Nǐ Hǎo China (Hello China). It's our first ever visit to this huge country of nearly 1.4 billion people and over the next few weeks ezines we hope to give you just a hint of what China holds for the inquisitive traveler. This week we will have enjoyed just 1 day in Beijing before the newsletter deadline, so I will incorporate a little of my nerdy stuff regarding airline status, the best use of upgrades and some airport lounges that we encountered on our journey. Some of these details may make a difference to your journey one day, at least I hope so.
TOP 5 - CHARLOTTE TO BEIJING
The purpose of my mileage run to Bangkok a few weeks ago was to requalify for American's Executive Platinum status for 2019 and our current trip highlights the possibilities that confers when the advertised benefits are actually available. Two successful systemwide upgrades applied to a crazily good value $500 return fare to Hong Kong are probably worth $1,500 a piece. Combine that with the One World Emerald status that is extended to Executive Platinum members and we are magically allowed in to First Class lounges. I was hoping for Qantas's First Class Lounge in the Tom Bradley International terminal but our AA flight to Hong Kong departed from Terminal 4, so the excellent Flagship Lounge had to suffice. We loved the giant posters of movie stars taking AA flights, Liz Taylor (above) in particular.
2. The Pier, Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge, HKG Airport (above)
As good as the AA Flagship Lounge at LAX was, there is simply no comparison to Cathay Pacific's version in HKG. Firstly, there are 3 different First Class lounges to explore (thanks to One World Emerald status) and they are simply a cut above anything we'd find in USA. I was able to shower within 15 minutes after deplaning from our 15 hour flight and the luxury bathroom felt like a private spa. I did not try the foot massage as I wouldn't wish it on anyone to deal with my toes, but the option was there, all complimentary.
Enough with lounges, it is on to Beijing.
3. Temple of Heaven, Beijing
A massive 675 acre park in the center of Beijing, with many Ming and Qing Dynasty edifices and enough going on to fill a good half day. Helen enjoyed an impromptu Tai Chi session (above), joining in with one of the numerous groups practicing this internal Chinese martial art. The ornate building below is simply the Food and Drink room.
4. Tiananmen Square, Beijing
One of the most recognized names in the world, due to the tragic events of early June 1989, this huge square has a somber air about it. Tiananmen, somewhat ironically, actually means Gate of Heavenly Peace, and on the actual gate to the square hangs a large portrait of Chairman Mao (above), which is replaced with a fresh version every October 1st in honor of the anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
5. The Forbidden City, Beijing (above and below)
A truly amazing complex that was the seat of the Emperor and the home of Chinese government throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties for nearly 500 years until 1912. Connecting courtyards and Palaces seem to go on forever and there are over 8,500 rooms in total. UNESCO lists the Forbidden City as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.
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