The Great Wall
The students take a break from studying to visit the Ming Tombs and the Great Wall.
Saturday was another tour day. This time it was the Ming Tombs and then Great Wall of China. At the Ming Tombs (we didn’t find this out until later) we actually didn’t get to see the highlights of the UNESCO site. On the way into the area there is a gate that only the dead pass through on their way for burial, on the way in all visitors are instructed to avoid it, as you wouldn’t want the “other side” to think that you were on your way to it. We were quickly escorted through the front gardens to the main building which now contains artifacts recovered from the tombs that had been opened. Unfortunately, due to a number of complications many of the items on display are replicas because of deterioration after opening the burial chambers.
On the way out of the area you pass through the gates you avoided on the way in with explicit instructions on how to keep the evil at bay; by stamping your feet, brushing the evil Qi and bad luck off and repeating a phrase which translates to something like “I will be back”. The day was so full, we were on a pretty tight schedule so turns out we missed the Sacred Road which seems to be the highlight of the site.
After the Ming Tombs we were taken to lunch at a jade factory to see the process of a block of Jade turning into a statue, bracelet, or other piece of jewelry. When you try on a jade bracelet the staff help you by covering your hand with a plastic bag to provide some glide. There was a dicey moment when the sales girl persisted in forcing a bracelet on to Holly’s wrist and then couldn’t get it off. A bucket of soapy water eventually came out and with some effort the bracelet got off, with only minor bruising.
Finally, we were off to the Great Wall, the closest section to Beijing is Badaling so there is no surprise that it is very busy. Coming off of the cable car we chose to walk the opposite direction of the crowd for a little ways the wall was slightly not as busy. We did have to turn around to go to the other direction because we ran out of accessible wall and besides there was more interesting architecture the popular direction, not surprisingly. You are told the Great Wall is an amazing sight, lots of walking, mostly uphill. But when you are actually there it is another thing all together. It is very busy, it is bigger (and in some ways smaller, more narrow) than you expect and some spots are STEEP! It is an amazing sight to see and experience; they say that if you have climbed the Great Wall you are a hero, so the four of us are now Chinese heroes. No big deal.
After the Great Wall we were taken to a TCM college where we were treated a foot massage and one of their Master teachers read our hands to diagnose us so he could recommend herbs for us. Luckily all of our conditions could be cured if we were willing to to have an open mind and to trust them that all of our ailments could be fixed if we were willing to put in a small investment in to our health.
Once the bus dropped us off at the hotel we were all pretty tired so we went back to our favorite area near the lake for some delicious (and I’m sure super healthy) waffle dogs (think corn dog but instead of corn bread- waffle) before heading to bed.
Sunday we allowed ourselves a little sleep in before meeting up with Yun Chen, a friend of our instructor Barkley. He had arranged for her to take us on a little bit of a shopping trip and then to her office to see where she works. One of the places she took us was a market-type street that has a lot of tea shops and your usual tourist places. You could tell she was a little shocked at some of the prices they were trying to charge us for some items, but when we went to purchase really pretty travel tea mugs she drew the line. She was horrified that they were charging us double for a mug that could easily be purchased from a local grocery store for less than half the price and stopped us before anything could be bought.
After the market she took us to a regular shopping mall, which was a bit overwhelming. When it comes down to it, it was very similar to what we are used to at home, except way more people. It was like boxing day at West Edmonton Mall. After allowing us some wandering time she took us to a grocery store to purchase the travel mugs, and low and behold, yup they were half price. It’s good to know people.
Yun Chen is a meteorologist for the main weather office in China here in Beijing, and she brought two of her students along with her. The highlight of the day was visiting her office to see the inner workings of a weather office. There are many stations each monitoring a different aspect of the weather in real time which is really neat to see.
After dinner she had arranged for us to have dinner at a restaurant near her office. Chinese restaurants all seem to have a series of private rooms available to book for groups of any number is quite nice to be able to have a room all to yourself so you can talk and not worry about what is going on around you. The food was really very good and, like it always seems to do, it just kept coming. It is funny to think that we thought there would be an issue finding food that we would like. It was lovely to have a chance to talk to her, her stunts and her son who joined us for dinner. After dinner the four of us climbed in a cab to take us home after an interesting but very long day.