When I looked out the window of the hotel, I was certain it was raining - it was so dismal and gray. It turns out that Beijing, unfortunately, always looks this way. It reminds me of a Mad Maxx futuristic world. It was chilly and by the time we got to the Great Wall of China, it was even snowing. OK-- after the climb we did today, my @ss should be tighter than a drum. We climbed like troupers - just stopping to wheeze and gasp occasionally and mostly that was due to the thick polluted air (not possibly because I haven't been to the gym this past month!).
The Wall is even more majestic and astounding up close and personal. As I coaxed my leg up yet another steep step, I couldn't help but wonder at the sheer audacity it took to envision and then build a monument of such magnitude. At first glimpse I felt the same way as I did when I first glimpsed out over the ocean and my grandfather explained that the water extended even beyond my line of sight. They say that every step in the Wall has a body buried beneath it -- the human price of building it. By the time we climbed the highest peak, I almost added my corpse to the list!
We ate a traditional meal of steamed pork dumplings and chicken soup. After the climb everything seemed delicious and the squatter toilets were almost welcoming. Gotta remember to lay off the green tea!
We ended the afternoon at the Olympic Stadium - the Bird's Nest that I saw on TV and remember so well from the opening ceremonies.You have to pay admittance fees everywhere you go - and often (charges continue the closer inside you go). The place was practically deserted yet they had a full staff accepting tickets, guarding the place, cleaning, dusting (the stadium seats), and running the empty restaurants. The oddest part was the video of the opening ceremonies that played continuously on the large screen to an empty stadium. Did I mention that the actual structure is truly remarkable and beautiful?
After climbing more thousands of steps to explore every square inch of the Bird's Nest, we jaunted across the massive open plaza (from where hundreds of Chinese were apparently evicted for the big O), and explored the Water Cube .It was also equally as impressive - and empty. It makes me wonder how sustainable these buildings are. Hubby's great white bald head is attracting alot of attention. He has been hounded by the hat vendors trying to convince him he would look great in a Chairman Mao look-alike fur hat, but so far, he has resisted.
We decided to take a pass on the offer to go to the market "where all the westerners go" to buy fake designer duds. We have burned through our cash - not realizing that our Canadian credit card would not be widely accepted. I loathe the cheap and cheap looking souvenirs and was happy to retreat to our room instead. So it is with a nice full glass of Pinot Grigio (brought from home in a tacky but convenient tetra pak), a neatly stack of Pringles, and raw cashews, that I post this entry.
Don't get me wrong -- I am appreciating this adventure for all its worth -- I will just be happy to actually see the sky and inhale a deep breathe of air without the residue of pollution and ever-present cigarette smoke.
Nest stop: Xian.
|Lots of green tea!|
|Steamed pork dumplings.|
|Some chili to mix with the vinegar to spice them up.|