By: Ashley C. Trube – Saturday, March 26th, 2016
Hey, guys! Ashley here blogging to you from the Heart of China – Beijing. After yesterday’s adventure touring the Hu Xueyan Mansion, a silk museum, and Hangzhou’s West Lake, we arrived at the airport to fly to Beijing around 4 p.m. Unfortunately, we were told that we wouldn’t be able to even check our bags until two hours before our flight (which was at 8:30), so we took the liberty of exploring the airport. Because it was already too late, I decided to eat dinner at a small noodle restaurant in the airport. Fortunately, Laoshi (Ms. Harding) accompanied me to go buy food, because not a single person in the restaurant spoke English. I have very limited Chinese skills thanks to Laoshi (I am in Chinese 1), who even taught me a few important words while I have been in China. Most importantly, she taught me how to bargain. Another change I have faced in China so far has been mastering the art of using chopsticks. It was a miracle that I have received anything to eat this entire trip, but at least that one time I managed not to spill everything and make a fool of myself. After dinner, I boarded the plane and we flew to Beijing. Arriving at around 11:45, all of us were wiped. We headed back to the hotel and I decided to go straight to sleep.
The next morning at 8 a.m., we woke up and started downstairs for our breakfast. When you are at a Holiday Inn in the United States, you don’t really expect much out of the “continental” breakfasts, but this was completely different. All of the foods had English labels at breakfast, but most of what I ate this morning were foods that I will probably never know the name of. We then had a team meeting in the lobby with our new tour guide, Jenny, before getting on the bus. We drove out to Tianten Park to visit the Temple of Heaven. Jenny taught us that the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties would use the sacred grounds to offer sacrifices to the gods and to pray for good harvests for the coming year.
From there, we walked out to the bus on the other side of the park, and we drove an hour and a half to a small cafe (Spring Restaurant) that doubled as an indoor garden. There, we ate tomato and eggs, vegetable dishes, and crispy pork. We took a short ten minute bus ride to an area near the Great Wall of China, then exited the bus and walked. We boarded yet another bus that took us to a ski lift up to the top of the Great Wall. After what seemed like a very long trip in the open ski lift (I rode with Laoshi, who is afraid of heights), we arrived to the bottom of the Great Wall of China. After climbing the stairs to the top (about 15 minutes), I could see everything in the surrounding basin. When traveling to China, I expected the Great Wall to be like most other places I have already visited: not as great and grand as I expected it to be. But when I first climbed to the top and looked down from the Wall, I realized that this was entirely different. It completely surpassed my expectations.
When Papa T and I reached the second checkpoint on the Wall, we decided to turn around and head back. Before we went back down, we both bought very overpriced ice cream from a kind Chinese vendor. When we finally found the rest of the group, they also ran to grab ice cream because the day was unusually hot. As a group, we decided to take a toboggan down to the bottom where the buses were waiting. I didn’t have any reservations about this until I actually saw the toboggan run – full of tight turns on a metal track that was stuffed with people. Of course the Kuhl brothers tried their hardest to stall getting on the run (untying and retying their shoes and pretending to be scared) so that they could go full speed without running into anyone. Eventually, we slided down safely to meet our tour guide. I walked through the pedestrian street where vendor sold overpriced souvenirs and bargained for several people to get cheap items. Three hats and fifteen minutes later, we finally made it back to the bus. On the way back to central Beijing, we were able to view the Olympic village, with its swimming area and the Nest. We continued on to Beijing Duck, where we ate the world famous Peking duck.
After our wonderful meal, all of us were ready to go back to the hotel. Some of us wanted to get in the pool, but apparently you needed a swim cap. It has been a very long day today, but my biggest takeaway has been to never assume something will be a certain way, because you are usually proved wrong.
n.b. You can see our pictures from the previous blog post.