RGN-PEK-ULN (Travel notes)

We flew from Yangon in Myanmar to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia with a 36 hour stopover in Beijing as both flights were in the middle of the night.  Three times in the past three years, we have flown over this part of Asia at night.

Some say long night journeys can save on hotel.  Not in my case, see our itinerary below.   I booked two nights in Beijing at the Aulympic Airport Hotel so we could check in at 8 am instead of 2 pm.  I’m getting too old to spend 14 hours trying to rest in an airport.  Things we learned (each one was an adventure):

  1. Chinese is useful to talk to front desk.  Google translate is the next best thing. Download simplified Chinese to allow offline use.
  2. Hotel email is usually not divulged from hotel or booking websites.  We used fax to alert hotel on our unusual schedule.
  3. Google translate worked pretty good at converting English to Chinese characters for the fax.  Tip: Use simple Subject-Verb-Object sentences with common words.  Limit adjectives and prepositional phrases.
  4. After a little discussion and explanation the staff was very kind and allowed a three hour late checkout for our flight on to Ulaanbaatar.
  5. The Chinese Visa free stay for up to 144 hours in Beijing takes about two hours in line, two sets of fingerprints taken, and a good helping of confusion.

Below you can see the map of our journey and the horizon as we neared Beijing. I did not even find a single cat to photograph in China.




Depart: Wed, 13 June 23:50
RGN Rangoon, Yangon International Airport

Flight: CA906   Operated By: Air China     Flight Time: 4h30m

Arrive: Thu, 14 July 05:50
PEK Beijing, Capital International Airport

Depart: Fri, 15 June 21:10
PEK Beijing Capital International

Flight: OM 224 Miat Mongolian Airlines    Flight Time: 1h30m

Arrive: Fri, 14 July 23:40
ULN Ulaanbaatar Chinggis Khaan International

Artifacts 2: Rain Jacket

I thought about sharing some of the lessons learned from our travels. One direction on this path involves what we carry. This is a theme I have touched on before.  It is interesting to me to experience how the artifacts both physical and electronic define the modern self and its relationship to its environment. No tips and tricks here except to keep experimenting and be observant.

Our rain jackets are essential for any trip. Beyond keeping dry and warm, they offer freedom to explore even during bad weather.  This has led us to many interesting discoveries and appreciations of the neighborhoods we visit.

My simple jacket folds itself neatly into a zippered pouch which I store in an outside compartment of my bag for easy access (see below). Sometimes, it stays stowed for a month. Here I remember Malta, Kuala Lumpur and Cape Town.  At the other extreme, I wore it every day in Vancouver.




My photos provide more of a documentary experience than an artistic one. Over the past seventeen years, this raincoat became a central theme of my travels and showed up in way too many photos.




Rows and Flows of Angel Hair

As our roads ran out in Armenia, we ended up flying most of the way back to Seattle. This included flights from Abu Dhabi across Pakistan to India, touring India and China, and our longest flight from Seoul to Seattle. We have always tried to travel during the day in order to see more. Some days the skies were amazingly clear that I just had to try to capture with a camera. I experimented both with my iPad and with a Fuji digital camera. For editors I used Picasa some, but mainly the default iPad editor. Here are the best ones. The airplane window plastic provides some interesting hues and distortions.  WordPress loves to re-arrange my pictures as I edit them, so the order is haphazard.

Abu Dhabi / Dubai Coastline of UAE, 26 Feb 2015
Approaching Mumbai from Jaipur, 12 Mar 2015
Chennai to New Delhi, 25 Mar 2015
New Delhi to Kathmandu, 26 Mar 2015
Kunming to Beijing, 13 April 2015
Kunming to Beijing, 13 April 2015
Abu Dhabi to Delhi (over Pakistan), 26 Feb 2015
From Abu Dhabi approaching Delhi, 26 Feb 2015
Abu Dhabi to Delhi (over Pakistan), 26 Feb 2015
Abu Dhabi to Delhi (over Pakistan), 26 Feb 2015
Abu Dhabi to Delhi (over Pakistan), 26 Feb 2015
Abu Dhabi to Delhi (over Pakistan), 26 Feb 2015
Approaching Mumbai from Jaipur, 12 Mar 2015


