Archives For Beijing

There is continued good news from China! I know some of you may have heard negative things about China on the news, but there is something happening there that is an improvement. Would you like to know what it is?

The air quality in Beijing is improving at an amazing rate! The photo above was taken in the afternoon during the winter, so the sun was lower in the sky, and you can tell by the lack of leaves it was winter. The sun wasn’t brilliant and clear that day; rather it was dull from all of the air pollution.  Many times I have taken groups to China and our flight would arrive in the afternoon. While walking up the ramp (which had windows on each side) from the plane to the airport terminal, my friends would say, “Oh, it is going to rain today.” As I kind of chuckled to myself, I would explain to them the air in Beijing just looks like that on some days.

When I lived in Beijing several years ago, I lived on about the 20th floor of an apartment building. On some days it was difficult for me to see the telephone poles by the street from my apartment window. So, I am very happy to report that Beijing has done a marvelous job of improving their air quality. 

The photo above shows a building in Beijing. As you can see, now there is a beautiful blue sky!

Some industries have been invited to relocate outside the city, and I think that has had a positive and visible impact on the skies over Beijing. Public transportation is available and encouraged in Beijing, which has also helped control the air pollution. 

If you had considered travel plans to Beijing and were concerned about the air quality, I would encourage you to book your trip! Based on what I have seen, it would be surprising to me if you saw a return to the days of horrible air pollution. Maybe I will see you there!

It is difficult for most people, myself included, to grasp how large Beijing is. The population density is staggering to most of us, as there are about 22 million people living there and it is still growing! The population growth has led to a few unique problems, and today I wanted to share with you about one surprising situation.

I have heard it said that Beijing is sinking! I know that seems hard to believe, but I can’t imagine this report would be published if there wasn’t some data to reinforce it. So, here is the theory. With the constant growth of Beijing’s population, the need for more and more water is apparent. The belief is that, as more and more water is consumed from beneath Beijing, it is not being replaced by sources. With this void from missing water, the weight of Beijing is actually causing it to sink slightly (less than an inch) annually.

Is Beijing Really Sinking?

I can honestly say that I don’t recall ever seeing a raging stream near Beijing. I can, however, say I have seen several shallow streams like the ones represented in the photos.

Is Beijing Really Sinking?

I have heard of an enormous project planned to bring water from south of Beijing into the city. This plan will tap into the river system in the south, and route the water to Beijing. I have heard that canals would be dug, and I have heard that a pipeline with pumps would be used. This project may be in progress or already completed, but I am not sure.

The two photographs above were taken slightly outside Beijing, and the picture below was taken inside Beijing. The stream in the city has concrete walls to control the water and stop erosion. I think you will notice a difference in the water levels also.

Is Beijing Really Sinking?

I don’t know all that is involved with addressing this issue of sinking, or if it is something worthy of concern, but I do know that Beijing is an amazing city to visit!

If you ever have the opportunity to visit, please take advantage of it!

Believe me, people living in Beijing know they have a serious problem with air pollution. Not only can you see it, breathe it, and taste it on a bad day, but it is also published in many places. China can go to extreme measures to battle their air pollution problem from the highest levels, and there is something the citizens can do to help daily as well. Would like to know what they are doing?

One Way to Beat Air Pollution

They are riding bikes! Something so simple can get cars and public transportation off the roads ,which will decrease the exhaust and fumes from vehicles. There is a system in China where you can download an app, load money on the system, and then find where the rental bikes are located and help yourself to a bike. Once you are done with the bike, you just park it, and the next person needing a bike in the area can rent it. Once you park the bike, the app will deduct money from your account based on the use of the bike.

One Way to Beat Air Pollution

These bike stands are literally all over Beijing. Hopefully they will help people get where they need to be in a timely manner, and they will improve the quality of the air.

Please don’t think that the air pollution is bad every day in Beijing, because that isn’t how it is. For example, during my last trip I stayed in Beijing for a few days, and the air was fine. Then I went to another city for a few days, and returned to Beijing. During my return to Beijing, the air quality was noticeably worse — so you win some and you lose some with the air quality in Beijing.

When the air pollution hits critical levels, some factories are shut down, and an odd/even system is implemented on when you can drive, based on the numbers contained in your personal information. China also practices cloud-seeding to generate a cleansing rain. The day after it rains the skies are beautiful and blue!

Do you regularly ride your bike anywhere?

In other blogs I have written about the Beijing’s Capital Airport — more specifically, terminal 3. Terminal 3 is the new section built for the 2008 Olympic Games, and it is as impressive as the Olympic Games were that were held in Beijing.

