Day 528 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, Lift Off!


Up, up, and away!

Up, up, and away!

Jill and I, and our closest 15 other friends, climbed into the gondola and got ready for our lift off.

The gondola is basically a massive, woven material, box that we stand inside of and watch the world below us as we fly through the air.

It is set up like an oblong grid with 2 sections on each side for 4 passengers each and then one section in the middle for only the pilot.  It blocked off so people can’t move from one side to the other since that would unbalance the load and make it very dangerous for everyone involved.

Our cabin mates were Abby and Brent.   They were also from the USA, but not via China, and Abby was about to start her graduate schooling at University of Texas, Austin in psychology so it was a perfect match!  Both were incredibly nice and friendly and we enjoyed spending our time with them.

We talked to Mike, our captain, a little bit as he was getting ready and then pretty much stopped speaking when we took off because we were so enraptured by the scenes that were pretty much didn’t speak a lot on the flight.

As you can see from the video, almost everyone else was quiet and stunned by the beauty of what we were experiencing.

At this point, we were only over the flats so we had no idea what really lay ahead of us.  We had watched a few videos on what other people had experienced but it is nothing like the real thing.

That includes my video and what you will see by my pictures.  This truly needs to be seen, and experienced, live and in person.




Day 527 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, Wake up.


From our plateau, we could see the other balloons taking off and lighting up.

From our plateau, we could see the other balloons taking off and lighting up.


Jill and I woke up 3:30 AM.

Let me repeat that: 3:30 AM wake up time.

Or, as my step-dad would say, “0 dark thirty.”

We got dressed, met the van at our door, and stopped to pick up a few other passengers, and arrived at Butterfly Balloons after about 10 minutes.

They checked us in, showed us to a sitting room that had a breakfast buffet set up, and we sat down.

We met a couple on their honeymoon, from NYC, who were both traveling the world and enjoying themselves.

Shin and John were going to many different countries and were a great couple to talk to while we were waking up.  They both had quit their jobs and just decided to live their dreams for a while.

Sadly, they weren’t in our group so we said goodbye to them as we loaded into the van to go to our balloon.

We drove to the site and hopped out.

It was a gorgeous morning with only a bit of haze on the horizon.

As the balloons were being inflated, we met a couple that would be flying with us, Abby and Brent, and just enjoyed waking up to see such a magnificent view and realized how lucky we were to be alive.



Day 513 In Beijing: Videos Of The Hot Air Balloons At Goreme, Turkey.



Truly magical.

Truly magical.


Jill and I love taking videos of Goreme.

It is such a peaceful and comfortable little town.

We really enjoyed meeting so many friendly people, in such a short time, and are very thankful we came here.

We realized that even though pictures definitely capture a good idea of what Goreme is like, a video, or two, is also helpful to feel the whole expanse of the land.

When we first arrived and were being driven from the airport to our hotel, I remarked to Jill that, “This really reminds me of New Mexico.”

I lived in New Mexico for about 3 years back in the mid-90s.  I went to UNM (GO LOBOS!) and lived in Albuquerque during that time.

However, I really enjoyed Santa Fe, Taos and this tiny little town called Galisteo, which is about 20 minutes outside of Santa Fe.

There was a place, The Galisteo Inn, where I used to deliver beer and wine, when I worked for the New Mexico Wine Patrol, and it was a little peace of heaven.

Interesting enough, my mom and my step-dad ended up buying a place in Galisteo, and now share a fence with the Galisteo Inn (it is no longer an inn, unfortunately).

Coincidences like this almost make me smile.

Obviously, New Mexico doesn’t have fairy chimneys but the barrenness of the land, the magical quality of the sunlight, and the amazing sunsets, really make this feel like home.

If you’ve never been to Goreme, or even New Mexico, make sure to go.

You will be happy you did.





This will let you see how quickly it filled up with people as this was taken only about 15 minutes after the previous video.


Day 512 In Beijing: Hot Air Balloon Sunrise In Goreme, Turkey.


The view from our balcony.

The view from our balcony.


Jill and I woke up quite early this morning.

Actually, I woke up quite early.

It was a bit warm and I decided to see a bit of the sunrise.

I opened our curtains and yelled, “Oh my gosh, Jill!  You have to get up and see this right now!”

Jill sleepily opened her eyes and got up.

We both went outside and stood in awe of all the hot air balloons rising around the little town of Goreme.

We both knew that the hot air balloons go up in the morning but we had forgotten about them.

We decided to watch for a few minutes and then realized we’d have a much better view on the area above our hotel where we were last night.

So we hoofed it up to the top of the ridge, and with only about 10 other people there, it was magnificent to watch the balloons fly around us.

It was about as perfect a way to wake up as I’ve ever had.

And, since we knew we were going to go on our own hot air balloon ride, the next day, it was an awesome way to get ready for it.



Day 479 In Beijing: The Xian Wall, Part 1.


The gang with our bikes.  From left: Jill, Phil, me, Eleni and Annie.

The gang with our bikes. From left: Jill, Phil, me, Eleni and Annie.

Jill and I have been to the Great Wall of China two different times.

We are actually going again in about one week.

We will be going with a bunch of students from Eseune Business School and our dear friend, Nuria.

I actually met Nuria when I first moved here and went salsa dancing.

She’s from Bilbao, Spain, and a wonderful person.

She works at the school and invited us to come along with the new students and stay at a farm house.

We immediately accepted and thought this would be a wonderful way to spend the Autumn Holiday in China.

However, since we were still in Xian, at the conference, we decided to check out the Xian Wall.

Now, it isn’t as long as the Great Wall, obviously, and is actually inside the city itself.

It runs about 16 kilometers long and is about 50 feet high.  It is also formed in the shape of a rectangle that protected much of the old city.

