GD: We finally made it to Beijing after a short flight although delayed from Chengdu
. We took the airport express train built for the Olympics in 2008 into Beijing center and caught the metro to the stop next to our hostel. The airport express train was nice but there was no place to put our bags. It didn't matter to anyone else since nobody seemed to have any, apparently they just like going to and from the airport. The next day we went to the forbidden city built by the third emperor of the Ming dynasty. It seemed like at least half the 1.4 billion Chinese people were there as well. The crowd seemed to all follow a straight line through the city so we just went off to the right to escape the masses. We wandered for hours not sure what anything was but read the few signs that were in English to find out. We ended our tour with the gardens at the north end of the giant palace. Here people were carrying steaming boxes of rice and fill in the blank back to there families for lunch. We fought our way back through the crowds to the front so that we could go to Tienanmen Square across the street from the forbidden city. Tienanmen Square wasn't what we expected. Most sites were closed since it was Monday.
We booked a tour to the Great Wall for the next day. It wasn't really the tour we wanted since it included the Ming Tombs but it seemed that most tours did the same itinerary. We got on the bus at 7:30 AM and were the first group picked up. It took 2 and a half hours to pick up the other 8 people in our group
. The fist stop was the Ming Tombs. There are 13 tombs altogether, but we only visited one. It was the largest and oldest of the tombs. Here the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty was buried with his wife and dozen or so concubines. Next we went to a jade factory for a little shopping and lunch. The guide book warned that many tours include these 'factory tours' to get people into the shops. There was very little factory and mostly showroom. I'm sure the four jade carvers they showed working stop once the tourist go past. The lunch was very good though with many Chinese dishes to try.
Finally we were on our way to one of the seven wonders, the Great Wall. We went the Badaling section of the Great Wall which is the best preserved and most popular part. The guide informed us that it would take 3.5 hours to walk to the the top. Since we only had 2 hours to enjoy this wonder, it was no wonder that everyone decided to take the cable cars to the top instead. This part of the wall is on top of a mountain range and has steep inclines as it twists and turns from peak to peak and through valleys. After having been sunny all day,it was a bit of a wonder when it started to rain while we were at the wall. Visibility was down to maybe a mile as we could see the wall disappear into the clouds.
TB: Being that a seven wonder exists near Beijing I thought there would be tour companies, info, and brochures about tours, silly me I forgot that I was in China
. We didn't have time to shop around for tours, which are mostly offered by your hotel, and I was disappointed that we got stuck with the "best avoidable" kind. The next day on the way to the Summer Palace we ran into a Dutch couple (because we were lost, apparently the bus they tell you to take is incorrect) So we got onto another bus and the bus attendant actually told us when to get off...thank you kindly! But we were still lost and no signage, so we acquired the help of some Chinese people to help us on our way. The Summer Palace was crazy busy and nothing at all like on "Samantha Brown" and there was a lot of fog. The place was ginormous, we saw the Marble Boat, some gardens, and temple. It took an hour and a half to get there (18 km away) it always takes forever to get around using the metro + bus.
TB:We took a flight from Chengdu to Beijing arriving in the afternoon. They have a brand new Airport Express Train built for the 2008 Olympics. We took advantage of the cheaper transportation and then transferred to another Metro Line and got off conveniently in front of our hostel. We met Alex from Maine at the hostel and he invited us to accompany him to dinner, he picked up Chinese while living in Shanghai teaching English. How the hell you just "pick up" Chinese is beyond us. We went to a small restaurant in the back alleyway and ordered several dishes and lots of beer, all were cheap and very yummy. We have been scared to go into restaurants by ourselves, as we were ill prepared with no translation card and no one speaks English and its rare to find a picture menu. We have frequented McDonalds, sad to say, and we have never eaten McyD's as much as we have since traveling. Note to self: bring picture cards of food or learn Chinese.