Wise Elder

Travels with Evie

Beijing #2 – Nov 6, 2010

Giant Buddha in Yonghe Lamasery


We met our English-speaking guide and driver bright and early this Saturday, our first full day in Beijing, and were thrilled that it was Josephine’s day off so that she could come with us. Today we will visit the Lama Temple, the “Old City” Hutongs, the “798 Arts District” and the Silk Market.       

Evie & Cathy @ Lama Temple

Touring the Hutongs by Pedicab

It was a special day at the Yonghe Lamasery, so it was very crowded and many people were at the temple offering incense and prayers for relatives. We LOVED the many golden colored gingko trees that almost looked surreal. Workers were out sweeping the golden ginko leaves with the most interesting brooms (see gallery picture). In the temple there is a fabulous, unbelievably HUGE Buddha. No photos were allowed indoors, so I have scanned the above picture from a postcard. This Buddha is 26 meters (85 feet) high and 8 meters (26 feet) wide and it is a statue of Maitreya.  The website “Mandarin and Beyond” says this about this Buddha carving:   ”It was a gift for Emperor Qianlong from the Seventh Dalai Lama. The temple was converted into a lamasery in 1744, but this part was not completed until 1750. Emperor Qianlong felt that the area at the rear of the lamasery was too bare and planned to build a high tower as a protective screen, but it was very difficult to find a sandalwood tree of such size. The Tibetan envoy heard this in Beijing and told the Seventh Dalai Lama about it. Shortly afterwards, he sent people to look for a huge tree. Finally he found one in Tibet and sent it here as a gift to the Emperor to express his thanks because Emperor Qianlong had sent troops to Tibet to put down a rebellion and turn back the power to the Seventh Dalai Lama. It took three years to ship this huge tree from the banks of the Yangtze River, though the Grand Canal and up to Beijing and another three years for carving and erection. The hall was built later. In 1750 it was entirely completed. Behind the Great Buddha, there are ten thousand small Buddhas on three stories. Hence the name, Ten-Thousand-Happiness Pavilion.First refurbished in 1953, the temple was again restored in 1978, and opened to the public in 1981. The latest effort, which started in 1992, focused on the renewal of the Giant Buddhist Maitreya and was completed in October 1993. The two-year facelift cost more than 500,000 yuan ($87,719) state funds most of which was spent on coating the statue with 2.5 kilos of gold foil. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Maitreya is the tallest and biggest in the world today.”       

We had a grand time touring the “old city” hutongs by pedicab. China Daily: says “The word hutong came from the Mongolian language about 700 years ago. The original Mongolian word was hottog, meaning ” water well.” In other words, it means a place where people live, because people always gather where there is water. Today in Beijing, the word hutong means a small alleyway or lane. They are typical of the old part of Beijing and are formed by lines of siheyuan (a compound made up of rooms around a courtyard ) in which most Beijing residents used to live.”       

Mr. Zhang & his first "Window Card"

Halfway through the tour we visited an old, authentic Chinese home that if sold, would be worth $5 million U.S. dollars today. It was neither large nor particularly nice, but certainly interesting. The various rooms were not connected – so you had to go into the open air central courtyard to reach another room. The family does not want to sell, so they offer tours. The highlight was when I gave a little Compendium “window card” to Mr. Zhang, the homeowner. He wanted to be sure it was not a religious message – and when Josephine translated it into Chinese for him, he was delighted by the special message .       


Josephine had never been to the “798 Arts District” and I had heard from a family member (thank you Jennifer) that it was a special place. Indeed, it was quite eclectic and you no doubt will enjoy the pictures from there. Who gnu that one would find dinosaurs and cotton candy in Beijing? Not to mention giants and Vikings on Harleys.  Those Harley Davidson guys were making lots of noise.  They sped by so quickly that I was thrilled that I actually managed to get a picture.       

Viking (?) on a Harley

We stopped at Lei Garden, Beijing’s best Dim Sum restaurant for mid afternoon lunch. Josephine ordered for us, and we had our first opportunity to sample her favorite “Chicken Feet” and also pork bellies. We bravely tasted the chicken feet (the smallest possible bites),  but decided to leave most for our Josephine who loved them so much.  Quite challenging to chew the cartilage and then extract it from your mouth in polite company. Oh my. Josephine told us that there is little osteoporosis in Asia because they eat all parts of the animal – she explained that chicken feet are full of collagen. (I don’t know about you, but those sure look like mighty BIG feet to me…..).       

Garnishes for Roasted Duck

That night we went to what Josephine thinks is Beijing’s best Peking Duck restaurant, “Dadong”.  We loved the Peking Duck, but skipped the “duck tongues” and let our sweet Josephine have the whole platter (yikes!) The duck was carved right at our table and each of us was given a wonderful square plate of garnishes. Josephine showed us how the garnishes were to be eaten. My surprise favorite was a piece of roasted duck dipped in sugar crystals. It was an amazing combination of tastes.       

After that wonderful Peking Duck dinner at DaDong, Josephine had the driver take us to see the night view of the Olympic Venue “Water Cube”. We were so tired due to the time change that we could barely keep our heads up – yet very impressive.       

"Water Cube" - Beijing Olympics

Here are a few pictures of the largest video screen in the world. Note how big it is when compared to the buses below. Can’t wait to share with you about our second day in Beijing.       

