And we enjoyed the Chinese enjoying their acrobats!
22.08.2013 - 22.08.2013 88 °F
We had another nice breakfast at the Jianguo Garden hotel, and the girls are getting more comfortable with finding things that they like. Laurie had the omelet chef make her a cheese omelet and Hayley hit the bread table hard this morning. Daddy and Uncle Keith are enjoying the Chinese coffee...it's strong but smooth. Geez, I sound like an idiot commercial. Speaking of commercials, I'll have to do a few post-trip blogs just on some of the advertisements here. It's always interesting to see cultural tastes through the lens of popular culture. Since I know from experience that companies do a lot of testing before they run ads, it tells one a lot about the culture of a people. It's fascinating.
Jack picked us up at 9:00 which also means that we were in Beijing rush hour. It took a bit longer than we had planned, but we finally got to the area of the wall that we were going to visit. There are two main pieces of the Great Wall of China that tourists go to. The Badaling section is the one most of us are familiar with and most used by Chinese who are being tourists. It's the one we saw the famous pictures of Nixon on, and most presidents who have visited China have pictures of them there. (an aside, they are proud of pictures of Bill Clinton down amongst the terra cotta warriors and point that picture out to us in Xi'an. Bruce and I figured they felt it was safe to run Clinton through there because the statues were all males.)
We were arriving at the Jiankow section north of Beijing. I looked up at the stairs ascending to the various watchtowers. I was convinced I was nuts. The other day, leaving the Forbidden City, I had badly twisted my knee, and was wearing a knee brace today so that I could protect it and enjoy our activities. Today, looking at a description of this part of the wall, travelers are warned not to attempt this portion of the wall unless you are in good shape and a good hiker. I'm neither, although my shape is, so I've been told, pleasingly round, soft, and happy!
Bruce encouraged me to just take my time. We were in no rush. I was determined to make it up since I had come halfway around the world and was unlikely to make it back. I mean, it's the freaking Great Wall of China! If Nixon can do it, I can do it! (Let me make this perfectly clear...)
So, that's what I did...bit by bit, step by step, I worked my way up the stairs. It's a daunting sight and a real challenge. I'm a religious man, and it had everything to do with my success in climbing up to the second highest watchtower. We all stopped there and just enjoyed the sights. We were much higher than the section of the wall on the opposite side of the highway. It was fun to be on the Great Wall...looking down on the Great Wall.
Coming down was no less challenging. You have to make sure of your footing, or else it's a long hard bumpy way down. I was touched by the kindness of the Chinese people. At one point, a young 20 something girl helped down the last few steps of one section (I guess the knee brace spoke to my challenge) and another young man handed me a wet nap because I was totally drenched in sweat all over. I made sure to give my Chinese thank you to all, and felt a great sense of joy and accomplishment when I finally descended the last few steps. Cross another one off the bucket list!
We were way behind schedule but Jack was real cool. How did we get so behind? Before the wall, we went by another "factory". It was fun iMessaging with my wife, who was tracking my iPhone and could see where we were. "why are you stopped?" "factory" "oh. what kind now" came the laconic response. "Jade" was my single word reply. I waited for her response: "ooooooh." Hehe. Yes, all my girls will be getting something from this stop, as did the girls. So, Jack was not upset that we were "behind our timetable."
After the wall, we went to where most of the groups go for lunch after the wall. And for good reason. The food was good, plentiful, "accessible to western tastes (not too spicy), and reasonably priced. But there's a reason it's so popular: another factory! This one is the cloisonne factory. One more gift off my list, and then we were off again. A side note: It was necessary to stop in the rest room after lunch. It was a function that normally requires sitting down. But the upstairs rest room only had the infamous "squatty potties." I thought, "I bet there are western style potties with paper downstairs in the cloisonne sales area. I was right and the day was saved.
Our last stop for the day was a Chinese acrobatic show. They are smart. They are tailored for western taste, but the locals love it too. It's not too long (an hour) and in a small theater so that every seat is "good." On display were showmanship, strength, beauty, skills, and a bit of flair. The Chinese know how to put on a show and the finale with 8 motorcycles with colored lights on them speeding around the inside of a steel mesh ball was a real crowd-pleaser.
We came home exhausted but happy. The lunch has been so satisfying, and so late, that dinner was foregone (but Haagen-Dasz in the lobby after swimming sufficed for the girls) and we began to pre-pack for Saturday's early morning departure. Just one more jam-packed day and we head for home! We are loving our trip but we look forward to our return to the USA!