Monday, March 14, 2016

Beijing - Arrival night and first full Day Great Wall!

We are here!  13 hour plane ride went fairly quickly.  3 movies for me, 4 movies for Andre.  Dinner when we first got on the plane, noodles a few hours later, then an omelette or congee for breakfast?  We must have looked totally dumbstruck when asked for if we wanted congee for breakfast, found out it was like rice porridge, guess we will be seeing that a lot soon. Hi-lite of the flight was as we were approaching Beijing we could see the great wall of China from the air, very cool.  We also had some nice sunset or sunrise (not sure which as we never saw any night) over Northern Canada, somewhere that is definitely on our bucket list.

Next stop China!

Leaving Toronto

Sunrise or sunset?  We weren't sure as we never saw dark today

First view of China

So excited to see the Great Wall from the plane!

We were the only plane landed at our time, flew through customs, then last bag off the plane, of course!  Easy to find our transportation to the hotel, they have obviously done this many times before.  We are staying about 1 hour away from the airport, traffic was busy, but it was dark so not too exciting yet.  Plus we are so tired we dozed off a couple of times.  Only 7 of us were bused together, and none of us are on the same tours, this company has many tour options to choose from.

Our tour guide Bella was at the hotel waiting for us, so good to meet her.  There are 3 buses doing the same tour as us, at times they can have 12, wow.  There are 37 people on our bus.  We did meet one couple that is on the same bus as us.  They came down to front desk to say only one of their bags had arrived in the room.  The tour guide looked at her sheet and said it is one king.  They said, no they had 2.  She then asked for both of their rooms keys.  We were exchanging money right beside all this happening and realized a lost in translation was happening, she thought they wanted 2 beds, not one bed.  Anyway not so funny writing it, but it was funny at the time. 

Hotel Lobby

Went to our room, it is a very nice hotel, much nicer than we would ever book on our own.  I have no idea how they can keep this package as cheap as it is. There is an a la carte restaurant, so decided to go for a lite supper, we ended up just having egg drop/seaweed soup.  It has been ages since Andre made this, and I don't think he has ever put seaweed in it so quite yummy.  Every now and then you got a surprise of crunchy ginger, a mushroom, or something else we are not exactly sure what it was, maybe squid?  This restaurant had pictures beside lots of the menu options, or we would have been a little lost, not much English from the waitresses.  Supper total 6.00 including the tip.  I think this is the only meal we need to look after ourselves, the rest are included in the tour package.

There is some big convention of Chinese diplomats in town so we have been warned that traffic is going to be especially bad, but from what we have heard it is always bad.  One of the places we were supposed to be going tomorrow is closed because of the convention, so they have flipped our itinerary around and we are off to the Great Wall. So looking forward to this, it is going to be a beautiful day, but our guide said it will be cold, but we have packed warm clothes especially for this.

They are so organized the tour guide has arranged wake up calls for 6:30, breakfast starts at 6:00, bus leaves at 8:00.  Lets see how good we are at getting out of here on time!

So many apartment buildings, and so many looked empty!

What a day!!  First stop of the day was the Great Wall.  It is an absolutely beautiful day for this.  It is around 3 degrees when we start walking the wall.  The tour guide just walks you to the entrance and then shows you where we are to meet in 2 hours.  What a steep walk! You can choose to go the North or South towers, we choose the South as it is less crowded, but also steeper and not quite as easy.  What an understatement, I was not cold for long!  Lots of steps, and not at all even, no idea how the Chinese manage with their little short legs.  We took lots of stops and tried to really just enjoy the views.  We ran into quite a few people from our bus, and also others that we have met at the hotel now.  The part of the wall that we visited is the newer part, only 600 years old.  I was surprised to hear that the wall was over 1900 km's, it is not all joined, what a project it must have been!

Busier side, North Side, we walked the South side

View of North side of wall

This is what we walked up

Steep, steep, steep, pictures does not do it justice

After the wall we went to see how Cloisonne is made.  This will be the first of a few shopping stops I think the next couple of weeks.  It was a factory and we got very close to the workers to take pictures.  It was interesting to see the process, but so expensive, we did not leave with any purchases from here. 

We then had lunch upstairs in this same factory.  We think they must have some kind of deal, if we give your tour lunch you must leave them here for 1 hour after lunch to shop, because that is exactly what happened.  This is our first lunch that we had with table 7, I think we will be eating lunch and dinner with this group for the entire 15 days.  We are a mix of all ages on our tour bus.  There are 3 families with kids, and one elderly lady in a wheelchair that is one of the grandmothers.  It is March break in Ontario, and these families are all from Ontario.  The kids seem to be having lots of fun, today was fun with the wall, lets see how the rest of the week goes for them. 

Lunch today, we will eat with the same people at our table for lunch and dinner for the entire 2 weeks, mostly this style of a lazy susan that you spin around and take what you want.  Notice the size of the plates at our places~ we had lots of laughs over this

Restaurant for Lunch

Huge restaurant, you only see part of it here

Following lunch we went to the Ming Tombs.  Not sure what we were expecting, but it wasn't this.  There are 2 very nice buildings, but at the back under a hill with trees is where the tomb and palace are buried, they have never been excavated.

Ming tombs

This is the hill where the tombs are, never excavated

Great Grandma and great granddaughter from our tour bus,88 years old, wow

From here we did a special stop as it was not in our itinerary, a special stop as it was our first day, this is what we were told.  We stopped to see the Birds Nest, where they held the opening and closing ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.  We also walked to where the flame was.  This was an optional walk, I think only 8 of us went maybe, no guide came with us, but we were given 45 minutes to go and explore.  Another couple are also fast walkers so we hung out together, we told him he was the tour guide but he should have brought our Sinorama flag with the Panda on top.  We have 2 guides with us on our tour now, Bella our tour guide will be with us the entire trip, and Peggy who is our Beijing tour guide.  They are both very good.  In all cities we will have a local guide join us. On our little walk we saw all these empty little bottles that looked like milk but the vendor told us it was yogurt, asked the guide if it was OK for us to try she said yes, it was kind of like a greek yogurt that we drank through a straw.  We feel super safe and will not get sick because the lid was attached by the highly secure elastic band! 

Scooters everywhere, check out the gloves that most everyone had attached to their handle bars, we called them oven mitts!

Yogurt we tried, nice secure elastic band on the top

Olympic Park, hotels are shaped like a dragon

Birds Nest in Beijing, opening and closing ceremonies from Olympics held here

Another Olympics coming in winter 2022


Following this stop by the Olympic Park we went to a tea ceremony.  Our second shopping stop for the day.  It was interesting, they taught us how to hold our tea cups, which were the tiniest cups ever, and what the 5 different teas are used for.  Jasmine is the tea of choice in Beijing, different regions have different favourites.  We also were introduced to the pee pee boy, they pour hot water in this little boy figure and if he pees it is hot enough. 

Puer Tea - supposed to be the best tea for us

Tea ceremony

Tea for sale

Tonight was also our Peking Duck dinner.  We learnt the proper way to eat peking duck, you get a thin pancake/crepe, you put the duck on that, then some julienne onions and cucumber, and a brown sauce, you roll this up in your crepe and eat it like a wrap.  So now we know if we are ever served this again we will expect it the traditional way.  Bella has been to the US before and told us she went to a Chinese restaurant and had no idea what some of the food was.  So far we have seen a Subway, McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, and drove by Walmart tonight on the way home. 

Peking Duck

Olympic flame

A great day, we were out for more than 12 hours on the road, It is now a little after 10 and bed time.  Tomorrow is another early start at 7:45.  19,265 steps today, lets see if I pass that tomorrow!

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