Monday, August 27, 2012

China: Beijing, Day 3

Ok, it's been almost 2 months since my last post-- way too long. To catch you up, three girlfriends and I took a chance on a Living Social 8-Day Trip to China (Beijing and Xian) back in April of this year. Our bold move paid off, the trip was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had. Day 1 and Day 2 can be found here and here.

Day 3 was my favorite day. We left the hotel at 7.45a and went straight to the Temple of Heaven which is Beijing's equivalent to New York's Central Park or Japan's Yoyogi Park. Vicky (our tour guide) was telling us that many young adults here don't want to have kids. Instead, they want to focus on their careers and "enjoy their lives." These young adults travel a lot or leave China all together leaving their parents alone. So many of the parents like to go to this park, Temple of Heaven, where they are able to meet friends, exercise and take in Chi (energy) from nature.

The park was packed with locals and foreigners engaging in a variety of different activities: a Chinese game like hackie sack, tai chi, and badminton. Most were just walking around like us, taking in the sights and admiring the perfectly manicured gardens.

// the photo is a bit blurry and it looks like a double exposure, but ladies, this is how you go to the bathroom in China (it's the same way in Japan) //

// a bike with a wheelchair attached to it...genius //

// these traditional Chinese hats saved the day (later in this post) //

We stayed at The Temple of Heaven for about an hour then we hopped back onto the tourbus and began our journey to the Great Wall of China. We drove through the traffic of Beijing which is comparable, if not worse than that of LA for about an hour and a half then stopped at a government owned jade factory. Admiring the architecture of the buildings in Beijing made the long bus ride not so bad.

// not jealous of those guys //

Jade is to the Chinese as diamonds are to Americans. According to our tour guide, the Chinese didn't know what diamonds were until the 80's. We got a very quick lesson on jade, then we're encouraged to look around the showroom of the factory to purchase some of the jade goods sold there. Once released from the tour guide, the saleswomen flock to you and haggle you to buy, it's really uncomfortable!

// jade phone //

Stop #3 was the cloisonné factory where we learned how traditional Chinese enamelware is made. Cloisonné is an everlasting art that is loved by the Chinese. Cloisonné was at one time only used for the royal families, it's a symbol of authority and status.

Upstairs from the cloisonne factory is a Chinese restaurant, Jindian Restaurant, where we had lunch. A restaurant on top of a factory? Yeah, we were skeptical at first as well...but it ended up being quite good. All of our meals included a glass of free soda or beer. A glass of water on the other hand-- that will cost you. This meal in particular included some 56% alcohol by volume "fire water" which we took shots of from little mini chalices. Free hard alcohol + Shopping = Smart Move (for the business). We got a little buzz going then they gave us some time to peruse the goods and of course,  we wanted (and did) buy everything!

// 'resraurant' //

// le fire water //

// le mini chalice //

// the artist and me //

Many yuan (Chinese currency) later and we're back on the bus to endure our final 45 minute drive to the Great Wall. As we made our way through the mountains we were able to see our first glimpses of the's absolutely breathtaking and impossible to describe. This 6,000 mile Wonder of the World took 800,000 men 200 years to build. Its essentially double the distance from LA to NY. There are no words to describe how expansive and majestic The Great Wall of China is. Once we arrived we had about 2 hours to climb the wall and explore. It was probably in the high 80's if not low 90's and there is barely any shade on the wall. Thank goodness for the traditional Chinese straw hats Jax wanted to buy earlier at the park, these provided some protection from the blazing hot sun that was beating down upon us.

The climb was comprised of different sets of very steep, stone stairs which ascend to watch-out towers. Every couple of stairs you had to stop to catch your breath, the combination of the incline and sun were almost unbearable. We went pretty far then stopped to take some pictures which gathered a crowd of Chinese men who sat on the stairs and watched these four sweaty American girls jump off of the stairs to attempt to catch that perfect "jump" shot. There was also some Kung-fu fighting and various yoga poses because, well, we were on the Great Wall of China and you couldn't just take a normal photo!

At this time of year, 6 out of 10 tourists visiting these popular Tourist destinations are Chinese citizens that live in the countryside, many are not accustomed to seeing foreigners, especially tall blond ones! They wanted to take pictures with us and after about 10 minutes of taking photos we began our decent. With uncontrollably shaking legs and a trail of men asking us to stop to take pictures every couple of steps we finally made it to the bottom, safe and victorious.

Happily back on the tour bus, it was a 2 hour ride from the Great Wall to the world famous Peking Duck restaurant where we dined on-- Peking Duck of course. This restaurant has 300 locations worldwide, as you can imagine, the duck was delicious.

Full and exhausted we came back to our hotel and went up to the 28th floor to enjoy a nightcap at their rotating rooftop bar which gave us a 360 degree view of the city of Beijing which stretches 100 miles by 120 miles.

Our elaborate plans to go sing karaoke and stay out til 2a were never executed, but I think it's safe to say we were all very content when our heads hit the pillow.

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