Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Come To The Great Wall...We Welcome You

July 9, 2012
JW Marriott Beijing

I'm starting to win the battle with Jet Lag and after awaking at 5:45 am I was ready for my day. It started with the amazing JW breakfast buffet, which rivals any buffet I've ever enjoyed. With both Western and Chinese options, one could be there for days, but since I had a tour scheduled for 7:00am I could only enjoy it for 30 minutes.

Today's tour was highlighted by a visit to the Great Wall of China, one of the 7 wonders of the world. Thrown in were stops at Ming's tomb, a government run jade factory / store and a visit to a government run silk museum / store. Being the government subsidizes so many operations here, our tour group of 11 people paying $50 each were definitely assisted by our friends in the government as the tour was 9 hours long and included lunch. Lord only knows how much the bus driver and tour guide made... my guess is not too much.

So our group consisted of a couple from New Zealand, a Chinese guy from Winnipeg, a family of four from Paris, a guy from Munich, myself and a snooty couple from Fresno... yes Fresno. I think they were embarassed when I asked them where they were from and I told them I was from SLO and they were from "the valley".

So the tour began with the bus making 4 pickups at various hotels in the city... this took 90 minutes as traffic was similar to driving in a packed parking lot. We finally picked up everyone and our tour guide "LISA", introduced herself and talked about the beauty of Beijing in a straight forward and rough around the edges kind of way.

Beijing is actually an amazingly green city with manicured lawns, tons of trees and shrubbery everywhere. The problem is that the polution is so bad and the sky is a constant haze, it's difficult to appreciate all of the work they do to try and keep the place looking good.

Our first stop was Mings Tombs. This wasn't the most exciting of stops, but it was on the way and thus convenient for our group. After the tomb, we headed to the Jade Factory which was crazy. You could buy Jade formed into pretty much anything you dreamed off... if you do dream of jade. We were forced to mill around the huge warehouse for 30 minutes before they served us a complimentary and customary Chinese lunch...which as you all know, know matter how much Chinese food you eat, you'll be hungry again in an hour. True!

Following lunch we reboarded our bus, with Mr. Li behind the wheel. With over 10 years experience Mr. Li was considered a "Master" driver which I guess we all felt lucky about. Our next stop was the Badaling section of the Great Wall.

The Great Wall is one of the 7 wonders of the world and until you get the first glimpse of it, you don't really know what to expect. However when you see the huge wall canvasing the rolling mountains you can't help to be impressed by the shere magnitude of the project. We boarded a cable car to take us the 10 minutes up the mountain to where we'd climb onto the Great Wall. The cable car was a little sketchy in that probably was 20+ years old and never been refurbished or possibly checked for safety. However we reached our destination on only on the ride down did I notice a 950 pound limit for the 6 passengers. I don't know what the average weight is these days, but to try and find 6 people that weigh under 160 pounds is a tough task unless you're packing in a bunch of Chinese gymnasts in the cable car.

The Wall was impressive and this section of the wall is visited by over 20,000 tourists per day. So there were people everywhere and photos were in strong supply... check out the flower / flower / flower ensemble below. The Chinese believe that you can wear three different floral prints as long as they don't match. Very pretty I should say1

After two hours on the Wall, we headed back down on the Cable Car and returned to our bus for the 30 mile trip back to the Beijing parking lot / freeway system. Along the way we stopped at a silk museum...which was a waste of time, but par for the course.

We finally returned home at 5:15pm, just a tad over 10 hours since departure. A long day no doubt.

Feeling like a sweaty pig, I needed a trip to the pool and spa for a quick swim, hot tub and shower. 30 minutes later I was feeling like a million bucks and returned to my friends at the executive lounge for a nice buffet dinner.

Day #2 in Beijing was in the books and tomorrow I'm on my way to Hong Kong.

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