Most of the houses and businesses inside it are the “old style” but they are being torn down, like so much of China, to build new and “civilized”housing which is not very interesting or exciting.

This is the way of progress, I guess, and it makes us quite sad.

We ended up going with a bunch of friends, from many different countries, and riding bikes on top of the wall.

We had been told that it had rained for 2 weeks straight in Xian, and the skies had been hidden by “fog” that whole time.  A word to the wise, when a Chinese National says “fog” they mean smog but they don’t want to admit it.  Trust me, it is smog.

Tonight was absolutely gorgeous and we were able to take a lot of fantastic pictures with our new friends.

Phil is the tall guy and he is from Austria, Eleni is blond and from New Zealand, Annie is a brunette and from Sweden.


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Day 406 in Beijing: Bird’s Nest Redux.


The full moon hovering over the Bird's Nest.

The full moon hovering over the Bird’s Nest.

Jill and I wanted to capture a bit more of the feeling around the Bird’s Nest so we took a little video.

As you can see, and hear, it is never empty or quiet.

This was at about 9 pm, on a weekday, and there were still loads of people around the area.

There is also the Water Cube, where the Olympic events that involved swimming, diving, water polo, and other sports was located and it has now turned into a touristy swimming area with a water slides and other fun things to do.

It is very bright and quiet well lit.

The building behind it is the Dragon IBM building and it has 5 other buildings that “connect” to it so it looks like a huge dragon that goes on for about half a mile.

We are hoping to go back on a more beautiful night, with less pollution, to get some more shots and videos.


Day 401 in Beijing: Beijing Swingers?


Swing dancing in Beijing!

Swing dancing in Beijing!

A few weeks ago I posted about salsa dancing in Beijing.

Well, Beijing has more than salsa and I went to a party, to celebrate the 4th of July at a rooftop bar called Migas in downtown Beijing.

Our friends from Jing A Brewery were pouring their new watermelon wheat beer and my buddy, Shagi, from Dienastie Sunglasses, was promoting and selling them.

It was an awesome time and a swing band showed up to play out of the blue.

I’m guessing they were hired but we didn’t know about it and we were very pleasantly surprised.

I can’t remember the name of the band but I’ll find out and we will definitely go see them play again soon.

Enjoy the videos below and, if you watch them, you’ll see my buddy Shagi doing his thing and Jill walking through them with her “Jing A” t shirt on.


Day 398 in Beijing: Group Exercise.


A group of about 20 people walking and getting their daily exercise.

A group of about 20 people walking and getting their daily exercise.

One of the community aspects of China that Jill and I really enjoy is watching the group exercises.

This seems to be a very convenient way for people to come together and celebrate their common culture.

I love going out at night, watching groups exercise by dancing, walking, and whatever other means they have at their disposal.

This group was especially coordinated and seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.

They also seemed to enjoy that I was taking a video of them and having as much fun as they were having.

I have yet to join one of the group exercises but will definitely do that before I leave Beijing as that seems like a lot of fun and I’m pretty sure I’d be welcomed with open arms.

I’m not sure if you can hear it, but one of the people has a little radio attached to their belt and they are all listening to the music and keeping in rhythm as they walk and work out.




Day 395 in Beijing: Grandson Walking His Grandmother.


Grandmother and grandson enjoying their night walk.

Grandmother and grandson enjoying their night walk.

Jill and I were talking a break from helping out our buddies at Jing A Brewing Company and just enjoying the afternoon at Galaxy SOHO.

As we relaxed, and watched people walk by, we saw this cute pair.

The guy looks sort of like a tough guy with his baseball cap, headphones, and dressed all in black but, in reality, he was just a sweetheart taking his grandmother for her evening walk.

I couldn’t resist taking a video of them because they seemed so happy, content and to truly be enjoying each other’s company.

I can’t even imagine what China was like when she was young and the changes it, and she, have gone through.

It would be a history lesson just to talk to her and walk with her.

I’m guessing that is exactly what he is experiencing at this moment.

I love that he is holding her arm to keep her steady as she points things out on their walk together.

If you notice, he is wearing his headphones, so maybe he isn’t listening to her at all.

I choose to think he is listening to her and they are enjoying each other’s company.


Day 386 in Beijing: Martial Arts In Ritan Park.


Some Turkish food after watching martial arts.

Some Turkish food after watching martial arts.

Jill and I were wandering around our new apartment area and headed down to Ritan Park.

This area has a lot of restaurants from Eastern Europe and the Asian Sub-Continent.

We ended up eating lunch at a Turkish restaurant, to get us ready for our upcoming trip to Turkey and Greece starting July 15th, and enjoyed it greatly.

We’ve both been to Turkey before, Jill three times and me once, but neither have been to Greece.

We can not wait to see the blue ocean and enjoy the delicious food and the beauty of both countries.

We will be gone for a month, exactly, and it will be a wonderful way to celebrate everything that has happened in our first year in China, our first year together, and the first year of Jill’s website really starting to take off and become a big player in the San Francisco travel arena.

By the way, if you don’t know about Jill’s website, Please click here: SAN FRANCISCO TOURISM TIPS and “like” her page on Facebook or go to the actual San Francisco Tourism Tips website and subscribe by email.

Everyone that does that helps us immensely and allows us to continue to travels around the world and our eventual idea of living on a beach, moving countries every 3-6 months, and just being happy vagabonds.

We’d both greatly appreciate any support and please feel free to share with friends the live in San Francisco, want to visit San Francisco or want to know more about San Francisco!

Being that we are in Beijing, this is a bit of a digression.

My apologies.

As we walked around Ritan Park, Jill noticed this gentleman doing his martial arts and we were hypnotized.

I love that you can hear him hit his own hand as he kicks in the air.