Thursday, April 2, 2009

Visit a Traditional Chinese Courtyard Hotel in Beijing

China was another of those places I had dreamed about, but never quite thought I’d ever see. Surprise! There it was on my itinerary and I was working hard to contain my excitement.

It all started about three years ago when Tom announced to me that we should start planning that trip we’d been talking about. Hm…what trip is that? He said it would be a good idea to use up all those timeshares that had been sitting in the bank waiting to be used.

Before Tom got sick with Guilllan Barre’, we hadn’t had much time to travel. We could manage a few weekend trips a year, and if we were lucky two weeks around Christmas and New Years. That was the slowest time for the Tree Service, so we would shut down the business and take a vacation. That way nobody could get hurt while we were away.

We hadn’t been able to travel at all for a couple of years while Tom was in a wheelchair, so now he was walking again and it was time. It was TIME!!! Tom asked me where I would like to go if we went around the world, and I gave him a wishlist that would make anyone’s head spin. So he said, ok, start booking it.

JUST LIKE THAT! Start booking it! Wow! This was to be a trip around the world, so I had included countries in several continents. About 25 or so countries to be exact, later reduced to about 15. We finally decided to simply take a trip to Asia and leave the rest of the world for another time. After quite a bit of thought and decision-making later, we ended up going to the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand, Asia and Europe. Oh, and a quick jaunt to Morocco, in Africa. Oops, don’t forget the little week we spent in Hawaii! If you’re counting continents, we only missed South America and Antarctica, so it was a pretty good start. The whole trip took us four months to complete, and if we had done the African Safari and South America I think I would have simply dropped with exhaustion.

China, not by the book

Ok, so back to China. I chose a place in China called Xingdao, because that’s what RCI had available. That was great, it was the place the sailing competition was held for the Olympics. But Tom told me we absolutely had to go to Beijing, no question about it. So we ended up spending two weeks in China. What an experience!

When booking a place to stay in Beijing, there were no timeshares available, so I got a little creative. I chose a “traditional Chinese courtyard hotel” in a very old section of Beijing. The name of the hotel was the Double Happiness Courtyard Hotel. Isn’t that totally awesome? I had looked online for a place to stay, and happened upon this site that offered the courtyard hotels. This one appeared to be the nicest, so I chose it.

So when we arrived in Beijing, we found a taxi driver (who, by the way, didn’t speak English) and showed him the paper I had downloaded from the internet with the address of the hotel written in Chinese. I suppose you can tell we’re not much on the idea of packaged tours. No problemo, we just wing it wherever we go. It works, trust me, and it’s so much more fun than having to stay with a group and never getting to go out on your own.

It was an interesting experience when the driver turned down the little alleyway to go to our hotel. But considering the area was ancient, the streets couldn’t be brand new and shiny-clean, could they? As I said, it was a tiny little alleyway, just wide enough for a car to get through if you wound back and forth around the cars, motorbikes, and bicycles parked on both sides. Here and there you could see into an open doorway where some men would be sitting around a little table playing some kind of gambling game. Or a woman would be sitting on a chair cutting some vegetables into a bowl, or some people would be sitting on chairs outside a tiny store. Oh, it was amazing, all right. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

The only thing was, what was that hotel going to be like on this ancient, narrow little alleyway of a street? Finally, after what seemed like forever, our driver pulled up in front of a doorway. You could see inside to what was obviously our courtyard. There it was, surprisingly, amidst all that ancient living, the most amazing hotel you may ever see.

We walked past a bird in a cage, merrily singing to us, and a picturesque fountain with tiny waterfalls and water wheels turning peacefully. In the next room we discovered a hotel desk, occupied by several beautiful young ladies dressed in traditional silk dresses. We showed them our papers, and soon we were being escorted into the depths of the hotel.

It was absolutely fascinating! The rooms all surrounded peaceful courtyards, planted with an aromatic array of flowers and plants. Each courtyard contained places to sit and enjoy the beauty surrounding you. Each room was different, furnished in the old Chinese style. The beds were covered with silk spreads that were just too beautiful to sleep under, but that’s exactly what you were expected to do. And you were supposed to lay your head on silk pillows as well.

Our room contained two beds and a tiny bathroom. It was small, I agree, but that didn’t stop Tom, no sirree. We took photos of the beautiful room, and then Tom told me to relax right there for a few moments.

After several minutes, Tom arrived with two beautiful silk-clad ladies in tow. One carried a huge key (they were ancient metal keys with large brass labels attached). They showed us to another room, about twice the size of the one we were in. Tom asked me if I liked that room, which of course I did. So the ladies carried our bags to the new room and wished us great happiness. Lucky for us, Tom has a way of getting just what he wants, always.

Now, if you are getting tired of reading, you’ll understand that I’m getting tired of writing as well. So I’ll wait till another day to tell you about our trips to the Silk Market and the famed and fabulous Pearl Market. You’ll love it!

Bye for now!

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