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The first day in Beijing was to be a full day at Tiamanmen Square and the Forbidden City. Unfortunately, both Mieko and I were under the weather for the second time in a week and dared not venture out on tours. We stayed in the hotel and got the bug out of us and by the afternoon, we were feeling well enough to take to the streets. We wandered around the hotel and found little to see, went back to the hotel and got some advice from the staff there on a place to shop. They suggested a “mall” about 20 minutes away by taxi. It was on the other side of Tiamanmen Square so we did go passed this most recognizable place in Beijing.
The mall was a multistory shopping building that was really very nice. Did not have the same stores that seen in every mall in the United States. At one clothing store, Mieko found a very nice dress jacket that fitted perfectly. With a little negotiating, we bought the jacket. We bought some other things to bring back with us and stepped outside to grab a taxi back to the hotel. Traffic was much worse than earlier, it seemed they also have a rush hour and we were in it.
The evening was to consist of a dinner of Chinese food at a park like restaurant. Once outside the park, large golf cart-like vehicles were used to get us to the restaurant. Here are a few of the people in our group. The two guys with the long beards provided us with a lot of laughs. Because of their looks, they were very much an oddity with the Chinese. Young people would gather around them to touch the beards and to have their picture taken standing by these two. Their busiest short period of posing was for 16 different pictures. They were from Eastern Pennsylvania and the one pointing to the cheap watch he bought while there is a teacher of Photoshop. With a little more shopping done, it was back out to the busses and back to the hotel.
The next and last day in China was to the Great Wall. After breakfast, we took the bus to Badaling Hills where we given time to walk or climb along a well preserved section of the Wall. The Great Wall of China was built between the fifth century BC to sixteenth century AD to protect the northern borders from invasion of the Mongols. There is more than 6,200 miles of wall and symbolized the country's isolation from the rest of the world. Here we are as Arnold's followers. After we had the group picture taken we were off on our own.
At Badaling, the wall is 28 feet and more high and wide enough for 10 people to walk side by side. There are battlements only on the Mongol side of the wall and a drainage system for rain water on the other side. We were given the choice of going to the right and have an easy climb crowded with people or to the left which is very steep hence less people. We took the right hand portion and still found it to be very steep and difficult climb. However, it was said that to the left, there were knee-high steps that must be negotiated. Mieko and I were not about to put ourselves through that. Given the hot temperature, we did enough. In this first photograph, we made it to the tower that is just beyond half way. There were sections that were so steep that a handrail was provided to help pull oneself along. To ward off the sun, we bought a very cheap Chinese paper umbrella. To help with the climb, we also bought a telescoping walking stick or cane. We had considered bringing our grandson's trekking poles — probably costing over $100 for the pair. As it turned out they were too long, even collapsed to their shortest length, to fit into our luggage. This walking stick we bought was equally good in quality and only cost us $2.67! Amazing. I am holding it in my hands in the one picture of me alone.
Back down and off the wall, we found a display of these old canons. We had some time to do some shopping and get a nice cold drink before getting on the bus for our next stop.
We stayed off the main highway and wound our way through the hills to a restaurant and jade cutting factory. Along the way we had a chance to see more of sections of the wall.
After eating lunch, another 12 course Chinese lunch, we learned how to tell real jade from the fakes. Everything here was real. The girl is explaining how a ball inside of a ball inside of a ball is cut, very interesting. The pieces photographed and shown here are not the least bit small. The “junk” was over eight feet tall but was not cut from one piece but rather hundreds. The “cabbage” pieces were around 20 to 24 inches long.
After lunch and shopping for jade, we continued to the valley the Ming Dynasty Emperors chose as their burial place. A very nice, park like area with a long walked long the elegant “Sacred Way” that leads to the tombs. We began at the grand marble gateway built more than 400 years ago, then along a walkway lined with 18 pairs of massive stone sculptures of guards, elephants, lions, camels and mythical beasts. Nine pair are pictured here. Notice that each pair of animals, there is one standing and one kneeling, sitting or lying down. Those standing are “on duty” as a guard and the others are “off duty”, resting. The Red Army attempted to destroy these sculptures but their only damage was to break the nose off some. It was very quite here and very clean.
At the end of our walk was a building housing a sculpture of a turtle. In Asia, the turtle is a symbol of long life. If one rubs the turtles nose, they will receive the good luck of such a life.
Our trip back to the hotel was slowly taken through the traffic. This gave time and opportunity to take some photographs through the window glass. Just to give you a flavor of what China looks like today — a modern country rising from the past.
The following you will soon see in full living color during the Olympics. The first building, as I remember, is where the swimming events will take place. The next building, rather wild structure, is the main coliseum
More street scenes. This little three wheel vehicle is great! The gathering of people was under an elevated highway. They were playing some sort of game, perhaps Mah Jong.
Cleaned up and Arnold dressed up, we were back on our bus for dinner of Peking Duck, no one ever heard of Beijing Duck, and a sampling of the Beijing Opera. We were not that impressed with the duck, had better in Hong Kong, but lots of food so we didn't go away hungry.
The Opera was enjoyable. Saddly, still photographs with no sound do not do justice to the program.
One of the funnier parts of the program was this dance-sword fight routine that was suppose to be taking place in total darkness. In other words, the performers were not suppose to be seeing each other.
The last act involved the entire cast and was a fine finality.
And so it all came to an end. We were required to have our luggage in the corridor by 5 a.m. the next morning. We left the hotel around 7 a.m. with a box breakfast of some fruit, yogurt and juice. The Beijing International Airport was a nightmare. From the time we got in line to get our boarding pass until we got through security, it was 2 hours. No organization, Chinese cutting in line, crazy.
From Beijing, we had a short flight to Narita International, Tokyo, to change planes for Chicago O'hara. It was a long day.