🇨🇳 Touring Beijing: Day 2! 🇨🇳
We had another 6:15am pickup call (😱😭😴). Our tour guide for the day, Paul, was very energetic and well spoken. He was 38, and took his job very seriously. He knew the ins and outs of every place we went, and gave us as much information as he could, even if that meant that we couldn’t sleep on the bus, lol.
We started at the Jade factory, another high-pressured, “you looked? You bought it!” kind of place. There were beautiful pieces of jewelry, dozens and dozens of bracelets, and cool statues intricately carved by the jade carver, whom we saw working at the front of the shop. (I wonder if you’re not supposed to breathe jade fumes in? Probably not, haha.) There were different colored statues and lots of beads and paintings, perfectly displayed throughout the store. They did give us a brief demonstration about how jade should be slightly see-through. That’s how you can tell if it’s real, I guess?
They showed us a little ball of jade that had another jade ball inside it with holes in it that held ANOTHER little ball of jade inside that one. It was all carved from one piece of jade, and was meant to represent children, parents and grandparents. I wanted one because I hadn’t seen anything like that before, but the smallest was $30. I didn’t want one that bad. 😂
I saw the most beautiful sculptures, tea sets and museum-worthy displays that were worth hundreds, thousands, and hundreds of thousands of dollars. The big jade table was $100,000…and they didn’t like that I was sitting at it. Then, an older man who clearly could afford said table sat down and the sales ladies were all smiles and welcoming and invited us all to sit as they showed us how the very top of the table spun around like a record player. I must say it was very cool, but we joked how of those stools were probably too big to fit under the seat in front of us. 😂😂
Then we went to the tombs! We drove out to the middle of nowhere, which made me wonder how they actually found these tombs in the first place? The parking lot was huge, as was the line of little Chinese ladies selling everything from giant furry hats to sizable peaches and apples to “real” diamonds. We walked down 10 stories (which actually ended up being only about 80 steps, but he made it sound like much more), and saw the tombs and sacrifices, all housed and protected nicely underground. People threw money on the tombs and surrounding areas. It was fascinating! But also cold, lol.
THE GREAT WALL!!!!
I chose the tour that went to Mutianyu, supposedly the prettiest part of the Wall. Even though it was further outside of Beijing and way out into the mountains, it wasn’t as busy as the main entrance and there was a toboggan that you could slide down if you were really brave. (I wish I had done this, but Paul said it wasn’t very popular, which makes me think it might not have been incredibly safe, so my little group went with the cable car.) We were told that, once on the wall, we could either go left or right. Left was harder, right was easier. Naturally, we went left.
We had clearly underestimated he definitions of “harder” and “easier,” because we took one look at this incredibly steep mountain that we’d committed to climb…. and laughed and laughed and laughed. 😂
There was no way. It had some little steps and sloped pathways, right up to the part that goes STRAIGHT FREAKING UP for like 400 steps! (The major incline in the pics! Also, the pictures don’t do this justice at all…it was sooooo steep.)
But even getting to this point was rough. We had to climb some San-Francisco-like hills to get to the cable car, which then swooped us up to the top of the mountain, where even the “beginning baby steps” were steep, jagged and dangerous.
By the time I got home, I’d climbed 63 flights of stairs (thanks for keeping track, phone lol)…and I didn’t even do half of what my brave tour-mates did!
I met a super nice gal from Italy, who was my tour BFF. We had this day and Tour Day 3 together, so clearly we were meant to be friends. Her name was Marcella and she was also traveling solo, attending various meetings for her Master’s Degree. She was the best! We laughed so loudly every time someone wanted to take pictures of the “tall white woman” (her) and the “white woman with the big hair” (me). 😂 The blond gal was Ella. She was with her dad visiting her brother, who studied at the local university. They were from Denmark and incredibly nice. I told them I’m moving to Denmark and moving in with them. 😂😂 The other gal was from Germany/Romania, traveling by herself but was very shy. When I spoke to her in German, she smiled and became much more friendly. :))) She then switched back into her marvelous English and chatted as if she didn’t have a shy bone in her body. There must be something about knowing the other person speaks some of your language that makes chatting and opening up a little easier.
