Beijing, China - October 4th - 10th, 2010

Beijing and Xian, China
October 4th - 10th, 2010
(Bob and Debe)
Even though we just had a wonderful cruise (if you read the prior blog lol) now was the part we looked forward to the most. Japan, Russia, & South Korea wer great. Even the two stops in China were great - but now, some of the most historical sites in the world. Yes, I am talking about the Great Wonders of the World to see. The Great Wall of China and the Terracota Warriors. We are so pumped.

We booked our land trip on our own but was picked up at the cruise terminal by, a tour company we would be using for our first four days in Beijing. The tour came with a guide/interpreter (Patrick - photo below) and a driver. So when we disembarked the ship in Beijing, there was Patrick with a sign in his hand and our name on it. Very convenient. Our tour included the drive to Beijing and to our hotel only on day one but on the long drive - we decided to begin our tour today after getting checked into the hotel. That would free up the last day instead of a half day. So jump in our car, with our driver and guide and off we go. What we had seen on TV and expected of China, well, was far from it. Beijing was a huge city with lots of modern and unusual buildings unlike what you see on TV. And nothing about it looked poor. Matter fact, since we were there during the biggest holiday of the year - Beijing was covered with huge floral structures everywhere you went. Absolutely beautiful.

Our hotel was not in the huge hotel zone that many tourist go to but we ended up loving our location. Our of the overpopulated area and close to one of our tour places.
After checking in at the ALOFT Hotel it was off for our first meal, included with the tour. This part had me really worried but I was pleasantly surprised. It was a buffet and seems that it catered to the Western World. (USA, Europe & even Australia) I am now feeling good about eating in China. I thought it was called 88 but not sure. lol
Next was off to our first site to visit. Today was just the one day of a week of their national holiday. So obviously Beijing is the place to go if you live in China. (because they can't afford to travel outside of China and a lot of history in China is found right in Beijing). So first stop - Temple of Heaven. This property is huge at 667 acres which has several bldgs on it. The park around it is beautiful. The magnificent and colorful temple is where emperors from the Ming and Ding dynasties would make sarcrifices and pray for good harvest.
The inside of the Temple has four large columns that represent the four seasons of the year. Twelve posts around the center are for the months of the year. So much about the temple and its surrounding gives you much history of these dynasties and their beliefs. All of the chinese people are very picky how the direction houses/bldgs are as far as doorways, windows, houses set, etc.. Called Feng Shui. It matters for health, wealth, and happiness.

The emperor himself would walk down this walkway we are standing on, towards his dressing building, change clothes, enter the gate in the distance (green roof) and on to the Temple of Heaven (blue roof) you see behind the gate entrance. This was done once a year. Wow
On the grounds of the Temple of Heaven you will find this Nine Dragon Juniper Tree. It is thought that this over 500 year old tree gives off energy so it is very popular among the chinese who come here, to hold their hands out to draw the energy from it.
Just past the juniper tree you find the Circular Mound and at the top the Alter of Heaven. It is said that the center, now covered by a round stone, has a large jade stone that also gives off energy. The Emperor would come here to pray for rain during drought. Many chinese come to stand on this circular stone. (below photo) Plan to spend several hours walking the grounds and hearing all the history of the ritual things preformed here at the Temple of Heaven.
After a much needed night sleep, it was breakfast at the hotel and a 9 a.m. meeting. We were picked up and off for a full day of touring. We really didn't realize what "full" day meant. First stop, the Summer Palace of the emperors. The Summer Palace occupies 726 acres with only 290 of the acres land. Because of the National Holiday, most of the buildings that once could be looked in through the windows had been covered with white material. Definitely the place was PACKED.
After visiting the Queen's sleeping quarters, Emperor's living quarters and working quarters, the emperess quarters, we headed down the long and beautiful corridor to the lake. This property has so many buildings, temples, etc on the property. But going to the lake was such a highlight.
The Lake was set up where you could rent paddle boats, ride in dragon boats, etc.. We decided to ride in the boats. You can't go to the Summer Palace and not take a boat ride. We would take the boat over to the Seventeen Arch Bridge. This bridge was built in the 1750s and is the longest bridge in the Chinese Emperial Garden. It has over 500 stone lions on its posts and railings. Beautiful site with the lake, bridges, boats, looking over to the land with its many buildings. Just stunning.

