Another beautiful day in Beijing and a great day for an adventure. Today is all about seeing The Great Wall of China! Here is what Disney had to say about today:
The Great Wall, the largest construction project in world history, was built to defend the northern frontier of the Chinese Empire against its enemies. Today, people with a different purpose visit the perserved, fortified elevations: millions of enthusiastic travelers who scale the majoestic remnants of watch towers and barracks to marvel at the surrounding mountainous landscape. You and fellow trekkers will experience the roles of imperial guardians on the ramparts at a key section of the wall that protected Beijing and the imperial tombs.
We left the Rosewood at about 8:15 to head to the Great Wall. So shortly before that, I enjoyed the buffet at the Rosewood. The weather was unusually clear with few clouds and little pollution, so today made the perfect day to visit the Great Wall.
Traffic in Beijing is a bit ridiculous. To try and solve the issue, the government has a lottery to gain the right to buy a car. The result for us was that it was hard to judge how long it would take to get from point A to point B. We also tried to manage the day around rush hour.
As we headed to the Great Wall, Joe shared with us the history of the wall and answered our questions about life in Beijing. It is hard to imagine but he lives in Beijing, but his home is 90 minutes away from our hotel. The size of the city keeps growing.
Adventures by Disney takes guests to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. It is a bit further from the city center but has the advantages of being less crowded and features a skyway that takes you to the top of the wall. As part of our journey Christian gave us a lesson on how to bargain with the merchants that reside at the base of the wall. He also talked about "three-generation shirts." Those are shirts you wear once, wash them, have your child wear it, wash again, and then give to your grandchildren. Basically... they shrink.
Once our bus got to the vistors center we walked through the marketplace, we were promised shopping time later, and to their own bus transportation. (Apparently this was due to some construction in the area).Following the bus, there was a bit of a trek to the skyway station. Some members of our group enjoyed the warning signs for the ride. As you rised to the wall, you could see those that chose to walk up to the wall below. Apparently this option takes several hours.
The skyway stops at a landing and then it was just a few more stairs before we were actually standing on the Great Wall. Joe pointed out a few things before we were attacked by warriors. Once they realized we were friendly, the stopped for photos with our group. As it turns out, they were from the Pin Dynasty so they also gave us our pin of the day.
We were then given some free time to explore the wall. The steps are not even, as it was an effort to throw off invaders, and some parts are very steep, but I took it as a challenge to explore as much as I could.
After a bit of exploring, I went down to the meeting place and took the opportunity to finally check out what a "squatty potty" looks like. Let's just say that I will continue to use the "western" option.
Once our group was together we took the cable car back down to the buses and then the buses down to the market. We were given some time to explore. Most of the shops all had the same stuff and nothing jumped out at me, but it was fun to watch others bargain. It looked like fun so I wanted to partake. I find those balls that you spin in your hands, the original fidget spinners, and figured I would try for those. I walked in and the gentleman told me 420 yuan. I said, 150. He then said 280, and I said 150. Next, he said 220 and pointed out the quality, and I said 150. I started to walk away and he got in front of me, and said 180, and I said 150. He then said ok, so I ended up buying them. I also wanted a Chinese Coke bottle to match the one I got in Russia. Let's just say haggling was not exclusive to merchandise.
Next was lunch. We drove down some backroads which our bus driver used his magic to navigate. It was located in a former brickyard and schoolhouse. Due to the One Child Policy, the needs for schools has decreased so an entrepreneur turned this one into a restaurant that caters to tourists. Today's meal was Western-style, which was a nice break from the Chinese family-style that we had been enjoying. I had the chicken tender option while also enjoying the ice cream for dessert.
On our way back to the city center, we enjoyed Mulan. It was neat to see all of the architectural references that we had learned about on this trip. It makes you appreciate the research that went it to the film. Since our group was filled with Disney fans, our version quickly turned into a sing-along version.
The night before, some of our group (including me), expressed disappointment in not being able to see the Bird's Nest, the 2012 Olympic Stadium. Our guides told us that thanks to a diversion to avoid traffic, we would be making a quick photo stop. I was thrilled to be able to see the Bird's Nest, so I appreciated this quite a bit.
As we approached the hotel Joe said he had something for us that combined the Olympics with our day conquering the Great Wall. He handed each of us a "medal" with The Great Wall on one side and Chairman Mao on the other.
After that it was a free night, so we deceived to walk around Beijing for a bit. The air quality was rapidly deteriorating so we were just out for about 50 minutes or so and got a bit of the local flavor.
One personal tip on the air quality. I am sensitive to poor air and it was really starting to have an impact. I discovered that each of our hotels has a bath tub with bath salts. The aroma of the bath salts really helped clear me up and made me feel a lot better so I highly recommend taking advantage of this if the air quality begins to negatively affect your trip.
I finally hit the wall, so decided to go to bed a bit early. Tomorrow is a travel day so I want to make sure I am fully rested.