Before we meet Rachel Shu-Ting we're spending a little time getting to know her beautiful homeland. Beijing is more than 3,000 years old, so there is much to absorb and not nearly enough time to see it in two days of touring here, but we're giving it our best shot. By 6:30 p.m. today, for example, we had visited a jade factory, a cloisonne factory, hiked up part of the Great Wall of China, toured the Summer Palace, and seen an acrobatic show. Tomorrow's agenda includes visits to the Forbidden City, Tianamen Square, a pearl factory and a dinner of famous Beijing Duck.
The Great Wall was a great test of our endurance. The weather was chilly today, and we could feel it getting colder as we rode the bus north of Beijng. I don't think any of us were prepared for the way the wind could whip across the top of that old stone wall and chill us right down to the bone, though. And no matter how much you read about how steep and uneven the stairs are, you really aren't prepared for how challenging the climb can be. When we finally got to the top portion and were trying to catch our breath, a travel mate said, "Now go do that again with a bunch of stone bricks on your back." It really puts this ancient construction project into persepctive. A couple of times Lance and I debated whether we should keep going, but we decided this might be our only chance, and we didn't want to say we gave up so close from our goal.
And, as I remembered from my Grand Canyon days, going down is not a lot easier. I'm waving jauntily in this photo, but right before Lance snapped it I was clinging to the railing for dear life as I carefully chose my next step.
Most of our group made it as far as we did. After all the hurdles we've jumped over the last two years, what's a little stone wall, anyway?
The Summer Palace was a wonder of excesses like a special hall built solely as a place to celebrate one ruler's birthday, or this marble boat:
We could certainly tell why it was the SUMMER palace, though! Did I mention how COLD it was today?
After lunch, I found these cool terra cotta soldiers in a store we visited.
Lance enjoyed making new friends.
If I can stay awake after my duck tomorrow, I'll report on another day's adventures. Then it's off to Changsha to meet Ting Ting!