After a few hours spent at The Summer Palace and hearing all the history that goes with it, it was off to Tiananmen Square. The highlight and most historical place still used in Beijing. Since Beijing is the Capital, Tiamanmen Square is used for many celebrations and parades. Today we would be sharing it and the surroundings with an estimated one million Chinese people as they celebrated their National Holiday week. On the drive to Tiananmen Square you could see many of the huge flower structures. (photo below) Very Nice.
Oh yes, below is a little look at Tiananmen Square during National Holiday Week. We can only say - what an adventure it was. We should first mention (since we forgot) that our guide called us movies stars. Yes, it seems that our photo were taken a lot. Many mothers pushed their kids over to us for photos with them. So seeing a white person and/or American was a real treat for many. Especially for those that were coming in from the countryside for the holiday and never see white people. In the first photo below, behind us is the Great Hall of People. This building is the offices of the Standing People of Congress and is used for official government ongoing. In the photo to the right behind us are many things. The monunment you see is the Peoples Hero Monument. Behind it is the Mausoleum that houses the remains of Mao Zedong in a crystal coffin. And finally in front of that you can see a huge photo with a screen (has red background with chinese words on it). This photo is of Sun Yat-sen who is said to be the forerunner of the chinese revolution. On the screens (there is one you can't see in this photo) they had been showing the 60th anniversary parade that took place last year on Oct 1st. A huge floral arrangement had also filled part of Tiananmen Square while we were there. Sixty One years ago China became the New Republic of China.

Also while standing in Tiananmen Square you can see the entrance to the Forbidden City (behind us in the left photo) while on the right is the flag that is guarded and has a raising ceremony. (we did not see it but saw them change the guards)
As you walked across Tiananmen Square towards The Forbidden City - you can see this bridge that was closed off today. It has two huge lions that stand next to each side. The emperor used this bridge to come and go from the Forbidden City. And then of course, we entered the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City buildings have gold roofs since that is the color of royalty and power. Only the Emperor could use this color. This City also meant no one could be in the city during the dark. There are 980 buildings over 178 acres and it becomes overwhelming. You find yourself going through their tradiational gate entrances that include the archway only to find a huge open area with buildings surrounding the area. And this continues on and on. So much there to see and with all the tourists and visitors, you just couldn't take it all in. (also a photo below of the emperor bed - not to impressive)

After five hours of touring we were starving. Our guide took us to a traditional Mongolian Hot Pot. Oh my gosh - delicious. I perfected the use of chopstiks since the restaurant didn't cater to westerners and didn't have silverware. Bob used a soup spoon. You get a boiling hot pot, half the water spicy, half not and you get your raw meat & vegetables. Just dip in the hot water for a couple minutes then dip it in their special sauce they give you. It was absolutely delicious.
From here, more touring. Yes, we are both exhausted but continue to go. Below we head to the Drum tower and Bell Tower. Good place to take a "new age" rickshaw ride if you wanted to. It also will take you to a local home so you can get some chinese tradition. We passed but regretted it later.

And like a full day of tours wasn't enough, we had a 5:15 "Legend of Kung Fu" play to attend. This was a little worrisome for me since I don't care to much for Kung Fu fighting nor karate. So off to the Red Theatre for this show. We ended up being glad we saw it for two reasons. Our legs needed the rest and because it was awesome. The history of the sport was fascinating being played out. And they had screen at the top that had what was going on in English so very easy to follow. Of course, I had held off all day from going to the restroom outside the hotel. You see, the toilets in China aren't the best since they are literally pretty much a hole in the ground. So squatting is a popular thing in China. But westerners legs just aren't prepared. But, here at the theatre I would experience my first use of the Chinese bathroom. I left there not knowing if I even stood the right direction.
And before we went back to the hotel - we made a stop at the most popular shopping street in Beijing (I think it is mainly for tourists. lol) Wangfuking Street(photo above). We weren't really in the mood to shop after 12 hours of tours to be honest. Our guide saw that we weren't enjoying shopping so we headed back to the hotel. We both pretty much died when we hit the room. We woke the next day with more tours to look forward to and some very tired/sore feet. But, if you only go to China once in your life, you better see all you can. So, breakfast at the hotel and off we went. Earlier day since 8 a.m. was the meeting time. Patrick and the driver are prompt.
We can honestly say - going to the Great Wall is the highlight of this long trip. But before going there, it is off to the Ming Tomb. Of the 16 emperors, 13 are buried in this valley. But we would visit only one. (yipppeeeeee) This is the tomb of Emperor Chingzu. Below on the left is a photo of the entrance of the place and on the right is his tomb which you climb all the way up to. Once at the top (in that archway) is a headstone type monument but this entire monument is his headstone. After you leave the area you walk back through the gate. You are suppose to say something (they tell you to repeat them) and that way all the evil spirits go away from you. Since I did it and Bob didn't, he has some evil spirits now. lol

Finally - off to the Great Wall. There are many places you can go to the wall since it is about 3100 miles long. If in the US - it would run from California to New York. But the section we went to, Mutianyu, was still a drive away from Beijing. First, we would grab lunch at a restaurant just at the bottom of the cable car that we would eventually take to the wall. Mr. Yangs was the absolute best restaurant. Great food, silverware, western toilets - yes, everything great. Delicious.
The wall ran across the peak of the mountains so you couldn't just walk up to the mountain top. You could do the hike through the woods but it was very rugged and took a while. So we chose to take the cable car up to the top. This section also is a great section to walk along even though it has its steep areas with steps being anywhere from a few inches to maybe 2 - 2 1/2 foot tall.
Once at the top, a person would be in awe of the site. Mountain tops, beauty of the land and this awesome wall used to protect this country. What a site. So worth all it took to get here. You could spend hours climbing/walking the wall in this area but we decided to walk up and down to 2 or three watchtowers because remember, what goes down must go back up. And you start the walk from the top going down. So, take a bottle water with you and be prepared.