World's Biggest Video Screen



Beijing #1 – November 2010

Cousin Cathy with “Welcome Lilies”
Pink Roses from Ritz Carlton

Cousin Cathy arrived from Australia earlier in the day and she is still sleeping this morning. It is 4AM in Beijing and 1PM (yesterday) in Seattle. I am sitting on the edge of the enormous luxurious bathtub with my laptop carefully balanced over one of the sinks in our bathroom at the Ritz Carlton Financial Street in Beijing.  The only light is a soft glow coming from a very fancy make-up mirror on the wall. I arrived late last night and the only transformer in our room so far is in the bathroom. Shhhh…..I am typing quietly, hoping not to wake Cathy just yet.

I was met as I walked off the plane in Beijing by a young man holding a sign with my name on it. He took my carry-on bag & briefcase and guided me through the expansive Beijing Airport. Even with my long legs I literally had to run every now and then to keep up with him but I was grateful for the assistance after a 12 hour flight from Seattle. I did not take time to ‘freshen up” at the airport, thinking that I’d sneak into the Ritz Carlton, find a ladies room, freshen up, then check in and see if my friend Josephine was still awake. Cancel that thought. The car that picked me up at the airport drove into the Ritz Carlton drive through. Waiting there to greet me was my sweet friend Josephine and Lydia who also works here, holding two dozen beautiful pink roses for me. No necessity of stopping for a luggage claim check or check in – they whisked me immediately up to my room – and within 30 seconds my luggage, briefcase and coat had arrived. They are very efficient here and I can tell already that THIS is another of Josephine’s hotels. Waiting on my nightstand were framed pictures of my three Tibetan Spaniels and a picture of me at Lake Tahoe…..Josephine’s “fingerprints”. It may say Ritz Carlton on the sign out front, but Josephine is one of my favorite demonstrations of the difference one person can make. It is no wonder that she was honored as Marriott & Ritz Carlton’s “best employee in the world” in 2006. I have just arrived and I already feel as though I belong.

It was a great reunion with Cousin Cathy who enjoyed similar treatment when she arrived from Brisbane earlier in the day. She was presented on arrival with a huge bouquet of Stargazer Lilies.  Our room smells delicious from the fragrance of lilies and roses. We will need lessons today in how to work all the fancy gadgets in our room. There is a panel between our beds with multiple buttons to dim or brighten the lights, open the drapes, call for services, etc. Cathy reports that how to work the shower is still somewhat of a mystery. It’s Josephine’s day off, so she will come touring with us for a few hours today as we see some of the sights of Beijing. Tomorrow we will go out to the Summer Palace, the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.

This has been quite an adventure already. I met two amazing women at the Delta Crown Room in Seattle. When I arrived in Beijing I received emails from them saying they watched my plane take off.  One gave me a “wish come true” card good for free technical support from Microsoft.

Delta Sommelier with Offerings

When I boarded my flight I kept looking for the person coming down the aisle who would be my seat-mate. I always end up sitting by the greatest people and I just can hardly wait to see who it will be this time. No one had shown up as the cabin doors were closed, and I felt a wave of disappointment at having an empty seat next to me. Most people would be thrilled. I don’t sleep much on planes because I don’t want to miss anything. I realized that I’d have to look somewhere other than the (empty) seat next to me for great people on the flight.  A sweet looking Chinese man who spoke no English sat in front of me, and often turned around to look at me between the seats. Another Chinese man sat across the aisle and he snored so loudly that several rows of seats trembled. They spoke no English, so I got to know the flight attendants on this flight. Passengers often mistake me for a flight attendant because I am tall and blonde – so I told the flight attendants I’d be glad to pick up trash if they needed help. That always gets them laughing, but I don’t think they realize that I’m serious. Just wanting to ensure that I can sleep when I reach the destination.

I arrived at the Seattle airport early enough to enjoy Halibut & Chips at Anthony’s Restaurant. I sat at the counter and struck up a conversation with Laurence, a joyful black man, who was cooking. He was as full of life and smiles as anyone I’ve ever met in my life. I told him I was going on a grand adventure in search of wisdom from people I met along the way and that he was the first. I asked him what he loved about his life. He said he thanked the Lord every day for his wonderful life and that every day he hoped to be able to bring a smile to someone’s face.  So Laurence – thank you for bringing a smile to MY face as I set out for an adventure halfway around the world to discover more of what we all have in common. I hope my Seattle friends who travel might look up my friend Laurence next time you’re at Anythony’s at Seatac Airport….and tell him you received a picture of him from Beijing.

An account of our first day in Beijing will follow. 

Welcome to Travels with Evie

I guess I have a long history of  “solo adventure travel” as evidenced by this picture taken when I was 4 or 5 years old.  My grandmother “Evelyn” put me on the train in Chehalis, Washington all by myself and then drove like a mad woman the 3-5 miles to Centralia to meet me at the end of my journey.  I see a bit of trepidation on my face. I remember that little white dress with red polka dots, undoubtedly hand sewn by my Mom who made almost all of our clothes in those days. She usually dressed us alike, so perhaps this was my first time having a dress all my own. Love that little skinned knee. Throughout the 31 years that I was married, I often travelled alone for business. After my husband died in 1999, I developed a fondness for “going far” for relatively short trips (often a long weekend). This was partly because I couldn’t be away from my business for long, but also because I seemed to have a gift for developing deep relationships quickly. I always know that I’ll sit by the most interesting person and that I will be safe and well. The flight attendants always think I work for the airline and the hotel employees always take great care of me. “Travel Angels” everywhere.

People are continually amazed that I would go to Singapore, Scotland or Beijing for a long weekend – but it works. For me it’s all about the journey and my adventure always begins the moment I leave my home. My well-tested theory is that if you go a long way and get back home within 5 days maximum, then your body doesn’t realize that it was away. I usually stay pretty much on Seattle time for eating and sleeping and experience little or no jet lag when I come back home.

I believe that this is my world and I belong.