Today I want to focus on the massive size of terminal 3. It has 3 main sections, with the terminal itself being the area for ticketing, checking in, exchanging money, restaurants, shops, and an area for claiming your luggage. Then there is one area for domestic flights, and another one for international flights. Would you like to know how they are all connected?

Beijing's Crazy Big Airport - and Terminal 3

Farther than you can see, the train runs between the different areas of the terminal. As you can see in the top section of the photo above, there are also buses that service the areas.

Beijing's Crazy Big Airport - and Terminal 3

There are bridges going over the train, and these are for motorized vehicles as well as pedestrians. By the way, the trains run on electricity, so they don’t produce any exhaust. This is wise, because when they pull into the terminal, nobody wants to inhale exhaust fumes.

Many things are large at terminal 3. Even the murals are huge, as you can see in the photo below!

Beijing's Crazy Big Airport - and Terminal 3

If you ever have the opportunity to use terminal 3 at this airport, I think you will be impressed by it!

Have you ever flown into Beijing?



The first week of April I was in China, and I was able to spend some time in Beijing. Spring is my favorite season of the year, and one of the reasons is all of the beautiful and vibrant colors that come out after the dull winter months. Would you like to see what spring looks like in Beijing?

Spring in Beijing: A Traveling Art Show

This photo was taken from a moving taxi, but you can still clearly see the contrasting colors. I was told by the locals that the maroon blooms were peach trees.

Spring in Beijing: A Traveling Art Show

This photo was taken while I was standing on the Great Wall of China at the Mu Tain Yu location. We had a beautiful morning on the wall, and as far as you could see on the surrounding mountains plants were blooming.

Spring in Beijing: A Traveling Art Show

One of the many impressive things about Beijing is how they line their streets with beautiful plants. As you can see in the photograph above, these trees are literally right beside the street. Sometimes you may pull into an intersection, and there will be a wooden platform that is terraced with beautiful flowers on every level.

Beijing also has some type of rose that blooms well past the normal season for roses in the States. I salute all of you that have a green thumb. My grandfather was one of you!

Spring in Beijing: A Traveling Art Show

What does spring look like where you are?

Some don’t know this, but Beijing actually has two public airports. Everyone has heard of Beijing Capital Airport on the northeast side of town, which has the huge new terminal built to handle the influx of travelers for the 2008 Olympics. But did you know there was also another airport on the south side of Beijing?

Did You Know Beijing Has Two Airports?

The southern airport is called Nan Yuan Fei Jie Chong, and it was once a military airport. When I first started using that airport several years ago it had some amazing charm to it. One of the most interesting things about it was how a tractor with a flatbed trailer would haul the luggage, unloaded by hand, to a barn. The people would walk into the barn, and then the tractor would bring in the luggage. From there, you would exit into a parking lot, where you would argue and negotiate prices with a group of taxi drivers. Believe it or not, it really was a lot of fun going back and forth with those guys. It would always end with laughter, a couple of pats on the back, and a thumbs up.  Another interesting thing about this airport was how you would see old military plans parked around the airport.

Now this airport has undergone massive renovations, and unfortunately, it has lost some of the charm it once had. Your luggage now comes into the terminal on a conveyor belt, so no more barn and tractor. Also, most of the vintage military plans have been moved. Additionally, there is an orderly system of getting a taxi now, and you don’t have to negotiate with the taxi drivers.

The terminal itself is now much larger and more modern. There are several gates now where there was once only a couple, and there are many shops within the airport where there once were none that I remember. Ahhh, I guess this is progress!

Did You Know Beijing Has Two Airports?

One of the more interesting things that is still consistent with the updated facility is the loading process. You still exit the terminal’s gate, get on a bus, and drive on the tarmac where you board your plane via portable steps! It truly is an interesting process to enjoy!

Have you ever been to either of the airports in Beijing?

On May the fifteenth, China acknowledged the 50th anniversary of the start of the Cultural Revolution. Honestly, I didn’t know all that much about it, so I have done some reading on the subject. From what I have gathered, Mao Zedong, the leader of China at the time, wanted to strengthen his position in China, so he developed the plan known as the Cultural Revolution.


Mao Zedong wanted to eliminate people that could challenge his leadership, so he implemented the Red Guard. The Red Guard was made up of citizens, who had been taught by Mao and his Little Red Book, that elitists and educated people were bad for the country, so they needed to be driven away. Citizens and students formed the Red Guard and they would beat and even kill some of the teachers, certain government officials, and the upper class of China.

