Day 1 Arriving in Beijing -
We flew in from LA at noon after leaving our house at 7:45 to get to Beijing. We ended up getting tickets for $450 round trip which is often cheaper than flying to Hawaii. It was an uneventful 12.5 hour flight where they fed us 3 times (big difference from domestic flights.
Here is a sample of one of our inflight meals. It was pretty relaxing and we got to sleep, read and watch a few movies.
We got to our hotel within an hour of Joel and Virginia. Since the dollar is strong here our hour taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was like $7.00. We stayed at the Crown Plaza - Beijing downtown. We didn't mind taking cars to get around because it was easy to pick up a taxi and inexpensive. The only challenge was that none of the drivers knew English so we had to use Google translate a lot and learn to pull up the Chinese character name of where we wanted to go (which we didn't initially think about but made sense).
We noticed that in our hotel everything was lower to the ground. Perfect height for Jeff and Ashley. The population generally was shorter that most Americans. I noticed that the older generation was much shorter but the younger generation seemed to be taller (maybe better diet and healthcare?).
We walked along Wangfujing Street to the night market and had some interesting food. We briefly went in some shops that Ashley wished we would have bought something at but we were tired and hungry so we didn't stay super long. Looking back later this area would've been the best places to shop, but we didn't know it at the time.
This was a Christian church that we passed. We didn't see many Christian churches while we were in China.
Wangfujing street was like an outdoor mall with a lot of new shops and a big mall but also had a famous old school night market.
There was quite a few people out with us. We actually saw a dwarf 2 times and Ashley and Jeff walked closer to greet them and they didn't seem interested in being talked to and slipped away, ha ha. Ashley and Jeff got a lot of attention in China but as Americans we all got a lot of attention and each of us at some point had someone want to take our picture at least once.
This was the entrance to the night market.
When we walked in one of the first stalls were selling scorpions! Some of them were still alive! I guess eating a scorpion was on Ashley's bucket list for some reason (it isn't on mine).
Before we left the market she ended up eating one (I have the video posted on Facebook). Blah! Jeff ate one too. She gave the last one (I didn't want it) to Joel who had eaten them before. We watched him eat it too but Ashley caught him palming it and not actually swallowing it, ha ha. She called him out on it but he said it didn't taste fresh and he didn't want to get sick, luckily nobody got sick from eating it.
We weren't really interested in eating bugs for dinner so we found a food place and ate local food, noodles and dumplings and Chinese hamburgers which were like pulled pork sandwiches. We didn't realize then but those would be the best Chinese hamburgers we had. The pulled pork sandwiches were the best portable food that was widely available while we were traveling (eating a bowl of soup and dumplings on the go isn't easy) but most of them were dry and didn't really have any seasoning like these ones did.
We were all tired from jet lag so once we ate we were ready to go back to the hotel and get to bed.
Since my cell phone service is not on while I'm in China I was at the mercy of the WIFI network of the hotel. I thought it was interesting to note what was allowed and not allowed
Not allowed on WIFI for me … Apple News, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Messenger.
But these were allowed ...aol.mail (but not news), Riverside Medical Clinic, Meridian Magazine, Deseret News and
Words with friends.
Day 2: Dingling tomb, the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square.
Our family ate breakfast at the hotel which was like eating at a Vegas buffet! We were glad for it because there was enough familiar food we filled up and it held us until we could get food later in the day. Joel and Virginia ate on the street and were happy (they would prefer local food).
The next day we had a debate in the order of how we wanted to see things for the day. We went back and forth and finally decided to hire a car in the morning and go out to see the great wall and get that done first and then come back to the city to stay until night and explore Beijing more before going to our hotel near the airport, where we were going to fly out the next morning.
Our driver ended up being as slow as mollases, didn't really understand well what we were asking him even with Google Translate and it was very frustrating. All day he didn't seem to be in a hurry and even drove 20 miles or so under the speed limit on the freeway! So frustrating!
Eventually he called a buddy that spoke English so we could let him know what we wanted. We had wanted to go to the wall first and see the Ming tombs after but he took us to the tomb first.
There are a number of Ming tombs to choose from. We visited the Dingling tomb and it included an underground palace tomb which was where the emperor and his two wives were buried.
I loved seeing the detail on all of the buildings and even the ends of the roof tiles were ornate.
The gardens outside had little tables and chairs that looked like elephants, again they were just our size.
We descended down multiple flights of stairs to get to the underground palace/tomb.
This was one of the tombs and people had left offerings of money.
Some of the funerary items that were found in the tomb.
Decoration on the door between rooms.
On the grounds.
