Well we have completed our first day of touring and our second night of trying to sleep. The jet lag is subsiding and we can just about think clearly now.
We arrived in Beijing in mid-afternoon Sunday the 13 after a long but decent flight on Air Canada and were happy to be able to finally move our legs. The airport was huge but everything was spelled out in English as well as announcements and made it through Immigration and Customs without incident. Our Sinorama Tour Guide, Tina managed to nab us at the exit amongst the 100s of others holding up signs and although it took a while our van driver finally arrived and we were piled into the van for our one hour drive to the hotel. The smog was thick, and the traffic was atrocious- sort of like Trawna at rush hour except fewer Caucasians. Boy do those drivers have conjones- more on that later.
The hotel the Lijingwan is very nice with a very modern layout and facilities. Rooms were a bit warm as they are through the heating season, but not into the A/C season yet. We opened the window, smog and all. That meant leaving the drapes open, but we were on the 7th floor and too exhausted to care who might be peeping.
Had our first Chinese meal that evening and not sure what everything was but it was pretty darned good. Nothing ‘meowed’ and the digestive system did not rebel.
Monday a.m. we were up and wide awake by 1 a.m. and sat around until 6 when we ventured out for a short walk and then brekkie. It was delicious. Buffet, with everything imaginable. We tucked right in.
At 8 we were on the bus. Traffic was even worse if possible and these bus drivers-they have conjones the size of coconuts and can squeeze in, out, and around people, cars, bikes and rickshaws like formula one drivers. We never saw an accident the whole time which is simply amazing. The bus was a beautiful big coach and the cars are mostly big high end units. Haven’t seen that many Porches, BMWs, and Buick Lacrosses in forever.
It was a two hour drive out to the Great Wall on a multi-lane expressway. No potholes- Winnipeg eat your heart out. We only had 17 in our group and our guide Tina has excellent language skills and historical knowledge. The Great Wall was everything you could imagine except for the crowds- massive from all over the world. What a cacophony of languages and cultures. We were finished by noon and stopped for lunch at a factory which makes “Cloisonne” – intricately designed copperware and decorations – fired multiple times with different glazes. Priced anywhere from $10 to $100,000 each. Lunch was family style. They just keep bringing the dishes to the lazy susan and the beer in big bottles is filled without asking – very civilized I must say. The restaurant and factory were packed serving over 5000 for lunch.
Back on the expressway we made it on down the mountain to the area of the 13 Ming Dynasty tombs (Beijing lies on a plain with the Great wall about another 75 km up into some really rugged mountains. Like going from Calgary to Banff) The Ming tombs lay at the foot of a mountain and the cover 3 sq Km so only visit one. The artifacts were amazing and the history of the fate of the retainers and concubines interesting if somewhat gruesome. The emperor dies, pretty much everyone at hand goes down with the ship.
Had supper Peking Roast Duck back in Beijing. Delicious again and made it back to hotel where we collapsed into bed exhausted. Woke up several times after midnight but was thankful did not have to get up. Finally made it out of the sack by 5 a.m. and down to early brekkie- still excellent and ready to head out for another day shortly. More tomorrow.