Ming Tombs & The Great Wall – Mutianyu section

We visited the Ming Dynasty Tombs ( 明十三陵) on Thursday, October 6th during the Fall Festival.  We began our tour at 7:30am and visiting a Jade Factory at 8am.

Max in front of an enormous Jade ship sculpture and several fou dogs.

Then, driving on to The Ming Tombs which are located some 51.35 kilometers due north of central Beijing, within the suburban Changping District of Beijing municipality. The site of the Ming Dynasty Imperial Tombs was carefully chosen according to Feng Shui (geomancy) principles.  At present, only three tombs are open to the public, which we were able to view.

Kissing the Dragon!

The visitors to the tomb feel it will bring them wealth if they give money to the emperor’s burial tomb.  So there is tons of Yuan around the tomb.

Shane, Sepia and Max checking out the Emperor and Emperess Tombs.

Max at Ming.

The Great Wall of China is a series of stone and earthen fortifications in northern China, built originally to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by various nomadic groups. Several walls have been built since the 5th century BC that are referred to collectively as the Great Wall, which has been rebuilt and maintained from the 5th century BC through the 16th century. One of the most famous is the wall built between 220–206 BC by the first Emperor of ChinaQin Shi Huang. Little of that wall remains; the majority of the existing wall was built during the Ming Dynasty.

Shane and Max on cable car and shows toboggan ride bridge.

The Great Wall stretches from Shanhaiguan in the east, to Lop Lake in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia. The walls measure 8,851.8 km (5,500.3 mi).  

Here is our Great Wall video.

Turret doorway at Great Wall.Climbing the wall.

We rode the cable car up to the Wall, then took the toboggan sleds down.  It was so much fun!

Up to the Turret.

Sandra at Great Wall.

Sepia resting in the turret.

There was a little Chinese girl that looked so cute.  I asked if I could take her photo.

Little Chinese girl with lollipop.

We climbed for 2 hours exploring and mesmerized by how far the wall goes on for miles and miles.

Katsoolis' at The Great Wall.

Then, enjoyed the sled ride down.

Wall goes on for miles and miles.


Gearing up for Chinese New Year 2012 – Year of the Dragon

Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is the most important traditional festival and a public holiday in China.   An estimated 700 million Chinese traveled last year during Spring Festival. This year it is expected to be even more.

The Chinese New Year 2012 starts on January 22 (Chinese New Year’ Eve).


The festival falls on the first day of the first Chinese month (usually in late January and early February), and ends with the Lantern Festival which is on February 6th(the 15th day). 

Lantern Festival

The festival is celebrated grandly and extensively across the country. Various cultural activities such as lighting fireworks, dragon dancing, lion dancing and other traditional performances, are arranged in parks and streets in cities and towns. Every family thoroughly cleans the house, sweeps the floors and washes daily things. House cleaning is believed to drive away ill-fortune and bring good luck in the coming year. Windows and doors are decorated with red paper-cuts and couplets. The fireworks are to scare away the big monsters. We have bought extra ear plugs because they say that there will be fireworks going off all night long from Jan. 22 -Feb. 6!!!  

Chinese New Year is a time for families to be together. A reunion dinner is held on New Year’s Eve(January 22 eve), with New Year food including Chinese dumplings,  fish(which means wealth), chicken, and pork.  We must have an even number of entree dishes served.  

From the first day of the New Year to the 15th day, Chinese people go to visit friends and relatives. When we have friends come over we need to put out traditional Chinese snacks like sunflower seeds and peanuts in their shells, chocolate candies that are shaped like shrimp, assortment of apples, mandarins, and other fruits. New year greetings are given to each other, and lucky money in red envelopes are given to children with the hope that it will bring them good luck.  We also have been told to play a fun Chinese game called 麻将   (mahjong).

Sepia was born in the year of the dragon, so she is meant to wear something red the whole year to protect her from harm.  Especially during the week of the Spring Festival, wear red underwear and red socks.

Christmas in Beijing

We started the holidays by going to one of Beijing’s skate rinks, Le Cool, Guomao Liubing Chang in the underground shopping center.  It is a nice rink with skating coaches teaching professional competition skating to children and adults in among amateur skaters.

Sepia and Max ice skating.

Max & Sepia created art for their school’s Christmas party art auction.  Max was so proud of his Dragon sketch.  The kids had fun doing activities and games.  They really enjoyed getting a portrait created by college students.

This is Max's Dragon art which someone bought for 100 RMB.

Sepia's Portrait.

Max's Portrait.

We also were happy to have family visitors, Sasha, our niece and Stuart her husband from Australia.  We went to the antique markets and went sighting seeing around Beijing.

