Christina and Leigh here. Despite the 12-hour time change, not many of us felt tired when we woke up later on July 18th in Beijing. As our tour guide Bruce Li had promised, Holiday Inn’s breakfast was a Western-style buffet that offered a variety of breakfast and dinner entrees. From the deep-fried dough rolls and hash browns to the French toast and fried rice, breakfast exceeded our expectations.
After breakfast, we took a one and a half hour bus ride to the Great Wall of China. We roamed the steep wall for about two hours—vigorously climbing uneven stairs. Some students and teachers made it farther than others, reaching the third tower. Leigh and I didn’t even make it to the first tower and started to head back early to look at the little shops when I (Christina) got a Charlie horse in my left thigh. On our way down, we passed another tourist who was climbing the steps. The tourist let out an exasperated sigh, “There is no God!”
While other students were exploring the pagodas and taking pictures, I (Christina) found an out-of-the-way temple. No one but a ticket person was stationed in this garden area. Although I was unsure, I went into the temple of the God of Horses. There are four houses surrounding a bronze statue and the God of Horses is in the center house. The God had an intimidating stare and was decorated with festive bright colors. Paintings of a flying horse above clouds were painted on the houses’ walls. After a few minutes of taking pictures, I snuck back out of the temple and met up with Leigh and Noelle.
At about 12:15, we left the Great Wall and took a 20-minute ride to a restaurant located on the second floor above the Run-Ze Jade Garden. Although I feared eating any weird creatures during our trip, the food served was exceptionally delicious. “This Chinese food was better than any other Chinese food in America. The sweet and sour chicken was amazing,” said Leigh Weddington.
After lunch, we took a tour of the jade workshop & display hall and learned about the different kinds of jade, such as jadeite, the best and most expensive kind. We had also seen a strange, layered stone ball before at the Great Wall and had wondered what it was. During the tour we found out that these balls were called “happy family” balls and symbolize the happiness and luck of familial generations. There are 12 holes in the outside ball, which stand for the 12 months in a year. After the tour, we shopped in the gift store. Leigh bought a jade Buddha statue and Christina bought three pairs of jade earrings. We were all surprised at the prices of the huge jade statues. Some were bigger than we were and were the same price as a car.
Then we took a 45-minute drive to the Beijing Olympic Park where the 2008 Olympics were held. There were two major stadiums we saw, the Birds Nest and the Water Cube where Michael Phelps won 8 gold medals for the U.S. in swimming. To our dismay, we weren’t allowed to go inside the stadiums but we did enjoy multiple shows of street music and walked around for a while.
After, we headed to a local community and rode in bicycle rickshaws. We traveled around the streets of a very old neighborhood consisting of narrow alleys known as “hutong” while dodging pets and persistent street vendors (some of whom were also on rickshaws), and eventually ended up at a home of the Wang family – a Chinese family with 1 daughter, 14 cats, a variety of birds, and a dog that threatened to bite Tara. Julian Wright interviewed the homeowners about the many tourists that they invite into their home.
Afterwards, we walked through a park with unusual playground equipment and a group of men at a table playing what looked like mahjong. Then we came across a 3-year old girl named “Gina.” She was a spunky little character who willingly let us pick her up and take pictures with us and sang The Itsy Bitsy Spider with us. She loved the attention of the cameras and trying new things like playing on the playground equipment even though it was bigger than she was!
Traffic started to pick up around rush-hour time on our way to the Peking Duck dinner. Chinese drivers are fearless. Cars and bikes and carts roll around the streets barely paying attention the street lines. There were several times when I thought that a biker was going to run into our tour bus, but somehow we always perfectly merged in between the tightly lined cars.
At dinner, we were served with kung pao chicken, beef, white rice and eggplant. Our table thought the eggplant was the duck, but the duck came out later cut into 108 pieces. By the time we were finished, it was dark out and we headed back to the hotel to get ready to wake up tomorrow morning at 7 AM.
Despite the mist and pollution in the air, we managed to take several pictures and videos. More will be posted later. See you tomorrow!