Everywhere I looked in China there was art, sculpture, painting and decoration integrated with buildings, parks and public places. This freeze was on the outside of the wall of the visitor's center.
Ashley made a friend as we were walking out. A lot of people who had dogs would have them very well groomed and they were all cute though there didn't appear to be as many dog owners as I see in the states.
On our way to the wall in our slow van...once we got to the entrance our driver was nice enough to call a buddy who was able to understand English so we could talk to him about navigating our visit to the wall. There were multiple tickets that we could buy. We decided to buy the ones that included a ski lift ride to the top of the wall and a toboggan ride down the wall when we were done exploring it. If we didn't have an English speaking translator on the phone it would have been much harder to understand what we needed to do and buy.
Once we parked the car we rode in a shuttle to get us closer to the entrance of the paths that took us to the ski-lift to get to the top of the wall. One thing about China was that everything was larger, took longer and was harder to get to than you thought it would be. If I just remembered that I was more patient because it was true pretty much all the time. The country is not handicap accessible even though they somewhat try to make accommodations for elderly or those with mobility issues but by and far there are no special accommodations and you need to be prepared to walk up hills, lots of stairs and very far.
Riding on the shuttle to get to the Mutianyu entrance.
This entrance is farther from the city but the driver assured us it would be less crowded and better.
Once we got our tickets it was quite a hike to get to the ski lift to take us up.
The ski lift was open to the air and the bar holding us in was kept down by our feet. I was riding with Ashley and she wasn't much help keeping it down, ha ha. I had to keep thoughts of "what if we fell right now" out of my mind.
It was amazing that we were finally here. You can see the wall behind us. There are a lot of sections of the wall that are in disrepair and only certain sections are meant for tourists and can be accessed. The location we were at had about 7 or 8 towers that you could explore and a large section of wall. The surrounded area of Beijing didn't seem to be quite into spring yet and it looked more like winter. In the days we were there we could see the trees start to bud and the emergence of spring though.
It took so long and so much energy to get here and we were worried about getting back to the city before it got dark so we didn't explore the wall as much as we would have liked.
The ski-lift brought us near one of the towers so we went in it to explore. The walking up and down the tower was steep with uneven steps.
Inside of the tower it was sheltered pretty well. I wondered if soldiers used to live in the towers.
While the rest of the family rested Ashley, Joel and I walked to the next tower. This might give you an idea of how steep it was between the two towers.
When we got to the second tower to be able to go any farther you had to walk down a rickety medal ladder that looked like it came through the center of a roof from the building below. Other people were helping an older lady get down it without falling. I'm sure the rest of the family was glad they didn't come with us.
Ashley said her biggest regret was not walking more along the wall. We told her at least she got to go to it. Our China visas are good for 10 years so who knows maybe we'll just have to go back again sometime.
We took a long toboggan ride to get to the bottom of the wall. It was pretty much like the one in Big Bear but longer and we were glad we didn't have to make the long hike down on foot. Ashley and I had to ride together because she wasn't considered tall enough to ride on her own. Jeff wasn't considered tall enough either and the workers didn't give him the opportunity to try and they told him he couldn't go down it and he was forced to go on the ski lift back down the mountain.
We made it!
By the time we got back to the center of Beijing and Tiananmen square the sun was setting and a lot of the buildings were closed. But the sunset made for a few good pictures.
At least we got to see it even if we didn't get to go in.
We noticed a lot of people waiting around for something and found out that at a certain time they would lower the flag for the day and the military would come out and march around in a procession and everyone was waiting to see it so we decided to wait too.
After the flag was lowered and the presentation was done all the soldiers ushered us out of the area. That was one thing that we had to get used to, the feeling of being watched and monitored everywhere we went. There was cameras every where and when I mean everywhere they were taking pictures of the cars every few miles on the road and it was common to see cameras pointed every direction in all public places. There was security, soldiers and government workers everywhere you went. On one hand it made you feel that you couldn't step out of line and on the other I guess it provided jobs for a lot of people. I felt like there was an emphasis on safety and doing what you were supposed to. We had to show our passports to enter the square and had to have them every time we checked into a hotel. If they wanted to the government could know where we were at all times. The upside was that we felt safe wherever we went.
After we were done at the square we went back to Wangfujing street and went into the mall to get dinner. We finally found something and ordered after pointing at something that another person was eating. Ordering food was always a roll of the dice even with pictures, Google translate and pointing at someone else's food.
Broth with noodles was pretty much offered at every meal. We ended up getting pretty good at chopsticks because that's all you would have to eat with other than a spoon.
After we were done we were pretty tired so we walked back to our hotel and picked up our bags, and got a taxi to our hotel, the Crown Plaza airport.