|From Eric's Pics|
This is the first post I’ve been able to do since July 28. For some reason, our wireless hasn’t worked in Beijing and Xi’an at some pretty decent places; but out here in the wilderness at a little village inn, it works great. Go figure. Nonetheless, this post will be rather long to catch everyone up on our adventures since our first day in Beijing…
Wednesday, July 29
We woke up early to catch a private taxi (minivan) to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China. First, however, we stopped by the Olympic Village for pictures of the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube. It was hazy and smoggy, but the pictures were enough to see. Great venue and we can tell that China planned it quite well.
Our next stop was the Summer Palace. We had all taken Dramamine prior so we wouldn’t get sick from the curvy roads, so we were all quite drowsy at the Summer Palace. We walked along the man made lake and finally saw the Marble Boat before exiting early. Our driver was shocked we made it through in such a quick time, but the Summer Palace is so large, it is difficult to see everything anyway, so we just hit the highlights and went on through. We all knew the best part of the day was coming up.
After a quick brunch at McDonald’s (yeah I know, but you eat what you can), then we all napped on the way to the Great Wall. The Mutianyu section is about 2 hours outside of Beijing and much less crowded than the famous Badaling section, but the views are amazing. You have your option to either hike up to the wall or take about a 4 minute cable car to the top. We opted for the cable car, but walking up the steep slope even to it will just about get you out of breath.
It is hard to describe the Great Wall of China, and I certainly cannot do so on this blog. It is simply something that everyone must experience. You can go to either of our albums and catch the many pictures that we took or you can email or call any of us and ask. Most people just assume that the feeling is indescribable. The day we went was pretty hazy, so the visibility wasn’t really all that great, but the experience is still amazing.
After napping again on the ride home after a long day, we ate dinner at the café next to the hostel and rested up preparing for what would come the next day.
Thursday – July 30
This was our last day in Beijing. It was supposed to be a full day of activities and then an overnight train ride to Xi’an, but the soft sleeper cars of the train was booked solid and none of us wanted to sit for 15 hours on a hard seat on a train. We opted for an afternoon flight to Xi’an instead.
First, however, we went shopping at a rather large market. It has a name that has escaped me, but they call it a Pearl Market. Mom and Samantha enjoyed shopping and bargaining there, while I learned a little bit about how they conduct business after I bought a new memory card for my camera – 8 gig sweet! We decided to skip the Silk Market and instead eat a great lunch at the Hard Rock Café Beijing. Most Beijingers (not sure what a native is called, but I made this up – perhaps Beijingites?) The only sour point of this was that Dad lost his wallet. I guess it happens to everyone, but it is especially frustrating on a trip. Luckily, a vast majority of his money wasn’t in there and the credit card was canceled promptly.
Afterward, we took a couple of cabs to the airport for our flight to Xi’an, where we finally arrived and settled into our hostel – Shuyuan International Youth Hostel sometime around 9:00. For this first night, we had a 6 bed dormitory and shared the room with an Australian passing through. Nice guy.
A final note about Beijing Backpacker Hostel. It is in the middle of the hutongs and we found it especially difficult to find a cab that would be willing to take us directly to the hostel. Most, if any, would drop us off at the nearest street entering the hutongs but then you had to talk another ½ mile to get to the hostel. No big deal, but Dad’s knees were killing him quite a bit and that extra ½ mile or so was difficult many times for him especially after walking around all day.
I’m going to break up this post into another post to discuss Xi’an. As always, check out the photo albums posted to see all of the pictures.