Sunday, May 18, 2014

Great Wall. Great Day!

On Monday night (Chinese time), we finally landed in Beijing. It is still taking me a little time to wrap my head around the time difference. When I arrived in China, it was about 10pm here on May 12, 2014. Yet back home, it was only about 9am. You win, jet lag!

I want to tell about some of the sights we saw in Beijing. Our morning started bright and early at 7:30am with breakfast at our Holiday Inn. Breakfast here is so different than anywhere I have ever been. Whereas in the United States, we generally stick to cereals and toast, here there are a number of options. Below is a picture of the items on my plate. I had some coffee which was MUCH stronger than I normally make, but I think I needed that extra kick of energy anyway. I also had some orange juice (nothing too exciting). On my plate I had a Chinese pancake (the bottom left). The white doughy item at the top of my plate is steamed dough. It basically just tasted like  bread dough. There were also hard boiled eggs labeled Tea Eggs. The strangest thing I tried was fermented tofu. Personally I wouldn’t recommend it!! I had more after this plate. I needed the extra kcals to kick start my day, right? I went back for some of the yogurt and fresh pineapple and watermelon. From what I’ve gathered so far, watermelon is pretty popular around here.

After breakfast, we made our journey to the Great Wall. It was about an hour from our hotel. Our tour guide pointed out a number of sites along the way. One interesting thing he pointed out was a mountain that had been hollowed out and contains airplanes and around 100,000 Chinese soldiers. They use it as a defense mechanism. How crazy? Driving by, I never would have thought much about those mountains.

 When we arrived at the Great Wall, we took a cable car to the top, where we were at the 6th and 8th watch towers. 

Apparently, President Obama was just in Beijing a couple days before and had visited the 6th and 8th towers. They shut the Great Wall down for him to visit there though. There is so much history behind the Great Wall that I either did not know or was taught and simply forgot. There are three layers to the Great Wall and we were only on one part of it. Some parts aren’t even open to the public. In its entirety, It spans about 3000 miles long.  Being at the Great Wall was surreal. When I was younger, I can remember learning about the Great Wall in school and seeing pictures of it, but never did I ever think that I would actually set foot on it. In fact, I have a mental Bucket List that I keep and “Visiting the Great Wall” wasn’t even on it, because I never thought it was even feasible. One thing I will say is that it was much steeper and more crowded than I could have imagined. Three of the girls on our trip are blonde and you wouldn’t believe the number of people who either take pictures of our group or will come up and take picture with the blonde girls. It’s certainly nothing we think twice about in the States.

After the Great Wall, we made our way to the Cloisonné place. (I think that is what this place was called, but things gets lost in translation so forgive me if I am wrong.) Cloisonné is essentially pots of varying sizes that involve designing, base-hammering, inlaying copper strips, laying enamel and polishing. It is quite the elaborate and tedious process. 

In the same building we also had lunch. There was a variety of foods. I thought it was pretty funny when they brought out a plate of soggy French fries. I guess they were just trying to make us feel at home. I was surprised at how greasy the food was and how meat-oriented it was. I was hoping for an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. I suppose it is kind of like eating out back home though. The locals probably get their share of fresh foods in their own homes.

On our way back to our hotel, we also stopped to take a few pictures where the 2008 Olympics were held. It was really neat to be there because that was probably Olympics that I watched the most of. We didn't stay long here before we were off to the next thing on our agenda.

Next, we went to a place called Dr. Tea. Personally, I am not much of a tea drinker. I have tried to drink it, but it always ends up tasting like dirty water to me. We tested out a few of the teas that they sell. The fruit tea was delicious. Technically, it wasn’t actually tea. Shh! I want to call myself a tea drinker, so we are calling it tea! I bought some of the fruit tea there, so when I get back to South Dakota, give me a call and we will have a tea date.

After tea, we went back to freshen up at the hotel and then made our way to the Govenor’s banquet. I didn’t stick around for much of the speaking and mingling portions due to a turn of events. (It is a long story, but no need to worry.)

It is safe to say that our time in China is fast-paced.

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