Sunday, July 8, 2012

Beijing Day 2

Today is our final day, but by no means is it a day to relax.  Once again we set out early to beat the crowds.  Our first stop of the day was the Great Wall of China.  My goal was to hike as much of the wall as I could.  Because of the fog an the haze none of the conditions for photos was far less than ideal.  As I started out the mass of people climbing was shoulder to shoulder, at time you were practically climbing over people.  The climb is quite steep and people stopping and sitting on the steps to catch their breath and rest just thickens the people traffic jam.  Fortunately after the first two towers a lot of people think twice and go no further.  At this point the climb was still steep and taxing, but you had more room.  I continued for about an hour and made it to the final tower you were allow to go to.
Great Wall of China from tower #13
By the time I got there my shirt was literally drenched.  Fortunately I had a larger bottle of water with me.  All along the way Chinese people were stopping me so that they could take a picture with me.  Our guide told us that for many of them we could be the first white person they have seen.  I kinda felt like a celebrity.  I was happy to pose with them.  At the final tower I climbed to the top of the guard tower and there was a large group of Chinese students singing and enjoying themselves.  There joy was contagious.  I'm not saying life in China is easy but by far the happiest people I've encountered along this entire trip are the Chinese.  After a short stay at the top I started the trek down.  I was slick but pretty easy going until you run into the human mass now mostly going in the opposite direction.  I always though that the wall was to isolate themselves from the rest of the world.  In reality the wall never really accomplished that or did it stop Mongol invaders.  The mountains the wall is built over is far more of an obstacle than the wall itself.  I think that is what made it so impressive for me.  It was an exhausting climb but absolutely work it.  I just can't imaging doing this on a sunny day with the temperature at 100F and above.

Afterward we went to a factory where they make jade carvings.  In Chinese culture jade is a very prized material.  In the past it was valued more than gold.  I bought myself a small jade article.

Our final stop of the day was the Forbidden City.  I think I was looking forward to this the most and it certainly did not disappoint.  I was stunned by how large a complex it is.  The Forbidden City dates back to about the 13th century and was the home of the emperor.  You stand in the center of one grand court yard amazed by what you see around you.  The buildings are just amazing.
One of the palaces in the Forbidden City
Just when you think you've absorbed as much as you can you pass through a gate, at the far end, and on the other side is a new courtyard that is even more amazing.  And this pattern repeats itself several times over.  Once again the foggy conditions were not good for taking photos.  The haze would already start to obscure the opposite side of the courtyard.  This definitely rates towards the top for truly amazing things I've seen!

Just when I though my exotic food tasting was done I had one more interesting sampling.  We had donkey as one of our entrees for dinner.  My mom and I took a short walk around the hotel to spend our final final bit of Chinese money.

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