Wednesday, April 29, 2015

CHINA Day 6: Great Wall and Olympic Park

On Monday, our 4th day in Beijing, we finally went to the Great Wall of China! It was a very nice clear day, which is pretty rare in the city because of all the pollution. It had rained through the night on Saturday and it was really windy on Sunday, so we got up and had great visibility. It was a good day for the Great Wall. You can go to several different sections of the wall, but the most common, and the one with the greatest amount of access is Mutianyu. So, that's where we went.

Can you see it up there on the hill?
We had to take a little bus up the hill, through the village of Mutianyu. I guess a few years ago, anyone could drive up to the wall, but now only the tour busses are allowed. I'm not sure if that was just one more way to make money or if the villagers thought it was a good solution to reduce traffic through their little town.
It was pretty chilly and sunny that day, so we got some hats and gloves on our way to the bus. There were a lot of vendors charging crazy high prices for everything. So, I had my first experience with bargaining and I was shocked how far I could talk them down. I never bargain in Laos because everything is so cheap even when they double the price when they see my coming. But, these people were out of control. You expect a mark-up when you're in a touristy place, but not 500%. So, I would talk them down to about $5 per shirt and $10 per hat.

This is the alpine slide we will take down later...

Here's Bobby on the "cable chair" (a.k.a. ski lift)
Herbert, Marie and I went on another chair.

I think Herbert said that the inscription on the mountain is along the lines of "Long Live Chairman Mao."

This is a village on the other side of the wall. Herbert jokingly told us it was Mongolia. I guess it isn't... I didn't think it was too funny of a joke.

Scotty pretending to shoot an arrow.

Guys! We walked on the Great Wall of CHINA!!!

Had to pose with the Chinese flag on our way back down.

The kids were being whiner babies about walking on the wall, and Matt really wanted to hike up some of the steeper sections. So, we bought a sleeve of Ritz, Oreos, Lays Stax, and a Snickers (for $20) and sat and had a snack while Matt and Herbert took a hike. (The Lays were tomato flavor, which was really strange. It was like crunching on tomato soup.)

[Matt typing here...]
The steeper section consisted of a staircase that went up the side of the mountain.
Here's a shot from about half way up.  You can see the blue roof where Becky and the kids were eating their snacks.
Some more stairs to climb.
Once we got to the end of the restored section we decided to keep going into what is referred as a "wild section" of the wall.  It was pretty cool to see the unrestored part of the wall.

[Becky again]
Here's where I sat with the kids. If you zoom in a lot on this picture, you can see me sitting on the ground changing Marie's diaper and Scott sitting on the bench in a red sweatshirt and Bobby coming back from the trash can.

Scotty and me coming down the slide! It was so fun once we got going. I went too fast at first and crashed into Matt and then I couldn't get going again. Then the guy behind me suggested I scoot back a little and it did the trick. It was so much fun!
Since Matt, the boys, and I all really wanted to go down the slide, Herbert wore the baby down in the cable chair. Babies weren't allowed to go on the slide.
There were some guys at the bottom charging 10 yuan ($1.50) to take a picture, so we did that...

After lunch we went to Olympic Park to see the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube. I was really surprised at how much I was affected by seeing these buildings in person. The Beijing 2008 Olympics are probably the games I remember the best because I wasn't in school so I didn't have any homework. Matt and I were living at Wymount at BYU and we had TiVo so I got to watch everything I wanted when I wanted. It was where Michael Phelps made history! And the opening ceremonies were unforgettable. So, it turned out to be very exciting to see where it all happened in person. The buildings are now used for sporting events and other performing arts.

Here's a shot of Scotty showing us how to swim in front of the Water Cube.
After visiting the Olympic park Matt decided he wanted to return to the park with the overlook of the Forbidden City since the weather was so much nicer.  He can take over from here.

[Matt again]
After they dropped me off at the park I started to make my way up the hill.  The trail had a couple of pagodas lining the trail as you went up.
Once I got to the top I was very happy that the view of the forbidden city was much clearer.  Just so you can see the contrast I've added a picture from the first day we went.

Here's a shot of the forbidden city from our 1st day in Beijing.

And here's a shot when the weather was a little more clear.
I also took some pictures facing the other direction.  I can't quite remember what the closer buildings are, but the building in the far back is the drum tower which we visited on a different day.  Also, if look closely you can see the olympic tower in the far distance.

I also decided to take a few more shots of the tulips.

After I was done taking pictures I started to look for a taxi to take me home.  One problem is that at 5 pm all the taxi drivers appear to be out to dinner (at least that's what our tour guide said), so I couldn't find one.  Luckily I was able to hail a rickshaw to take me back to our hotel.

[back to Becky]
So, that was the day in Beijing we had all been waiting for and it did not disappoint! One more day of touring to go...

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