Great Tour of the Great Wall and More
Beijing Travel Blog› entry 29 of 41 › view all entries
Our tour guide, Song, was right on time. He had informed us the night before that he would pick us up at the hotel between 8 am and 8:10 am. Just as we were walking out the door at 7:59 am, our phone was ringing. It was him telling us he was outside.
We joined more people on the bus, including the tour guide, the driver and a couple from Vancouver - Soon and his partner (whose name I unfortunately did not write down) and a couple from Israel - Timmy and Naomi. Soon informed us his family was from China and he and his partner had been visiting Soon’s family for the Chinese New Year holiday. His partner told us they had off due to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, so they thought they’d get away from the traffic and come visit Soon’s family.
We started out our tour by going to visit the Ming Tombs first. On our way there, we drove past several landmarks our tour guide talked about, including Peking University, where students gathered to protest for the new revolution in 1919. He talked about the original Forbidden City areas, on which buildings and the city itself had been built. The Ming Tombs were interesting.
After we saw the factory area, we were ushered into a room where you could purchase jade jewelry and structures. The staff there must work off commission, because immediately everyone swarmed around us to try to get us to buy anything. If you even looked at a piece, they tried to convince you to purchase something. We didn’t purchase anything, nor did the couple from Vancouver, but Timmy and Naomi purchased a jade carved ball with other carved balls inside of it.
After visiting the jade gallery, our tour guide took us to a place where we had lunch. All the different entrees and appetizers were placed in the middle of the table on a rotating device, and we all shared all the different offerings. Everything tasted good. It was all local foods. There were dumplings, egg rolls, rice, soup, sweet chicken, spicy chicken, fish, oranges, and more. There was a good variety and plenty of it for all of us to share. Our tour guide didn’t join us for the meal. We all joked around and said this is what they feed the tourists, while the tour guides ate other stuff in the back. It was interesting to learn about the other couples and their backgrounds and their travel experiences. They suggested other things for us to see in Beijing (and even in other cities and countries).
The highlight of our tour was next. We got to the Great Wall by about 1 pm. Our tour guide gave us ample time to walk around on our own. We all took the cable cars up to the Ba Da Ling part of the Wall, which is actually the very touristy part of the wall, but due to the season, it was the most easily accessible part of the wall at this time. Though we wanted to see less touristy parts of the wall, which are said to be nicer and less swarmed with people, we were happy to see the wall at all, versus not seeing it. It was awesome! Just seeing it for the first time, made us feel like… Wow! We’re at the Great Wall!
It was a shame that the weather was muggy and cloudy (though Larry says it looks muggy all the time in Beijing, because it’s so industrial) because it did not allow us to really see way out.
After visiting the wall, we rode back towards Beijing and passed the Olympic village along the way. We passed the Water Cube and Bird’s Nest (stadium) on our way.
We arrived at a silk factory towards the end of our day. There we learned about how silk is spun from silkworms’ cocoons. It was so fascinating to learn how they make silk bedding and clothing. I had no clue what this process involved before, but here they showed us the silkworms in their different life stages (which takes about 2 months) and then how they use the cocoon to make the silk. After learning at the silk factory, of course, we were ushered into a shopping area where we could purchase bedding, clothing, ties, pajamas, tablecloths and other silk articles.
On our way back to the hotel, we learned our tour guide lives close to our hotel, so we asked him for some recommendations for places to eat and to hang out. He gave us some recommendations.
Larry and I got back to our hotel at around 6:30 pm and decided then to drop off our stuff and venture out to find food. We decided to try one of the tour guides recommendations. He was spot on!!!
His recommendation turned out to be fabulous. I don’t even know the name of the restaurant (because I can’t read Chinese characters), but they have picture menus, just as our tour guide told us they would have and all we had to do was point to the picture.
Larry and I noticed, that everyone stared at us. Actually, in general the Chinese stare at anyone that looks different than them. We've noticed this when we see other tourists too. I know we stood out, and there’s no disguising we’re tourists. I’ve tried to hide my camera and guide book to try to blend in more, but Larry assures me we still stick out like sore thumbs - ha ha ha! Of course we do!
As we were leaving the restaurant where we had our very delicious dinner, I heard Larry who was walking behind me stop to speak to someone.
After dinner, we stopped and got ice cream for dessert, then called it a night.
What a great day - good beginning, fantastic tour, great company, lots of knowledge gained, and phenomenal ending! What more could we ask for?