Some of my dear friends in China were impacted by the Cultural Revolution. Two of my very good Chinese friends were working for the government in Shanghai when the Cultural Revolution started. Because they both had college degrees, they were sent from Shanghai to a small rural city to work on a pig farm, and they don’t talk about this experience much at all.


It has been a long time since Mao Zedong was the leader of China, but he is still held in very high regard by many. I think every classroom I taught in at a public school in China had a picture of him hanging on the wall, and his photo is clearly displayed at the entrance to the Forbidden City in Beijing. In my opinion, Mao Zedong is the best known leader of China, but the current leader, Xi Jinping, is catching up to Mao!



I have had the honor and pleasure of taking many Americans to China, and one of the things that is consistently commented on is the hocking a luggie and spitting that some Chinese do in public. Now this occurs in many places most Americans wouldn’t consider spitting, but it happens often in China. Some consider this as a cultural difference, but I would suggest it is more of a physiological need, not a cultural thing.

In defense of my friends in China, I think there is a very good reason for their frequent clearing of their lungs and throat then spitting. As has been widely reported, the air quality in some places in China is not exactly pristine. In fact, in the following pictures you will see a code red day in Beijing. These photos were taken at about 2:00 PM, and you can see the haze is amazing.





My thoughts are that if you had to breath in air like this all of your life, you would probably cough, spit, and do anything you could to help yourself get some oxygen into your system. In 2003 I was teaching at a university in China when SARS broke, the government launched a program to get people to stop spitting so much. As you can imagine, that is hard to enforce!

So, let’s embrace our cultural differences and not think less of someone from different country, because there may be a very good reason for what they do and why they do it!


Recently, I have had friends in China tell me about the snow they have had lately. Some live as far north as Shenyang, in the Liaoning Province and others as far south as Linyi, in the Shandong Province. Hopefully this will ease the minds of those of you that were worried about Beijing not having snow for the upcoming Winter Olympic Games!

China does practice cloud seeding, so they can try to generate some snow if they need more for the Olympics. Also, I am sure they can make snow if any is needed. I was told that Russia considered trucking in snow if they didn’t have enough falling naturally when they hosted the Winter Olympics, so China may try that as well.

This picture was from a few years ago in Beijing. Actually it was in March, so it was kind of a surprise to see this much snow so late in the year. Nonetheless, it is beautiful. That is, until people start driving on it and the snow turns black. I love how snow makes the area so quiet and peaceful. Maybe one day I will have a white Christmas, as the song says.


The pagoda above usually has lots of foot traffic around it, but not on this morning! To battle traffic, Beijing wants 8% of the commuters to travel by bikes, but that wouldn’t have been a good idea on this day. The shelter in the picture below is for bikes, but I don’t think many people ventured out on bikes this day. Traffic in Beijing is always interesting; especially when it snows!



The New Entrance

September 22, 2015 — Leave a comment

In the past when you wanted to go to the Great Wall of China at MuTainYu near Beijing, you would drive almost all the way to the entrance before the parking lots were in sight. From there you would walk through an area of huts and some permanent structures that had shops and restaurants. As you worked your way up the hill, you would come to an area where you could purchase your tickets, all 3 of them. You need one ticket to enter the park, one for the gondola ride up, and another one for the luge ride down. If you didn’t want to take the luge run down, you could take the gondola or the ski lift, which was an open air bench much like the gondola, but not enclosed.

Now the entrance has been moved a little further down the hill, and some of the charm of the mom and pop huts has been lost, in my opinion. At the new entrance there are nice new clean buildings where you can purchase your tickets for the entrance, gondola, park entrance, and van ride to the old entrance. As you can see from my list, you now need to get a ticket for the bus ride to the entrance and back to the parking area. You will also need to buy your luge ticket at the old location, because it is run by a separate company.
The New Entrance1
At the new parking area you will find the mom and pop huts have been replaced by new buildings. You can still buy the delicious dried fruit there and get souvenirs, but there is definitely a different feel to this location compared to the old one.
The New Entrance2
One challenge I see with the new system is with the buses. Nobody wants to wait for their bus, especially if you are about to see the Great Wall of China. I have never had to wait long for the bus going up, but on my last trip, I had to wait WAY too long for the ride down. Hopefully you won’t have to wait in the hot sun like my friends and I did to go back down the mountain.
The New Entrance3
Enjoy your time on the Great Wall of China, and I highly recommend taking the luge run down the mountain!