in the pack...

We leave on Wednesday and we'll see what we can do before we leave...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

我 的 一 圈 朋 友 Our circle of friends

Over the past 4 months me Sandy and Olivia have been lucky to visit many sights around Beijing. The sight seeing was secondary to the purpose of our time here in Beijing. My purpose was to fill the role of the Autotask ambassador for our Beijing operation. Over the past 4 months I have been working out of the Beijing office managing my team here as well as back home. I have been acting as a mentor to the entire team here, imparting my knowledge and training the team in the Autotask ways. Sandy gave English lessons to the team and from what I was told she was the the most fun teacher that they ever had. I have to say I often heard laughter coming for the conference room while she was conducting her class. The people here are really great. We have always felt very welcome and the amount of hospitality that we have been given is immeasurable. I would like to say thanks to everyone on the team and take this opportunity to introduce the team to my blog readers.

This is Jenny. Many of you have met her through previous posts. Jenny is the Director of the Beijing operation and our hostess. Without the help of Jenny we would have a hard time managing our day to day routine here in Beijing.

This is the QA team. From left to right 1st row - Linda, Amy (team lead), Sandy, Monica, Emma. 2nd row - Alex, Forest, Olivia, Shawn, and Lisa. Missing from the picture Raul.

Development Team 1 left to right. Kevin, Strong, Us, Cheney (team lead) and Jason.

Development Team 2 left to right - Ying, Us, Eileen, and Brent(team lead). Missing from the picture Frank.

Development team 3 left to right - Robert, Jacky (team lead), us, Derek and Peng.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hongluo Mountain and Temple

Jenny asked us to join her on a day trip to Hongluo Temple. The temple is located on the Hongluo mountain about a hours drive outside of Beijing proper. It was a beautiful day with clear skies and cool breezes. We arrived and began exploring the grounds. The temple is an imperial temple and was once frequented only by the royal family. The first thing we came upon was the bamboo forest which was planted 1000 years ago by the emperor. Bamboo doesn't normally grow near Beijing because of the climate. Usually it it seen in the south of China.

Next we saw the Gold Coin pit. People were throwing coins and trying to hit the bell in the center of the giant coin.

The legend of the temple is that 2 princesses descended from heaven and took the form of red snails. This is a picture of the story...

This is a picture of the princesses' statue.

Here we are in the red snail shell.

We walked a bit further and found the temple. This is a Buddhist temple and the happy reclining Buddha was being worshipped and the smell of burning incense was in the air.

There was a beautiful ancient Ginkgo tree in the temple courtyard that was showing off it fall colors.

Next we found the trail of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. We took this picture along the way of the bunnies. There is a little bunny on my back.

Next we found the pine forest and the 500 Buddhas. This was pretty neat to see all the statues scattered around the woods. They all had on red capes.

There was one giant Buddha among all the smaller ones. Here we are in front of him.

We decided to Climb the mountain trail to check out the view from the top. The hike was a moderate incline with a paved trail and stairs. The forest on the mountain was showing off its fall colors.

Me and Jenny.

It was windy up on the mountain and someone was having a good time with the wind blowing through her hair.

Here we are on the trail...

The top is in sight...

On the way down...

We stopped by a local restaurant and had an early dinner. The food was delicious and Olivia had a fun time running around outside.

Until next time...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Long Qing Gorge

The Long Qing gorge translated means Emerald Dragon. The gorge is located about 100 KM outside of Beijing to the north. It is a very popular resort spot with native Beijingers in the summer.
Jenny asked us if we would like to go out with her this Saturday and offered up three different choices. 2 were inside the city and the 3rd was the gorge. Since we've pretty much spent our entire time in the city the idea of getting out to the country sounded really good. We met Jenny in the morning and drove out the Badaling expressway to our destination. We drove through the mountains and past the Great Wall.

The drive was pleasant and the fall colors were out. We drove through the mountains, then through a prairie and then to another mountain range where the gorge is located. We arrived, parked the car, loaded Olivia up in her back pack and started our 1 KM walk to the entrance. The entrance has large red Chinese characters on the mountain side. They were written by former president Jiang Zemin and read Long Qing Xia.

We walked into the attraction past the typical and unavoidable vendor spend money area and were greeted by the Dragon.

The dragon actually houses the escalator that gets you to the top of the dam where you catch the boat. Jenny told us that in the spring and summer the river is flowing but it was dry this time of the year. Jenny graciously took this shot for us in front of the dam.

We got into one of the boats and started the to tour the gorge. The views were spectacular and I'll let the pictures speak for what we saw. It was very beautiful.

Sandy on a leisurely cruise.

You can Beng Ji (Bungee jump) if your brave.

Fall colors.

Clear blue skies.

A Buddha high up in a mountain cave.

The boat stops and lets you off at an area where you can walk around a bit. There was a lady dressed in ethnic minority clothes.

We headed back to the boats and off we went back down the river.

Me on the river cruise.

We arrived back at the dam and decided to check out the temple on top of the mountain. You can get there 1 of two ways. Walk up the path or take a cable car to the top. We opted for the easy way. Sandy and Jenny rode in 1 car and me and Olivia took our own. Sandy took this picture of us.

Looking down at me and Olivia.

Here we are at the arch way entrance to the temple.

Us on top of the mountain.

Inside the temple. The temple buildings looked like a courtyard house in the hutongs.

Jenny and I.

Looking down from the top...better not be afraid of heights!

The view looking over the prairie with the mountains off in the distance.

Sandy at a formation called the eye of the needle.

On our way down I took this picture.

Picture of the dam.

We had to walk through a tunnel that was carved through the mountain to get back.

On our way back we spotted this kitty on roof top.
This little pup was all by himself.

We drove back to Beijing had nice dinner and called it a day. We only have a short time left and we're looking forward to coming home and seeing everyone.