Traveling in China: Flying Solo from Ya'An to Beijing

Sadly we said good-by to our Panda research facilitators and climbed on our bus for the two hour drive to the Chengdu airport.

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Our Earthwatch guide took us as far as the terminal doors, hugged us and pointed us in the direction for checking in. We were left to fend for ourselves. But we had no problem. Everything was in English. We handed in our passports in a pack to the ticketing agent who glanced at them carefully, then provided our seat numbers so we were pretty much together and off we went to our gate. It was about lunch time, so instead of going directly to our gate, we we made a detour to the cafeteria. Glenda and I headed to the buffet line while the others moved off for hamburgers. We watched what those ahead of us were doing, pointed to the hot food that we decided looked good and felt pretty proud of ourselves. The cashier simply showed us what we owed on the register. By now we were relatively good at figuring out our yuans and we paid up.

Lunch over, we headed for the gate and, as usual, it was at the far end of the terminal. Although we had checked our large suitcases, we were still lugging large handbags and back or shoulder packs stuffed with tourist books, Kindles, maps, and cameras and were very glad to reach our gate where we stretched out on seats and prepared to wile away two hours. We had no difficulty understanding when our flight was called and we settled into our seats on the Chinese airline for the almost three  hour ride.

When we landed in Beijing,  our Road Scholar guide Hue greeted us once again. Since we had flown in on a domestic flight, we had no problems at the airport and were soon on our bus to our hotel which seemed to be at the other end of this city of 22 million people. We were staying in the "Central Culture District" fairly close to Tiananmen Square which opened onto the Forbidden City.

Like Shanghai, the city's old streets and buildings were being torn down and concrete high rises were being built in their place. The only old alleys that are being maintained are those in 4 specific tourist areas. But there was something about the city, perhaps the architecture, the wide tree lined avenues, the modern stores, that I liked far better than the concrete blocks of Shanghai. In fact, all of us remarked on our response to what we considered a more livable city. I've been assured by others who have spent time there that there are many areas that appear like those of Shanghai but we did not see them. But there did not seems to be as much traffic and what there was was mainly cars. The interweaving bicycles, scooters, motorcycles and rickshaws and jitneys that had flowed through the streets in Shanghai and Xian seemed to be missing. It was more like a European city rather than one in the old Russian Communist block.

Filed under: China, Travel

Tags: Beijing, Chengdu, Ya'An

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    Carolyn Boiarsky

    " I am an American," but not "Chicago born" like Augie March. Only Chicago aged. I'd like to think that if Henry Louis Gates were to investigate my geneology, he would discover in my past three women who traveled around the globe, chronicling their adventures. Sarah Kemble Knight traveled 112 miles by carriage from Boston to New York in 1704, a journey most women did not embark on alone (and men did so only with some trepidation). In fact, women were only just beginning to exercise their independence in the 1920's when Emily Kimbrough took off with her friend, Cornelia Otis Skinner, to explore Europe. But it is Auntie Mame, transforming herself from a New Yorker to the wife of an Austrian Baron and climbing the Matterhorn, whose mantra I have adopted. "LIFE IS A BANQUET...LIVE!" I began travelling in the 1960's when I traveled around western Europe between graduating from the University of Pennsylvania and my first job as a statehouse correspondent for UPI (United Press International) in Charleston, West Virginia, which was about as foreign a place as Europe was to someone who grew up in the environs of Philadelphia. Since then, I've also traveled to Kaunas, Lithuania, to teach at Vytautus Magnus University and to Sheffield, England, to present a paper at an engineering conference. I've been to the Alps and seen Auntie Mame's Matterhorn while climbing, by a series of cable cars rather than by foot, toward the peak of Mont Blanc. For 10 years my husband and I traveled to unique places: a sheep farm during lambing season in England's Lake Country, a hotel on one of the Barromeo Islands in the middle of Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy, and a cottage in Dun Quin on the Dingle Peninsula which the Irish claim is the last parish before Boston. Between excursions, I'm a professor in the Department of English at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Indiana,. My husband passed away recently and, Auntie Mame-style, I am in the process of transforming myself. I've joined a tour to Central Asia and traveled to China to work with the pandas. Two years ago, I returned to Europe--Inreland, England, and France--to present a paper at a Conference and then visit friends. It's 2017 now and London once again draws me in. This time I'm fulfilling my dream of taking my grandchildren to Europe. I've rented a flat near Hyde Park and ordered London passes for everyone. A new adventure. Old friends. Another banquet.

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