IWell, we hit the ground running in China! We arrived at the Beijing airport at 4:30 am local time. We were able to get our hotel room early and checked in by 6am.
First, I want to say we have enjoyed amazing, clear beautiful weather here in Beijing. No pollution, a cool breeze, perfect! Also, China is nothing at all what we expected-nothing. Beijing isn't dirty; there is plenty of religious expression, including Christianity; it's enormous and has tons of people but is somehow not horribly crowded; and almost every public restroom we've been in has had at least one western toilet! The people are very friendly and helpful; they help as much as they can or find someone who can. But anyway, back to our first day...
By 8:30 we were headed out on our first tour. We started out by heading to the Beijing Zoo Panda house. We saw several pandas including this one having a snack.
Then we headed over to the Bird's nest and Olympic grounds.
After this we headed to the Lama temple which was impressive for the huge and ornate Buddas. We were very tired of the incense smoke by the time we left!
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a tea house where we sampled 5 different teas. It was a fun experience and very interesting; our hostess was adorable and funny.
After a nap, we walked across the street to the Red Theater for the Legend of Kung Fu show. It was a great show and Blaise really enjoyed it.
Needless to say we were all ready for bed and the room was dark and silent by 7:30!
Tuesday morning we were up and at 'em and meeting our guide for the day at 6:50.
Our first stop for the day was a jade factory where we learned about the different types of jade and saw artisans carving. The boys then talked Chris into bargaining for two small jade dragons; he drove a terrible bargain and we now have 2 tiny, slightly over-priced jade dragons.
From there we went to the Ming tombs en route to the Great Wall. After a long ride on which we delighted the tour bus with incessant whining by both boys, we arrived at the Mutanyu section of the Great Wall where we had another Chinese lunch before heading to the wall.
Ok, so good news, The Great Wall still stands post Pawlak family visit. It may never be the same, but it's there.
It is truly awe-inspiring and breathtaking. The views are spectacular.
We took the ski lift up to the wall and from there we walked along the top through a few of the guard towers. Blaise flipped and cartwheeled the whole way (if you know him this shouldn't surprise you). Then the boys absolutely couldn't wait to go to the bathroom. Guess what? No potties on the Great Wall, folks. Not even a squatty potty. So, yes, my boys peed of the side of the Great Wall of China.
Blaise upside down on the Great Wall of China
Getting down off the wall turned out to be quite the adventure. We took the toboggan down. Fun on its own, yes, but more fun when you let a kid (or Chris) drive. Brooks and I shared a toboggan and Brooks went so fast he lost his hat. Chris and Blaise actually managed to flip their toboggan...this is why I carry Neosporin and band aids.
We stopped at a silk factory on the way back into Beijing. I know these stops are meant for shopping income for the tour guides, but I actually enjoyed them for the information given during the introductions.
We got back to the hotel in time for a quick nap before heading to the acrobatic show. The show was so fun! I do, however, fear that a certain child will try to duplicate what he saw!
Our third day in Beijing was one I was looking forward to. I love reading about Chibese history and I love historical fiction set in China. So, seeing The Forbidden City and Summer Palace were high on my list.
We started at The Forbidden City which was so much bigger and more sprawling than I imagined. Parts were exactly as I pictured, mainly because the movie, The Last Emperor, was filmed there. I especially loved visiting the courtyards that belonged to Empress CiXi who I find fascinating. I've read so much about her so being there in her courtyards and seeing her rooms was fascinating. Of course the architecture and workmanship everywhere was beautiful.
Blaise cartwheeled here too
This part is in the Guiness book as the world's longest painted corridor.
The Temple of Heaven was beautiful as well.
The Summer Palace was so nice because it sprawled so much and is on a huge lake. The lake and the mountain were actually man-made; the emperor designed the grounds and had the lake dug and used the earth to build the mountain!
I found the painted wood at the Summer Palace to be one of my favorite things.
I think the boys' favorite part was the Dragon boat ride across the lake.
On our last Beijing day we had a relaxing day at the National Museum and finishes up with a familiar meal at McDonalds.
Our departure from Beijing was not as smooth as the rest of the trip. Though we mastered the Subway, the train station was a different monster.
Here are the boys on the subway:
Would you like to see train station photos? Well you can't. There aren't any. It was too awful to stop and take pictures. We struggled with luggage, stairs, tickets, and language. There was a bathroom accident, a broken suitcase wheel, and 3 flights of stairs. It was horrendous. But everyone rolled with things and we got on the sleeper train to go to Xian. Here is our room (and Blaise doing gymnastics in our room).