My sister, Karen, paid us a visit for a couple of weeks so it was a good excuse to go to Beijing. I know, everybody wonders how we have been in China for four years without ever going to its cultural hub. It was a great place with lots to see but everywhere we went, people tried to rip us off. The taxis were the worst. We had to be really careful to remember to insist they put their meters down or we were taken for a ride in more ways than one. That is one thing we never have to worry about here in Wuhan. It seems that in these tourist places, the locals seem to think that every Westerner has “stupid” stamped across their forehead.
We took the subway from the airport and transferred to Line 2. I think this is the most people we have seen since we have lived in Asia. The Beijing population certainly hits you in the face. There are a lot of people in this city! We had great instructions to get to our hostel but our best laid plans went out the window when the train whizzed by our intended stop because the station was closed for the day for some reason. We got off at the next stop and after a little walk-about, hopped into a motorcycle cab and started off towards the hostel address The driver really didn’t know where he was going and after winding through a few back alleys, dropped us off in the middle of a hutong, telling us the building in front of us was our hostel. We knew it wasn’t but got out and started walking in the direction we thought we should be going. Luckily, we ran into some English speaking tourists who knew where the place was and walked us to the front door.
The 365 Inn was a great little place with a public bar/restaurant on the first floor. It was located on a popular street with lots of interesting shops. The Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square were both within easy walking distance.
The next day we picked up Karen at the airport and gave her a night to recuperate before tackling The Forbidden City. The following day we spent a couple of hours there which was enough for us. We saw the wonderful Ceramics Hall and the “treasures”. As an ex-potter,it was great to see so many ancient ceramic pieces that I had only seen in books up untlil now.. The Forbidden City is huge and takes a long time to see everything.
The next morning, Karen and I headed for The Great Wall as part of a tour. There are several sections you can choose from to visit and we picked Mutianyu. It is a little further away from the city but much less crowded. We had been so hot for the last couple of days we headed out in our shorts and t-shirts without any sort of jacket. As the bus climbed higher into the mountains and the cloud cover increased, we knew we would freeze if we didn’t buy sweatshirts. Of course, the only things for sale were souvenir jackets and hoodies at exorbitant tourist prices when we got off the bus. I reached deep for my bargaining experience and was pretty successful. Our sweatshirts were priced at 180 RMB each but I got two for a total of 140.
We were taken to the base of the wall by chairlift. When people say they “climbed” the great wall, they are not kidding. This section was not an easy romp. There were lots of stairs culminating at the end of the section with “the four hundred stairs”. Some of the stairs were pretty short, others were made for giants. I can’t imagine how the guards of past years patrolled the wall laden down with God knows what. There were parts that were so steep that we had to clamour up with our hands on the stairs. We had abouot 3 and a half hours to get to the end and back for lunch at 1:30 at a nearby restaurant.
The scenery was pretty spectacular and the wall really is the 8th wonder of the world. It took us a couple of days before we felt back to normal. Out of shape or what…..