Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Big in Beijing!

Greetings friends and family!  Sorry it took so long for an update - we've been so busy since arriving safely on Sunday.  Contrary to my inital convictions, we *were* picked up at the airport by a jolly college student who guided us to our hotel in a taxi.  Dag and I spent the first evening walking around getting oriented and I bought some cosmetics, thinking I'd left mine behind (found them in a secret pocket later that evening).  We had a spectacular eggplant dish at a nearby restaurant and then walked to the gates of the forbidden city (it was closed by that hour) and back to the hotel where we found Larry, who had just got in and was luckily full of enough energy for three.  We sat up and talked for a while before completely wilting.  Next day we got up around 7am and took a taxi to the Summer Palace, most of which, as every single plaque reminded us, was restored after having been "burned to the ground by the Anglo-French in 1860".  As it turns out, whiteys are quite a novelty and I ended up getting my photo snapped three times that day.  That evening, we met with the rest of our group and went grocery shopping for our great wall adventure, which was a challenge in itself (the shopping, I mean) because for most things, there is no way to tell what is inside the package.  We lucked out with some spicy vacuum packed tofu and mysterious sweet and spicy trail mix.
Today we were up at 4:30am to catch the bus to the wall at 5:30.  Too excited to sleep on the bus - there is just so much to see!  The wall was absolutely stunning and I'm pretty sure my legs won't be working at all tomorrow morning. At the beginning of the climb, we were joined by a whole group of Mongolian women, whose task was to fan us, give us Mandarin lessons, carry our stuff, hold our hands forcibly on the craggier spots, in order to get us to reciprocate by purchasing lots of their wares.  I managed to politely as possible make my adopted buddy go away so I could enjoy the sights internally, which is my preference, although I did feel some pangs of regret seeing how much fun the other groupies were having with their new friends.  Slept on the bus home, ate some noodly soup at a local place, and took in the Acrobats - basically Cirque du Soleil for 100Yuan instead of $100.  It was spectacular!  Tomorrow we visit Mao's masoleum and Tiannanmen square (sp? on both) and then a free afternoon. I'll be voting for a visit to the Forbidden City.  And then on to Xi'an for Terracotta Warriors.  Not sure when I'll be able to update next.  I apologize for the short overview but it's hard to fill in all the details when so much has happened already.  It feels like the tour must be half over already but it's only just begun.  I can't even describe how excited I am for all that is still yet to come.  This tour is the perfect mix of hand holding and independence - I highly recommend it!  Now some tips for Tim, Diane and Candy who are on this tour a few weeks after we return:  an inflatable pillow is indespensable.  Uh...I had lots more but have blanked out - Oh yeah!  No matter how broken in you think your shoes are that you have recently purchased for the trip - you are WRONG in so many ways!  Go on a serious hike or two in them if you want to wear them on the wall.  It is gruelling up and down (highly rewarding - don't get me wrong) and moleskin doesn't stick to sweaty ankles.  Sorry for the visuals there, folks.  OK, everyone take care and I'll try to post again as soon as I can!  We're all having an amazing time!


Mittens Pierre said...

HOORAAAAY! it sounds like everything is going VERY smoothly. even better: funly!

Jen said...

Yay for updates! I'm glad there was someone to meet you at the airport, and more importantly that you are having such an awesome time! I love the overview and look forward to reading more details later. Have Fun!!!

monquee said...

Excellent note about the moleskin! I am so glad you are having a good time and sharing your tips and pointers!