Motherlands: China and Scotland

Years ago, 1983 to be exact, I traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland to provide computer network support. The customer installation was having some printer connectivity issues and was not impressed with our product.  The Friday of arrival jet-lagged and groggy after 24 hours without sleep, the manager was not impressed with my nodding off as I looked over diagnostics. I recovered on the weekend and showed up bright eyed on Monday sporting a Scottish plaid necktie.  The manager being a very proud Scot asked about the clan as it was a tartan he did not recognize.  I informed him that I was a Carmichael.  More here about the Clan Carmichael.

The environment changed completely.  I was treated as the returning son of Mother Scotland.  It did not hurt that I provided straight forward solutions to the problems and got them running smoothly.  Although I did not drink the single malt whiskey, I enjoyed the haggis, the kippers, and “tats and nips” (potatoes and parsnips). At the end of the two weeks, I took a three day weekend and drove north up to Inverness and Durness.  Then, returned by the west coast by the Isle of Skye and Fort William. Unfortunately, I find no photos from that time.

That was my experience of returning to my family’s roots on my mother’s side.  Our trip from Nepal into China was a unique experience for my wife as her grandparents came from China and settled in central Malaysia.  It is very hard for me to capture everything we experienced.  Hiking the Great Wall was one of the high points of our traveling over the past nine months.  After the struggles in India and Nepal, China was so easy to get around.  We could figure out the subways, the buses, the airports, the menus.

My wife speaks Chinese along with a number of dialects.  Frequently, her discussions with taxi drivers, clerks, and locals at restaurants mirrored my experience in Scotland.  Many, on learning she came from Malaysia and spoke Chinese so well, seemed to welcome her like a returning daughter.  This provided some unique insights into life in China.

I summarize our trip through Kunming, Beijing, and Shanghai with some photos of palaces and temples, meals, and some surprises.

Golden Temple in Kunming, reached by bus passing in front of our hotel.
Temple of Heaven in Beijing.
Forbidden City rooftop ornamentation in Beijing.
Lama Temple in Beijing.
Yuyuan Garden complex in Shanghai. Reconstructed past.
Delicious Eats

Preparing Kunming Bridge Noodles. Meats are cooked in the huge bowls of boiling hot water.
Halal (Muslim) Chinese Restaurant in Beijing. No pork permitted.

Beijing Duck in Beijing of course
Beijing Duck in Beijing of course
Sandstorm in Beijing the day before our hike up the Great Wall. This is taken across from the home of Chinese Cinema.
Pekinese dog in Beijing, or is he a Beijinger
Wall art near our hotel in Beijing
Spring Blossom along the Great Wall

School Children in uniform visiting Shanghai Museum. It was free entry.
School Children in uniform visiting Shanghai Museum. It was free entry.

Making herself at home

Home is where we are.

Cherry Blossoms on the Wall

With the poor connectivity currently experienced during our China travels, I’m jumping ahead to last Thursday.  We are in Beijing since Monday, 13 April. Thursday morning we wandered our way through three subways over to the Northeast section of Beijing, found the busstop and climbed aboard the Beijing Hikers bus. We hike up a less known part of the Great Wall of China to the Geneal’s Tower.  This was an experience on many levels. First, we spent several hours and several kilometers experience the wall in the Spring with cherry, plum, and peach blossoming. Second, it was a bright, clear day allowing us to see the distant mountains, plains, and towers. Third, the wind was really strong with gusts over 50 km/hr making some of the narrow paths really exciting. Fourth, I know everyone in the photos I took. They are all my friends from the bus, no other tourists were at this part of the wall, quite unique in its way. 

Here are some that capture the sense of adventure that surrounded us. I plan to add some captions to these photos so check back if interested. They are pretty self explanatory: we went up and we came down with a better understanding.