Sepia with Cousin Sasha.

Sasha and Stuart at The Place with us.

We had a great time at the Archillier Christmas party. We went to Kempinski Hotel which is a 5 -star hotel.  The party was held at Kranzler’s Restaurant.

Kranzler's dining room.

Lobster Kids.

Kranzler's hot buffet.

They have an incredible buffet which offered us the opportunity to create our own “dim sum” from the tasty steamed buns shaped and painted to look like peaches, steamed wontons, meat filled wontons, chicken, fish, pork, beef, shrimp, and vegetable dishes, soups, and so many savory items. The perfect finale was a dessert station so laden with gorgeous pastries, miniature tarts, cakes, and puddings, that they could really be a meal in themselves. Miniature tarts crowned with fresh ripe berries, mile-high cakes with luscious fillings, puddings, mousses, crème brûlees, fudge-like chocolate cakes, chocolate fountain, and so much more that would tempt anyone off their diet.


The White Tree.

We had a nice Christmas Day.  Everything was completely different.

Our Christmas tree 2011.

Our Christmas tree…Shane handmade…it was 5 inch tall cut out of green paper.

We laughed so hard when

The Blue Tree.

Shane made it…But you see we needed somewhere to put the presents, so once we had a tree, we knew where we could put the presents.   The kids have stockings which were filled by Santa with lots of goodies.  Beijing really goes all out with lighting displays on hotels, entire exterior of malls, down both sides of the street for 4 blocks.  Here is one of our favorite Christmas light displays.

Christmas evening we caught up with our friends from Madrid and their two kids.

Christmas with friends in front of the 75 foot high teddy bear tree .

We went out for authentic Indian(totally not what we would do on Christmas) and then went back to our apartment and played games and hung out chatting and eating Panetone(Italian dessert cake which is a tradition in our family each year.)

This is “The Place”

About five blocks from our apartment is a large trendy shopping mall called, The Place.

It’s main attraction is a massive LED sky screen that is so huge we can watch the image screen from our apartment on the 18th floor.

Max showing how big the LED sky screen really is....during the day.

The Place also houses excellent eating and shopping. One of our favorite places to eat, “Ganges Indian Restaurant” which serves up a wonderful Chicken Tikka Marsala while a beautiful Bollywood dancer performs for you.  Two four-story malls house Tourneau, China’s largest watch boutique, D&G, Ferrari and Chinese and English-language bookstore which was great to find!

Christmas time at The Place.


Click here to get an even better glimpse of….The Place

Ice Cars

On January 2nd, 2012, we went to neighborhood park, Ritan Park for a walk, and to our surprise we found ice sled skating, or what Beijingers call, “ice cars” (bing che), box sleds propelled by ski poles that rent for ¥20 ($4) per hour.  Sepia & Max were so excited they ran down to the pond – ready to try it!

Enjoying a winter's day on the icy pond.

Kids having Fun!


Max changing his technique a little.

At first, it took some practice maneuvering around the ice, but then Sepia & Max got the hang of it, and they had so much fun!

Sepia having Fun!

The organizer of the ice cars even had some Western and Chinese music playing to liven up the experience.

Here’s a glimpse of our new favorite winter activity….Ice Cars

Modeling in China

After attending the kid’s school Christmas party,on December 17th, Sepia auditioned to model some children’s clothing called Yooknet.  There were about only 12 children at the audition who were selected from the applicants.  Sepia put on one of the outfits which the stylist had organized.  The photographer photographed her.  Then, when she had changed, they checked her name and details.  Max was waiting patiently for his sister to finish her audition.  The modeling agent asked his name and details.  We said, he had not applied.  She thought he should audition.  He said, “Okay”.   They took a few photos of him.  We asked if we were finished and if there were any thing we needed to do.  The agent said, “We will contact you”.  The director then, walked over and said, both your kids are in.  See you tomorrow.

The next day we went to the shoot and Sepia spent 1 hour getting her hair and make-up done.  Then, Max went to Hair and Make-up upstairs in the mezzanine.  He walked out 45 minutes later, with a massive mo-hawk!  He looked wild!  The photographer said something in Chinese….next thing I know 30 minutes later Max had a whole new style. Darn! I could not get a photo of the mo-hawk.

Here are a few photos from the shoot.

Sepia as Yooknet model.

S & M outside the modeling office.

Sepia and Russian girl in Pink & Winter white.

Primping Sepia for the shoot.

Sepia in Yooknet red dress.

Max at modeling session.

Max - The Scholar.

Max at modeling shoot.