We were up bright and early the next day thanks to jet lag on mom and dad's part. We started the day off geo-caching in a park with views of the Olympic area and then we met some lovely people - friends of a friend back home. Mom had taken requests via email on things they missed from the States and we delivered bags of candy, cereal, and coffee creamer. They in turned bought us lunch and gave us tips on things to do and see.
The view from our hotel room.
Then we headed over to Tiananmen Square where we got our first taste of annoying salespeople trying to sell us postcards, books, hats, and English tour guides. We resisted them all and stayed around until sunset when the national guard lowers the main flag in a special ceremony.
The flag goes up at sunrise and comes down at sunset.
A patriotic little girl.
The next day we joined a tour to see the Sacred Way and the Great Wall at Mutianyu. Of course they also take you to a jade factory and a Chinese medicine center where you are encouraged to buy jewelry and herbs. Although all cynicism aside, the doctor of Chinese medicine did accurately pinpoint most of my annoying health issues, especially the fact that I have "too much heat in my belly." Apparently my tongue is not the color it should be. Still, I didn't buy any herbs. I was there for the Wall.
The doctor diagnoses mom.
But before the grand finale of the day we visited the Sacred Way which is a long road book ended with large gates and lined with statues that leads to the Ming Dynasty tombs. Each year the royal family would make a procession down the Sacred Way to inspect the construction of the royal tombs.
We learned all of this from our super cute English speaking guide, Mary. She spoke really good English but she had a very thick accent and when we got off the bus here the three of us had to have a short conference to determine why she was talking about "janitors in Asian times." We finally realized she meant "generals in ancient times."
Then finally after lunch we headed to the Great Wall. It really was amazing. We had talked about doing a section of the wall where you hike 10km but we knew mom wasn't going to be up for that due to her bad knees. After hiking just a very small section of it that we did this day I wondered if I would have been up for it. It's not just long. It's steep. We took a cable car to the top since we only had 2 hours to explore but even just getting to the cable car station almost did mom in. Dad and I had to leave her at the first guard house and continue exploring without her.
We walked quite a ways, through many guard towers until we came to a huge flight of steep steps that went took the wall up over another peak. Dad walked about halfway up and I think regretted it the next day. Most of the wall we were standing on was built during the Ming dynasty but other walls had been built for hundreds of years before, as early as 220 B.C. The part we were on is touristy (there was a Subway next to the car park) but a lot of the Wall is poor condition. I would have loved to have seen some more of the "wilder" Wall but even this tourist safe version was easily the highlight of our entire trip.
Next up: The Summer Palace, a mistake you wouldn't want to make on the Amazing Race, the Pearl Market, and the Temple of Heaven park.