Vietnam & Beijing

It’s already August! Two weeks ago was the 6 month mark of our arrival in China. Wow. That was fast. As I reflect back to all the massages, weird smells, tons of new friends, party nights at the Pub, and sheer number of dumplings eaten, I am astounded.

Two weeks ago, I attended a meeting and was sworn in as a committee member of Brits Abroad Shanghai! I am co-editor of their online and paper newsletter along with a woman from the Netherlands, Judith. It is certainly keeping us busy and I find I am often correcting spelling errors only to discover that it is indeed spelled correctly in British English. I need a lexicon just for this. I found the Brits to be the warmest and most welcoming group. I play Mahjong on Mondays and a card game called May I? on Wednesdays with them and sometimes go for drinks with them as well. Keeps me out of trouble, or in just the right amount of trouble.

In late June, we headed off to Da Nang Vietnam for 6 days with our group of 7 (Bob’s brother Brian, wife Katie and two sons Jay and Ely and Bob, Lila and I). It was really beautiful and the ocean was perfect. I think I ate Pho 6 times in that week and checked out some other good food as well. Nearby Da Nang is a place called Marble Mountain, a cluster of 5 marble and limestone hills with astounding caves. All around are huge marble statuary shops. It was pretty interesting. People come and order their buddhas and have them shipped overseas. Saturday Night Fun: Pics below are of the dragon bridge which they send fire out of the mouth of the dragon followed by a soaking of water. Pretty fun on a hot night.

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We also visited the small ancient town of Hoi An. I loved this place the most, though it was boiling hot the afternoon we visited and rained like the dickens the evening we went in. (It was boiling hot the whole time we were in Vietnam.) In Hoi An we ate at 2 restaurants, one called Mango Mango and one called Morning Glory. Delicious. At the first, we had a mango dessert of which I literally licked the bowl. There were a couple of nice things to buy there but not much. We bought 2 simple paintings at an art gallery and are having them framed here. Our last day there, I got inspired to hire a van to take us out to the ruins nearby called My Son . They are partially ruined Hindu temples built between the 4th and 14th centuries. Very interesting, very old, very hot and sweaty.  Both Hoi An and My Son are Unesco Heritage sites and well worth visiting. I look forward to seeing more of Vietnam in the future.DSC_0251


We flew back to Shanghai and then got a high speed train the next morning to Beijing. The following morning we were up early and out of the hotel by 7:30 (early for a crew of 7 with 3 people under 20) and on our way to the Great Wall. What an epically gorgeous place. No regrets fighting traffic for 2 hours and enduring the humidity and yucky pollution. We got a van which took us to the parking lot below the entrance, a bus to another landing and finally a chair lift to the actual wall. We then hiked a very steep section of the wall (or rather it seemed to me it was steep) and got to a section which was closed. Even at that great distance from the city, the view was obstructed by smog which was really a shame. We took hundreds of pictures and like I said was worth every sweaty, smoggy moment. Here’s the good part: to get down, there is a toboggan ride! We had to wait about 30 minutes and got to ride down but not quickly enough for our taste since prissy Chinese women were ahead of us and had their brakes on the whole time. Boring!

I look forward to visiting the Wall again in a different season and to seeing a different part of it.

Great Wall factoids:
It is over 13,000 miles long – most of it in ruins, only some areas restored for tourists
It was started in 221 BC with 10 years of hard labor with hundreds of thousands of workers
The core was made from 180 million cubic meters of rammed earth
It is said to be built with the bones of the deceased workers


More in Beijing: We also visited the Forbidden City for the second time. The crowds were epic and everyone wanted to take Lila’s and Jay’s pictures. (She has assembled an entire photo montage of people taking pictures of her. It’s pretty good.) We then took a rickshaw ride through some Hutongs. A hutong is residential neighborhood made up of narrow alleys. It was charming. Our guide Susannah arranged for us to eat at a simple restaurant in someone’s home at a hutong and it was quite good. We also visited the Temple of Heaven which was terribly interesting but take it from me: do not visit Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven in one day. Nope. Too much Chinese history. Qing and Ming Dynasty overload and I can’t remember a thing. I really like Beijing and I think it has a lot to offer and an ancient view of China as compared to Shanghai’s spanking new modern skyline and malls. One thing Beijing does not have going for it is fashion. I found the men’s shirt flip to be awful (pictured below.)


Hutong Courtyard
Hutong Courtyard


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The Schoenfield gang went back to Arcata and the Schoenfield-Woermann gang has come back to Shanghai. Lila stayed with us for 3 more weeks and her friend Alex came to stay for 10 days. Lila can now confidently tell you about every Ladies Night and Happy Hour in this great city. She knows how to go out and not spend one single yuan! It’s impressive actually. They often got in at 3 or 4 in the morning and slept until noon. Finally, during the last week of her stay she took a training and volunteered with an orphanage for children with cleft palates. She had lots of fun playing with little kids there.

Bob and I are back to being alone and enjoying our routines. It got WAY too hot (high 80s and 90s and high humidity) and it’s tough to be outside for too long during the day, but I have managed to get out and either bike or walk before 8am. At 5am it is already 82. I still come back absolutely dripping wet. I am extremely grateful for the pool downstairs and the A/C in our home. We are lucky.

I have completed the first text book of my Chinese study. It’s going ok and thanks to the lovely conversation group I joined in July, I am actually saying something. It took about 2 months for me to get enough vocabulary and some syntax and start beating out a few sentences. I told my Ayi (housekeeper) Xiao Fan my schedule this morning and she almost fell over. This makes me happy.

Missing everyone and hope you are all very well indeed. Hugs!

4 Responses

  1. I always enjoy your messages. Thanks for sharing pictures, stories, history and adventures. Why did so many people want to take pictures of Lila? I am guessing it’s because she’s beautiful, but you also mentioned in another message being blonde is quite an attraction. Sure hope the shirt flip stays in Beijing. It would not be a pretty visual in the states either. We have had enough fashion overload with the pants falling down and butt cracks showing……

    Sending hugs from your friends at Club Sport.


    1. Blonde hair is all the rage. Coming very soon to China is our ginger daughter, even more rare and fascinating. Here we go.

  2. Still reeling about 13,000 for the original Great Wall. Your travelogue makes going to these places seem doable–maybe I will someday! Hope to see you stateside, love, Nancy

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