Dont' worry about buying souvenirs from the vendors as you walk the steep incline up to the cable car because there will be plenty of time and vendors when you come back down. But it is a great place to pick up some cheap souvenirs (haggle with them).
Once back in Beijing we took a drive by the two huge buildings that were built for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing China. In the left photo below you see the Water Cube. This building was used for all the swimming/diving events. And in the right photo is the Birds nest. What a very cool structure. This was used for all sporting events like running, pole vaulting, etc. As you can see, the pollution has kicked up. When we first arrived in Beijing the wind had blown it out of Beijing but now it was back to normal. We were not prepared to find it like this on our return from the Wall.
We haven't mentioned that ANY tours you do in China - it is mandatory for them to take you to government stores in hope that you BUY!, During these three days, we have stopped at a Tea House, Pearl Store, Jade factory, Porcelan Factory, Clay Factory and after leaving the Water Cube and Birds Nest - it was off to the Silk Market. I have to admit that seeing how the silk goes from a larva to a silk duvet made me want to buy one so bad. But hubby was there to say NO. After another full day of tours, we were dropped back off at our hotel and told our guide/driver goodbye. With a very nice tip, there were off and we were ready to relax. We were about sick of chinese food so after a couple hours of rest, we walked down the road to a Kentucky Fried Chicken we had spied earlier. We needed something to remind us of home since the government doesn't allow people to use facebook, myspace, blogs, etc........ I know, kinda what the US is going to if things keep going the way there are. :( OK, no politics but I missed FACEBOOK.
After a great night sleep, we decided to take our free day and go to the Beijing Zoo. Nothing like seeing Panda Bears in the country they come from.
The below wall of tiles was built in 2008 for the Olympics and is outside the Panda World part of the zoo. They were made with 2008 tiles all by kids. It was their way of making wishes for a great olympics, help/hope for the earthquake, preserve nature, and a harmonic and beautiful homeland. Now, on to the Panda Bears. They had about 5 or 6 that were outside in their open area pens. Mostly they were just eatting bamboo or limbs and not even facing the lines of people. But inside we saw the baby pandas (or youngest ones). They were adorable.

We have not mentioned much about the culture of China except the bathrooms but as this day went on and on - we started to struggle with the things that we wouldn't think of doing in the US. Most people know that the government does regulate how many kids you can have in China. So you are allowed ONE child and if you have more, it cost you big time. But at the Zoo, you couldn't tell there was a child limit because the holiday had so MANY there. One thing they do that was hard for us was that a small child that is being potty trained wears pants without a crotch. Then they are allowed to go pee and poop just anyway. Usually just being wiped and the paper thrown down on the ground also. So nothing to see poop and pee spots all over. And, Chinese people are BIG on clearing their throats and spitting. So at the zoo, I felt I was walking through a mine field. At the outside pandas, we literally were standing at one pen when all of a sudden a child about 9 or 10 starting peeing into the panda bear pen. We were shocked. So, thought I would post a couple pictures for you to see what I mean.

We passed on going to the local shopping area in fear of what we would see. So back to the hotel to relax and get packed up. We checked out of our room since we would be picked up by another company to take us to the train station tonight and head to Xian on an overnight train. So off to the Spaghetti House for dinner. This meal would be the last for about 15 hours. (train ride is 12+ hours) Sure hope we can sleep. lol
The train station was HUGE, PACKED, and beautifully lit up at night. Matter fact - Beijing is beautiful at night. Seems to have lit up buildings as if you are in Vegas in many places. Very nice for what Americans think is a poor country. We sure didn't believe that after seeing Beijing.
We paid the extra money for a private sleeping car. We didn't know exactly what to expect but was pleasantly surprise at the cabin and of course, the western bathroom. Yippee (even house shoes)

I think Bob got about 9 hours sleep but I struggled the entire night. Only getting about 3 hours sleep. I had to use my inhaler a couple things because it seems so dusty outside or something that was making me struggle breathing. We did find out that Beijing had so much smog they had to turn on emergency lights so I guess I was feeling the effects as we headed out. And Xian was smoggy also. But after a 12+ hour train ride, we arrived in Xian. (home of the 8th Wonder of the World) As we got off the train "whatshisname" was there to pick us up. We had started our "tour" with Beijing Sinhua International Tours the night before when they picked us up at our hotel and dropped us off at the train station. The tour included the train tickets, and now, a guide and driver in Xian. And breakfast (included) was next. He took us to the "chinese breakfast buffet" that was included and I looked at it and said NO WAY. CAN'T Eat that!" So he ask what I wanted and I said McDonald and off we went. lol
A mandatory stop at the clay factory that makes little Terracota Warriors then off to the real thing.

