Today was our last full day in Beijing; tomorrow we take the Bullet Train to Jinan, where on Sunday we finally meet our daughter! After another breakfast of noodles, tofu, and steamed buns, we met Angela at 9am and started out on a 2-hour trip to visit The Great Wall of China. Before arriving we stopped and had another great meal for lunch. Angela and our driver - who is very nice but doesn't speak English and whose name we do not know - were quite impressed at our willingness to eat authentic Chinese cuisine. She said that most of the Americans that she has worked with prefer only western fare, or white rice and soy sauce. That's too bad for them, because the food here is wonderful!
After arriving and on our way to the entrance, we walked down a small street of locals selling all kinds of souvenirs and foods. They were very persistent; calling out to use and trying to put items into our hands; but we resisted buying anything as prices were inflated and we didn't want to carry more stuff up to the wall. To get to the wall we took an old-style rickety-sounding ski lift. Only 2 could ride per seat, so Leslie went with Angela and I rode up with Manu. The view was gorgeous, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous as we slowly climbed the hill, dangling high above the rocky terrain below, listening to the cable creak and twang. Once we made it to the top, it was just a short walk and a few stair before we were standing on the wall. It was a surreal experience standing on one of the wonders of the modern world. It's one of those cultural icons that you see countless times in film and print, but never expect actually to see with your own eyes. We walked up and down a good bit of the wall while Angela gave us much of its history and some of its more interesting folk-legends. Unfortunately, the pollution was high again, so it was impossible to get completely clear photos; that haze is not fog, it's smog. By the time we got back to where we started, we were all exhausted from the constant, and sometimes steep, up and down stairways; the wall follows the ridge-line of the mountains, so it's never level for very long. We rode a toboggan down a curvy metal slide back to the bottom of the mountain. It kind of resembled a bobsled course, and at times, Manu and I were sliding at about 30kph. This of course was Manu's favorite part of the entire visit.
We left the wall and began our return trip home. On the way we stopped at a cloisonne factory. This a place where they create and decorate copper vases and other items in an ancient tradition unique to Beijing. It was interesting to watch each step of the process, especially when they pulled a batch out of a floor furnace and they were glowing hot! Items in the shop were pricey, which is understandable considering the large amount of labor that goes into a single item. Larger pieces easily cost several thousand dollars. We managed to find a small vase that we could afford; we wanted to have something special for Min Jing from China when she's older.
Back in town we had yet another wonderful meal, which included Peking Duck. It was another one of those, I can't believe I'm eating Peking Duck in Peking (Beijing) moments. We then left and headed back for the room.
We've had a great time here in Beijing; there are many wonderful things to see and taste here. Angela and our driver have been wonderful, and we'll miss them on the rest of our trip; we'll have a new guide and driver when we arrive in Jinan tomorrow.
It's been fun, but now on to the real reason we came - to meet our daughter!
|Breakfast at the hotel|
|Manu conquers the wall.|
|On the steps.|
|It just keeps going up!|
|Another view of the wall.|
|Us just below the wall.|
|Picture from below the wall.|
|Dried fruits and nuts for sale nearby.|
|Copper items just out of the oven; glowing hot!|