So our trip begins in Beijing

Trip Start Dec 04, 2006
Trip End Aug 05, 2007

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Friday, December 8, 2006

Nathan here. Well, we made it. The flight from Ottawa to Chicago was a piece of cake. Although we had a somewhat significant delay in Chicago, as our 747 required maintenance. As my friend Max would say, "I'm just a guy, but that's not exactly what you want to hear before you cross the Pacific." Things got even better after we boarded the plane when the pilot indicated a further delay to our departure because one of the engines wouldn't start. Nice.
Fortunately, the 13 hour flight passed quickly and we arrived safely. [Insert thanks to United Airlines]. Cleared Cutoms without any trouble and easily met our driver from the hostel we had booked at Our room is quite large, clean and cold. Tara would also like to add that the bed is very hard. I think someone forgot to put the mattress on top of the box spring. Seriously though, no major complaints as the staff have been great in terms of giving us directions, organizing trips, providing translation etc. We've been quite busy so, in a nutshell, here's what we've seen...

Spent the first day visiting Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City which is in the heart of Beijing.

We gave public transportation a go and it worked like a charm. The Square was exactly how I pictured it having seen footage on tv and in magazines. Essentially its one large expansive square with Memorial Hall at one hand (where Chairman Mao's body is kept) and the Forbidden City at the other. Lots of people walking around, people flying fancy kites, etc. Just spent a few minutes here before moving over to the Forbidden City. Constructed in the 1400s, it is rectangular in shape and is apparently the world's largest palace complex at aproximately 74 hectares. It is surrounded by a six meter deep moat and a ten meter high wall and there are 9,999 buildings (9 is a number of special significance to the Chinese).

The next day we took a trip to the Great Wall. Now, there are many options for those wanting to see this unbelievable piece of architecture. One the one hand, you can view sections of the wall that have been repaired, or you can go to see the real thing so to speak. We chose the latter. Our hostel had a tour that was quite reasonable so we signed up. We left the hostel at 6h45am and boarded a bus for a 3hour drive to Jinshanling. We hiked approximately 8-9kms along the wall until we reached the village of Simitai. The experience was extradordinary. At most, there was a dozen of us on the wall and this section is so far removed from the city that all you see is wall, mountain and sky.

Fortunately for us, the sky was mostly clear and blue, which was a surprise because Beijing had been grey up to that point. I was pretty gung-ho about seeing this section of the wall, but I must admit that it was a real challenge. The hike featured some very challenging ups and downs, again and again. Safe to say that our legs were jellow by the end, but still worth the effort.

After the Wall, we came back to our room for a quick rest before seeing a performance by the China National Acrobatic Troupe. Again, this was arranged by our hostel. Very entertaining. The skill level of the young, and at times very young, performers was very close to what you would find at a Cirque de Soleil show.
Third day was spent at the Summer Palace but more on that in the next post. The plan at this point is to head to Xian on Sunday to see the famous Terra Cotta Warriors. Then we're off to Chendu on Monday to see the Pandas.

On a final note, we have the following funny stories to share...
#1. When we arrived at the airport to leave Ottawa, I thought I'd enjoy a final carton of milk before the big trip. I took one sip and it was so chunky I could have flossed. Absolutely disgusting. So I went back to the lady at Second Cup and she apologized and gave me another one. I started to walk back to Tara, who was standing in line to check in, and I took one sip and spat it all out. Sour, sour, sour. I returned and the lady apologized again and offered me another. At this point, I'm like "no." I asked for my money back and suggested that they stop selling milk. Yuck.

2#. As we were flying to Chicago, we had to pass through US security at the Ottawa airport. Like most travelling Canadians, I had a flag on my daypack. One of the American security officials pointed at the flag and asked if I was in the military. I said no. He then asked why the flag on the bag. I said it was because I didn't want to be confused with being an [pause] Australian. It was all Tara could do not to crack up. I didn't have the heart to tell him. I'm sure the Australians can read between these lines.

3.# Cossing streets in Beijing reminds of the old video game Frogger, only the skill level required to survive here is extreme. Tara and I have taken to following the locals, especially the older ones. Seems to me they might know a thing or two about getting across safely.

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mljholton on

hi mom and dad
Glad to hear that the plane got you there safely. Already your trip sounds really interesting.It is great to be able to read and see the pictures. However, there is no mention of food in your blog? Nala is lying on the patio door mat in the sun trying to sleep. We have been busy since you left. Your dad went to supply teach on Monday and I went to Cosco with Wendy and Steve to spend what he was earning . I invited them in for a drink when water suddenly began to pour out of the potlights unto the island. It was loaded with my purchases so everyone rushed to move the stuff while Laura ran for pails and your dad to the ensuite bathroom. We are now looking for a new sink and toilet. We also had to run out and look for a Xmas tree as ours bit the dust. Take care.

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