The Terracota Warriors Museum is made up of three pits and a museum. The three pits are not all uncovered totally as excavacation is still taking place in the 1st pit and the others has just a small amount uncovered. In the below photo Bob and I are standing in front of Pit 1. This pit has the most warriors and horses that have been uncovered, put back together piece by piece and restored but it is estimated that over 8000 warriors/horses will be restored when the project is finished unless more are found.

The above photos show many of the 5' 8" warriors that are restored and put back to their orginal place. But in the photo below, you can see how the warriors are when found when uncovered. Many broken with pieces everywhere. Almost all missing their heads). Each one is numbered piece by piece and in the right photo you can see as they are put together waiting until all parts are found then restored and put back to where they were orginally found. A long and very impressive process for sure.
Pit 2 was a much smaller find with mainly chariots and warriors whom would be officers and/or higher standard warriors. The warriors headdress usually tells what rank they would be. In pit 3, mostly still covered since they are preparing to use better technology for the restoration, the warriors that were found still have color to them. So, with new technology, they can keep their orginal color while in the past restoring, they lost it during that process. Pit 3 has been covered and has special lighting to keep this from happening when they begin to restore. The below photo will show you what those warriors look like with their color. Pit 3 will also be a large amount of warriors /horses and these restoration will go on for many years to come.
The below warrior in the case is one that was found totally in tact. Since the war with the Japanese, they destroyed most of the warriors, breaking them and knocking them over. Then they set fire to the wood beams that made the ceilings and walls of where the warriors were kept. In burning this it destroyed the chariots that the horses stood with. All these warriors were made for the emperor for his tomb. He did this while alive and died while they were all being made. The warriors were not found until the mid 1970's when a farmer was digging for a well. So a very new Wonder of the World.
In the Emperor tomb they found two chariots being pulled by horses all made from copper. These all survived the war and fire and are held in the museum that we are standing in front of in the below photo. Also in the Museum is the Warrior marionette that was used in the 2008 Olympics Opening ceremony.

From the Warriors to the Tang Dynasty Restaurant for our included lunch. Another wonderful buffet that again, caters to the Western world. Absolutely delicious.
Twelve hours away from Beijing but still, a another visit to a part of the Great Wall. Xian was the capital of China at one time and is why it has so much history there. So nothing like going to the Great Wall again. The city of Xian had the wall around its entire city - which by bike you can ride in an hour. We regret not doing that but our guide didn't tell us we had enough time. But we walked on the wall (flat, level and wide). In the area we went to, it also had guards, a drawbridge, and a mote around it. Very neat.

We also had a stop at the Mosque Temple in Xian. Not sure how they could get by with a Mosque there but guess that isn't regulated like having kids is.

And of course, every city has a bell tower (took photo standing on the Xian Great Wall and that is how smoggy it was this day) and everyone has a drum tower. (below in the photo with Bob at night.

After a full day of tours, our guide informed us of the news for our train tonight. They didn't get us the private sleeping car as we had paid for but they got us a four person car and bought all four beds. Even told us we didn't have to pay the difference. lol lol Of course, no bathroom so you would have to use the community bathroom. Wasn't to happy but with not much timem no other option, it was off to the train station and in bed. Since I didn't get any sleep the night before, I would get some sleep on the way back.

The same company picked us up at the train station in Beijing (after walking around for an hour looking for her) we were took back to the ALOFT hotel where we checked back in. We had breakfast and stayed in the room all day. Yes, it was a free day but staying in the hotel, eating at the hotel, and sleeping at the hotel is all we wanted to do. lol
This was one of those trips that we are SOOOOOOOOOOOOO glad we did. But would we do it again - probably not. We would like to see Shanghai and maybe other places in China and the Asia countries but enough of Beijing and Xian. lol I know this blog has been long, a lot of photos and a lot of writing. But how would one understand what you are seeing without some history of what it is about. Beijing was a beautiful city for sure. The outside, not seeing the lives of the chinese would make me think they are a rich country but their culture has not caught up with their structures. But, it is the up and coming country and I can see it becoming very powerful.

Thanks again for taking this fascinating journey with us. This year has been filled with seeing so much and China's great Wall and the Terracota Warriors have been a big highlight of our year. I am so glad you could share it with us at least reading our journey. Next, back in the good ole USA. lol lol lol


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