Asia 2008:
Day 10 - Beijing, China


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Asia 2008: [Day 1 - Tokyo] [Day 2 - Kyoto] [Day 3 - Kobe] [Day 4 - At Sea] [Day 5 - Nagasaki] [Day 6 - Busan] [Day 7 - At Sea] [Day 8 - Dalian] [Day 9 - Beijing] [Day 10 - Beijing] [Day 11 - At Sea] [Day 12 - At Sea] [Day 13 - Shanghai] [Day 14 - Shanghai] [Day 15 - At Sea] [Day 16 - At Sea] [Day 17 - Hong Kong]

Wednesday, April 2: We headed down for the buffet breakfast in the hotel around 6:00 AM. There were Eastern and Western breakfast foods, and we tried a little of both.
The hotel's restaurant is just as beautiful as the rest of the hotel.
As we waited to depart, some of us took the opportunity to enjoy our last clean restroom for the next few hours and some of us admired this large display in the middle of the lobby, decorated with Chinese scenes carved from jade. Some of us did both.
We bade goodbye to the Beijing Hotel at 7:00 AM sharp and headed north (we think).
We were thrilled to learn that we'd be driving past the new Olympic buildings on our way to the Great Wall. Look closely at the exterior of the funky building behind the tall thingie. Seriously, click on the photo to view the larger version -- the facade looks like dripping mud. We think the guide said that this would be used for housing for Olympic athletes.
Here's the National Stadium. It's nicknamed "The Bird's Nest", and you can see why. From here, look directly to your left to see ...
... the National Aquatic Center, also known as the "Water Cube." It is one of the coolest buildings we've ever seen. Ever since 2000, we've visited the Summer Olympics host city a few months before the Olympic Games (Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004), and this is one of the main reasons why -- to see the preparations the country has been making. Of course, it's also so we can watch the Games and recognize sites from the cities we've visited.
Here's another cool building right next to the Water Cube. These windows have a fantastic view of both the Water Cube and the Bird's Nest..
Enough of that -- it's time to visit the Great Wall of China! The Great Wall! Us! At the Great Wall! Exactly as exciting and cool as visiting the Pyramids last year, but with cooler temperatures and no scary vendors.
We started up the steps leading up the Wall and found them to be steeper and harder to climb than your average stairs. Fortunately, we were among the first visitors this morning and there was plenty of room to stop and sit on the steps to rest. This photo was taken from the first lookout point.
Here's the Great Wall as seen through Tom's eyes. Aren't we artsy?
Whew -- we made it to the next lookout point and took a look at the Wall across the valley.
This is the second lookout point we were just in. One of Debbie's all-time favorite songs is "Walking on the Chinese Wall" by Philip Bailey, and here we were actually doing it.
The next lookout point provided a great backdrop for photos, so we took turns taking photos of our fellow visitors. Debbie took several photos for a Japanese solo hiker, communicating only with hand gestures and smiles.
The view is much better when we're not blocking it. Check out the sections of the Great Wall visible across the valley.
As you can see, the Wall goes on and on. They tell us it goes on for several thousand miles, and we believe them, but didn't feel compelled to go any farther.
Here's a cute little pagoda perched on the top of the hill.
Going back down is much faster and easier than going up! You can see the visitor complex below in this shot. It included restrooms, snack shops, and gift shops.
When we got back to the first lookout point, we saw where Orchy was photographed by John and Angie on their visit the previous year. Tom checked his GPS to verify that we were still in the Beijing area and hadn't inadvertently walked to Mongolia.
The hillsides were covered with cherry blossoms. The Great Wall in spring is great indeed!
This shot gives you a little better idea of how steep the stairs are. They were much narrower and steeper in some sections, but the handrails were welcome everywhere.
Here's one last view of our lookout points. We love things that are great. Great Walls are fantastic.
After a stop at the restroom (it only rated one star on the 10-star Bundlings Restroom Scale -- running water in the sink), we did some shopping (dragon figurine, Chinese Diet Coke, and incredibly cheap batteries for Tom's GPS), and then we purchased a souvenir book with an 8x10 print of this group shot we posed for when we first arrived, showing a completely empty Wall.
Our next stop was the Sacred Way (also known as the Spirit Way).
This is a road that leads to the Ming Dynasty Tombs.
The portion we visited is lined with pairs of animal statues -- first, a pair of seated animals on either side of the walk (in this case, a lion).
The next pair is the same type of animal, standing.
To give a sense of scale, here we are next to one of the seated camels.
His standing counterpart is probably eight feet tall at least.
But Mr. Camel is nothing compared to the majestic elephant.
Here's an odd seated fellow.
After the animals, there were several pairs of human figures, but they all got to stand.
After a very pleasant half-hour walk, we reached the end.
A very short drive further back into the valley took us to the largest of the 13 Ming Dynasty Tombs, the Chang Ling tomb.
This display showed the layout of the valley and the locations of the 13 tombs. The Sacred Way is the section in the middle of the valley.
This pretty little building contained piles of paper money inside. Why? We don't know, but we're thinking of building one of these in our back yard to see if it fills up with cash.
This building is in the second courtyard, and has one of those very cool stone carvings going up the stairs, similar to the ones we had seen at the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven.
This building was also equipped with hand-carved rain spigots.
Inside the hall is an exhibit containing treasures buried with the emperor, as well as a statue of the big guy himself, Emperor Yongle.
Our final Beijing tour stop was this complex where we were scheduled to have lunch and some shopping time.
It turns out that this complex houses a cloisonne factory designed just for tours, and all hungry visitors had a mandatory tour to attend before we were fed.
Once the tour was over, we were fed, family-style as usual, with dish after delicious dish of food. Note the small green bottles on the table.
These tiny bottles held what was described as a Chinese wine, but if it's wine, why were we given such tiny bottles and even tinier cups to drink it from? Because it was pure firewater! If we ever get up the courage to drink nail polish remover, we're guessing that it would probably taste exactly the same. After lunch, we shopped in the giant cloisonne and souvenir warehouse downstairs, where attempts to browse were thwarted by sales people who dogged our every step.
Now, fast-forward past the four hours it took us to drive back to the Tianjin port. Once again, we were grateful that we had chosen to take the overnight tour rather than two separate full-day tours, because that drive was very, very long.

Our cruise ship had changed berths while we were gone, and we were now docked next to a delightful variety of containers, including our beloved Maersk.

Day 11 >


Asia 2008: [Day 1 - Tokyo] [Day 2 - Kyoto] [Day 3 - Kobe] [Day 4 - At Sea] [Day 5 - Nagasaki] [Day 6 - Busan] [Day 7 - At Sea] [Day 8 - Dalian] [Day 9 - Beijing] [Day 10 - Beijing] [Day 11 - At Sea] [Day 12 - At Sea] [Day 13 - Shanghai] [Day 14 - Shanghai] [Day 15 - At Sea] [Day 16 - At Sea] [Day 17 - Hong Kong]

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