Sunday, November 15, 2009

Beijing (Day 3)

When we booked our Great Wall excursion, we had many choices to choose from. We had decided to first choose a part of the wall that was not going to be overcrowded. Seeing as it was their National holiday weekend, we did not want to be walking the wall alongside the entire population of China. So we decided on the Mutianyu section of the wall. Our next decision was whether we wanted to have shopping included or excluded. The shopping with, was cheaper than the shopping without. We did not quite grasp why it was cheaper for shopping than without, but we chose with, because it was cheaper. I know, cheapskates.
Our driver and tour guide arrived bright and early and we headed off for a great Chinese sightseeing day. We were driven in a small van and were accompanied by four other foreigners. Our first stop was at a jade factory. It was there where we realized what the shopping meant. The shopping included, simply meant that the tour guide would take us places and people would try and sell us stuff. With the exception of having to stay at the jade place for 45 minutes, it was not too bad. We did confirm that we still think Jade is tacky, but at least we understand the historical significance behind the jewelry in China.
After the jade place we headed to the Ming tombs. The Ming tombs were included in our Great Wall package and I for one was really excited to see them. Over the rule of the Ming Dynasty the Emperors were buried after death in an area just north of Beijing. They built tombs for themselves similar to the Egyptians. However unlike the Egyptians they were nothing like the pyramids. There are only three tombs open to the public of the 13. The tomb we went to was actually not too breath taking. It was merely another small palace, much like many we had already seen. It was fully equiped with several buildings and a water way, along with a sacrificial temple. The tomb itself was underneath the temple and we were unable to see it, mainly because it is still buried and untouched.
After the Ming Tombs we headed to the Great Wall. We had a delicious Chinese lunch at the base of the wall. The restaurant was nice and the food was amazing. It was starting to get a little warm so we made sure to buy some water before our hike. Hike? Yep, you read correctly, hike. I know most of you are thinking Latanya=Hike, no way, right. Well we both decided that we came all the way to the Great Wall of China, and there was no way that we want to take a cable car to the top. I mean what kind of story would that be.
This portion of the wall sat a top the mountain side. It curved its way across the Chinese terrain. We started our accent and made a good pace for ourselves. It was not an easy hike by any means and we were feeling the burn about ten minutes in. The trail had steps all the way up that were really steep. We made sure to take a little break here and there. Over all it was about a 30 minute hike. Our tour guide told us it was a 45 minute hike, so we felt accomplished to do it in 30.
Once we arrived at the base of the wall we were taken back. We just kept looking at the wall for a couple of minutes. We could not believe where we were. As a kid you learn about the Great Wall of China in books and even as a non history buff one understands the historical and cultural significance it has. We were actually here. Actually at the base. We then eagerly made our way on to the wall itself. Once atop we had a view unlike any we had ever seen before. The country side was absolutely beautiful. We could see the wall curve its way through the mountainous contour. The wall went as far as the eye could see. We were pleased to see not a huge crowd of people. This was exactly what we wanted. We wanted an experience special in the way that could not be interrupted by mobs of tourists.
We started to make our way to the different towers. We found a cannon facing towards Mongolia and I could not pass up such a perfect photo opportunity. As we hiked along the wall we kept reminding ourselves that we were on the The Great Wall of China. It was an accomplishment. I had always envisioned seeing the Great Wall but actually being there was nothing like I would have ever dreamed. We were thrilled with excitement and satisfaction.
We walked the wall for about an hour we said good bye and made our way down the steep path. It was still rather warm but the tree lined path kept it cool. Once down at the bottom we met up with the rest of our tour and headed back to Beijing.
We had one more stop before our hotel. We stopped at a silk factory, where we learned all about the silkworm and silk. We were again propositioned to buy, but we knew it was a huge tourist trap.
Our tour guide then took us to a tea house, where we had a lovely tea ceremony. We got to sample several different teas. They again tried to sell us tea. We gladly took our free samples and enjoyed the information.
After the tea we were able to get a foot massage and learn about herbal medicine. We sat down in a small room and one by one everyone got a wonderful foot massage. But wait, not exactly everyone. We all had our feet soaked in warm water and when it was my turn the staff was starting to pack up for the end of the day. I, awaiting eagerly, just thought they needed to get some more towels, or maybe some more warm water. The masseuse came back and asked me to take my feet out of the water. I thought, yes, finally. She then proceeded to ask me to kindly dry my feet, and she removed the bowl. I asked the herbal Dr. in charge, if I was going to get a foot massage. She laughed and walked away. It's not often that you can get mad at not getting a free foot massage, but I was. I was more disappointed than anything. I had been saying all weekend that my feet were hurting; Latanya can attest. Everyone else got one but me. I told our tour guide and he was shocked. I figured since the place was closing and everyone was done, I did not want to try and make everyone wait on me. So as sad as I was Latanya promised to give my feet a rub down back at the hotel. What a great wife.
We then were dropped off at our hotel. We made arrangements to eat with one of the ladies on our tour. She was really nice. She was from England and lived and worked in Shanghai. We took a stroll to see the street eats. We walked through a long row of street food stands. They had everything you could imagine. They had: fried starfish, dumplings, snake, eel, scorpion, seahorse, silkworms, sheep testicles and much much more. We decided on some delicious dumplings. After our appetizers we made our way to a local Chinese restaurant. It was quite busy so we new it must be good, and it certainly was. We had some nice conversation with our new friend and then said good night. We went back to the hotel to turn in and I cashed in on the free foot massage; oh how I needed it. The next day was our last full day of Beijing and we still had some more sights to see.