On the way to the GW, our tour guide told us that, because the Great Wall is no longer used for protection, it isn’t being restored. There are no such things as “safety codes” on the Great Wall (or probably in most of China haha), so when part of the wall crumbled, broke off or sent someone someone accidentally sliding down the mountain, they’d simply put up a “TOURIST STOP!” sign. (In English, we actively look for tourist stops to add to our journey and experiences while traveling. In China, a tourist stop means “cray white people: you might lose a leg if you continue, so best to turn around.”) Paul warned us to not pass any roped off areas, as we would fall and probably be too hurt to continue the tour. 😂
Cats! There were so many cats!!! I didn’t see too many dogs, but the ones I did see were in the city. I didn’t see any cats though, until we got to the mountains. Then they were everywhere!!!! I didn’t pet them in fear of inheriting a flea (this happened in Morocco and my poor cats never forgave me haha), but I wanted to cuddle them ALL!!
We ate lunch before we arrived at the wall. It was a nice restaurant that had large plates of food out for us, but when we arrived, the food had clearly been sitting out for an hour at least, as everything was lukewarm and wilted. Nothing fresh of course, as China doesn’t want to poison the tourists, haha, but the sauces were – again – really, really good. There was a mushroom sauté and then some zucchini and carrots and tomatoes, all cooked with spicy sauces, on a bed of rice. We got one bottle of Sprite per table that we got to pass around. Water, beer or tea was extra $$. The food was okay, but the actual place was freezing and very well might have actually been AIR CONDITIONED, even though it couldn’t have been more than 45 degrees. The front doors were wide open, as well as the windows and small exits. I guess insulation wasn’t a thing for this restaurant. I was so glad I bought that monstrous green and black coat. 😂❤️
The wall is so massive – the longest in the world! We had a hard time just climbing it, but we couldn’t imagine people bringing all the materials up to the 13,000+ miles of the wall and putting it together. 😱💪🏻
The Tea shop
Then we went to a tea house! We tried 6 different kinds of teas and the sales lady, I mean tea shop guide, showed us how to use the different cups for different teas. Then she told us that they don’t actually sell tea there and we should definitely buy the different tea sets so that we’d be prepared when we find all the teas that we tried. And if we buy something, we’ll get a little statue of a boy that “pees” when the water is hot enough. 😂
We saw so many different types of beautiful tea sets! They were red, yellow, blue, green, purple and white, some with gold trim! They sold teapots, smaller cups, larger mugs, colorful sets and designer tasting sets. I was so sad to leave this colorful rainbow of tea-ful joy!
After the Tour
After tea, Marcella, Ella and her dad and I went out to dinner. They organize the tour groups by where you’re staying, so we all were within a few blocks of each other! We went to the same food court that I’d eaten at the day before, and I ordered the same soup from the same place and was definitely served something entirely different, haha, but it was still soup and it was still yummy!
We all tried the fried mini crabs (so delicious!) and the cornbread made from the steam and smoke from little sausages. Ella had the stuffed chicken and dandelion tea. Once I finished my peanut and garlic noodle soup (lol), I got these two pieces of dense cakes made of cooked rice that were basically chunks of tasteless mush with a sticky coating on them, covered in sweet rose syrup. They both tasted exactly the same: like a sticky rose bud. Very strange.
I went home and showed my hostel owner the two tea sets I got from the local market for ¥200 total, when they were marked as ¥150 each. He said that only Chinese grandmothers could do that kind of bargaining. I was so proud!! 😂 ☕️
Another early wakeup call for Tour Day 3…
Thanks for reading, happy travels!
More pictures from the day: