I hired a car and tour guide to take me to The Great Wall and Summer Palace as they are both outside of Beijing.
They picked me up at 6:30 am to avoid the Beijing morning traffic and we arrived at the Jiayguan pass by 8 am (about 50 km drive away). Well now I can tick another bucket list item - the Great Wall is truly impressive and looked just how I imagined. The first part of the wall was built in 1417 and was added to during the Ming Dynasty. When it was completed it was 8800 km long and used for defense and migration control. The wall was built from brick, stone and mud - some of it is in need of repair and therefore is closed to the public. Apparently the wall is visible from the moon. It was a much more strenuous climb than I anticipated so I was very glad to be doing the climb in the early morning. However when I got to the top my stomach was upset and there were no washrooms up there. The last public toilet I remembered seeing was half way down. I got there much faster than it took me to climb up only to find there were no western toilets, only Muslim toilets which are a hole in the ground - you know they say when you gotta go, you gotta go!
You will notice some of my pictures are with random Chinese people. For some reason they keep asking to have their picture taken with me. When I asked my tour guide about this she said many of them are from small towns in china and rarely see white women my age - oh to be so popular! On the climb up i only saw asians however on the way back the bus loads of tourists were starting their climb. I arrived back at the van at 9:30 - great climb (except for the washroom incident) and incredible views.
My tour guide was telling me how much china has changed over the last 15 years - for example the whole country now has electricity - her village did not get electricity until 1996! By the way Internet is very poor here and I can upload my blogs to the Internet however you cannot view blogs from china on the Internet nor can you get into Facebook!
Next it was off to the summer palace. This is outside of Beijing on a man made lake where the emperor and family would go during the summer months. The summer palace area is 29 sq km. of palaces, gardens, bridges, temples and a long outdoor covered corridor all in classical Chinese architecture. The summer palace is a world heritage site and is truly a magnificent place. You can easily imagine the emperor's family wondering these beautiful grounds. Sean and Aaron take note they had a palace built for the emperor's mother! This site sees between 20,000-50,000 visitors per day.
According to my tour guide the price of the private tour is subsidized by different retailers so she will take me to visit them. I find it hard to believe because I paid the equivalent to $60 plus all my own admissions and tolls plus paid for her lunch! We went to Chinatown in beijing for lunch (and I thought the whole city was a Chinatown).
So we visited the jade factory, the silk factory, the tea house and the Olympic wellness centre. I had no intentions of buying anything but the sales people are relentless and kept dropping the prices when I wasn't purchasing. So let's say I am now helping china's economy. Marianne i do not need you to purchase me excess baggage yet! The government Olympic wellness centre is located very close to the 2008 Olympic stadium. They give you a 'free' foot massage but then tell you that your feet need to be scaled and that will cost equivalent to $15. Then they have the Chinese medicine doctor read your palm to check on your health condition like they do with Olympic athletes (are they confusing me with an athlete). Anyway apparently my kidneys are not working, I have a bad stomach (this guy should have been with me at the wall for my little episode) and I have extremely poor circulation. Boys get that box ready cause it sounds like I am on the way out! Don't get me wrong i do believe chinese medicine has some value. However i knew they were going to try and sell me something - guess what - they have some Chinese medicines that can help me (the stuff comes from the Tibet monks - OMG!)
The medicine for my kidneys will cost about $40 for a one month supply and the medicine for everything else will be $90 for one month but I will need to go on these medications for at least three months and of course they can sell me the supply. When I did not bite the price dropped and I could get two months for the price of one! Wonder if my new retirement extended health plan will cover this? When I told them I had my own Chinese medicine doctor at home and I would be sure to go see him they were not too happy with me but could not say much except he might not be able to get the special Tibet medicine! Spare me please! I told the tour guide I would not purchase anything else today so there was no need to take me to the pearl factory! I got dropped off at my hotel - what a day!