Kim and I have saved our trip to Beijing for when Mary Anne and Boyd came to visit and this week-end we finally made it into the capital city of China. Beijing, (formerly known as Peking) is somewhat smaller than Shanghai with a population just over 20 million people. While there are lots of skyscrapers in Shanghai, Beijing appeared more traditional with older buildings, and a little more spread out.
Yes, even Mickey is wearing those glasses with no glass in them.
We left Friday afternoon and took the subway to Hang Qiao station and caught a fast train to the Beijing station. We travelled 1200 km. In 4 and a half hours. The train made 2-3 stops on the way at Nanjing, Tian and one other place.
Boyd mastered the art of sleeping while travelling at 312 km/hr.
Shanghai (pop.28,000,000) has over 750,000 taxis in the city. In Beijing their fleet of cabs is only 50,000 so finding a cab at the train station was difficult. We bargained and ended up paying a black taxi (not licensed) 120 RMB for a 40 RMB trip. It was about 10:00 pm when we got in. We were tired and it was not worth waiting in line for an hour for a metered cab.
Our rooms were beautiful and spacious, but the bed was quite hard. Note again the glass between the bathroom and the sleeping area. There is a privacy curtain. We were up at 6:00 am for a delicious Chinese/Western breakfast. We hired an English speaking cab driver to take us to the wall as it is an hour and a half drive from the city. We wanted to leave good and early to avoid the crowds. It was a great idea.
Mary Anne and Boyd in the chir lift on our way up into the mountains to see the Great Wall. Words can’t describe the Great Wall. There is nothing like this in Canada. It is between 6-8 meters wide and over 20,000 km long. The wall was built to keep out the hordes invading from Mongolia. We’re talking Gengis Khan and his boys from the hood here. Every 500 meters or so there is a tower. Some had cannons, all of the towers were fascinating to look at. Check out the pictures below to get a sense of what it was like.
And so we started our climb up the wall. Not too sure how far we went. Conservatively we climbed at a rate of 5/km an hour, so maybe we went 20km.
Can you see the white tents in the background. We were there. It was a long walk! There and back!
Coming down from our climb was a lot faster. A four hour climb up, one hour to get down again. Instead of taking the ski lift down to the parking area, we took the “Land Luge.” This is a little wagon you sit on with a stick. Push the stick forward and you go fast. Pull it back and you brake. This was a lot of fun. Kim and I got red flagged on every corner as the old Chinese men yelled at us and waved red flags to get us to slow down. It was very safe and I highly recommend it.
Now this guy asked if we wanted to take pictures with us and and we thought this would be fun. He was quite a ham. I wondered how he made his money.
Soon into the photo shoot this second guy joined in and Boyd and I got into the picture as well. After the photo he demanded 40 RMB for the picture. We gave him 10 which was very generous, but he was unhappy because we did not collapse under his ardent protest!
Like every good attraction, there must be a gift shop at the end. The Great Wall is no exception. T shirts, hats, fridge magnets and warm sodas were the order of the day!
It gets a little crowded here so we manage to wiggle through the crowds. We rode back to the hotel and decided to check out the Street Food Market just down from our hotel and then wander over to see the Changing of the Guards in Tian’anmen Square at 7:00. Mary Anne seemed very keen to try some new and weird food in Beijing, but we couldn’t believe what they were selling here. No one was up for this! See below.
Merchants sold a variety of very interesting food. How we even ate near this place was a wonder!
Would you care for some delicious snake?
Here we have a vendor selling prawns and raw squid. Yum Yum!
Starting at the top left we have some sort of grasshopper, giant spiders, beetles, cockroaches, some other tasty bug, then the huge centipedes (everyone gets a leg!) water snake and grass snake (Skinned)
Let’s get a closer look at those spiders and beetles
These centipede were huge. The water snakes had their heads chopped off. (That’s where the poison is stored)
Beetles, cockroaches and 2 types of snake!
Starfish on a stick! Juicy and tasty!
We couldn’t decide between the big meaty scorpions.
Or the little crunchy scorpions!
Testicles from bulls and other assorted animals. Did we have fun at dinner? Yes sir, we had a ball!
Here we are munching on our spicy noodles! Yummy!
Crab Dumpling – Fairly bland and unexciting. We also tried Gelatine Potatoes (Yuck – one bite)
Chinese Cheese Casa Dia? Crab Dumpling, Fried Banana, and for dessert a fabulous Fruit Stick (Strawberries, pineapple, Kiwi fruit)
After dinner, we walked the 2-3 km to Tian’anmen Square, where we became yet again movie stars and had our photos taken with so many people who had never seen white people before.
Mary Anne and Boyd came well prepared with Canada Flag pins and everyone we met was walking around wearing a Canada Flag by the time the ceremony was over.
We had people taking pictures of the people taking pictures of us taking pictures with our new friends. It’s tough being a celebrity!
Security was tight and there were many people there to watch the changing of the guard ceremony. These guys sure know how to march. I will try to put up my short video on Face book so you can see it. It’s very impressive. We were all exhausted by the end of the night and managed to flag down two bicycle tuk tuks to take us back to the hotel. While the ride wasn’t as scary as the motorized Shanghai counterparts thru the main streets of the city, we were a little nervous because these two fellows took us through the back alleys (now pitch black) to get to our hotel. We had no idea where we were. There were no shops or entrance ways here. We were waiting to be met by a gang of street thugs who would rob us and then cut us up into meat pies for the next day’s food. Alas, nothing like that happened. It was very safe. China is such a safe place it seems. There is very little evidence of any violent crime. There were cameras everywhere. Including the back alleys! We made it back to the hotel about 9:00, chatted for an hour then went to bed early. Tomorrow we were going to the Emperor’s Palace located in the “Forbidden City!”
Stay tuned for Part 2!