After another day at sea we are at our last stop, and it was time to disembark the Diamond Princess. It was a great cruise, no complaints here (besides some of the rude senior passengers who ended my tours early). We disembark in Beijing
and meet up with our tour guide Kevin. We load up the van with all of our luggage (about 10 pieces of luggage!!) and head to our hotel, the Crowne Plaza. It is about a two hour drive from the port to the hotel. The traffic in Beijing is insane. Way way worse then even NYC. Couldn't believe it. We FINALLY got to the hotel and we quickly dropped off our things and headed for the Great Wall.
The drive from the Crowne Plaza to the wall was over two hours, again because of heavy traffic.
We visited the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. When we got to the wall we took a cable car up to the top. Mom has never ridden a cable car so initially was screaming when we started moving. Haha she's too much. Once she realized it was not scary at all she was able to enjoy her surroundings and take pictures. The wall itself was spectacular. It was built primarily from granite and was built to protect the capital. I was amazed at how quiet it was there. There were maybe 10 people walking the wall remotely close to me, and at times it felt as if we were all alone at this amazing site. When we got to one section of the wall there were a lot of very narrow steps down to continue. My mother was unable to make it down, she was too scared so I continued on without her.
It was unreal how serene it was. There was one point where I took out my video camera to capture the beauty and peacefulness of the wall. The weather was perfect, about 75 degrees. I expected it to be cold up there on the wall since its so high up, but it wasn't it was just incredible. The only thing that got to me after a while were all the bugs. There was a continuous buzzing in my ears. They were everywhere. After exploring the wall and the various watchtowers on the way it was time to leave. The Wall was one of the best experiences for me, I have never felt so at peace. We then headed for dinner and went to a nearby place that was a restaurant with an indoor garden. It was very different then any restaurant that I've ever been to. If I didn't know it was a restaurant I would have thought it was a gardening shop.
The food kept coming out. We started with Kung Pao chicken (which was fantastic) then some beef, some veggies, egg drop soup, fried rice, lo mein, tea, soda. It was enough food to feed a family of 10, and it was just the two of us. It was delicious but it was sad wasting all of the precious food. We enjoyed our dinner and then jumped back in the van for the long ride back to the hotel.
Our hotel was set in the heart of Beijing. It was only a block from the famous Wangfujing Walking Street. Along this street were all of the famous top designers along with souvenir shops. As we were walking along this street we came across the Dong Hua Men Night Market. Oh my g*d. I have never seen anything like it before. There was about a half mile of bbq stands selling everything from fruit, to dumplings, to fried scorpion.
Crazy. There were snake, star fish, fried crickets, centipedes, beetles, scorpions and even sheep penis. Ugh, the smell was way to much for me to handle. I started gagging as I walked down this street. I watched a young Asian girl take a bite of the fried scorpion and I literally threw up in my mouth a little. I can't believe people really eat this stuff. Sheep's penis? That one has to be just for show.. do people really eat that? Yikes. Not me. I was so turned off that I didn't even try anything. It was really cool to see though. That's when I really knew I wasn't in the US. As mom and I walked down the street so many Chinese people came up to us asking us to take pictures with them. Did they think we were famous? They certainly made me feel like a celebrity! These two beautiful girls came up to us and asked us if we'd like to join them a bar down the road.
I would have LOVED to, but I was too paranoid join them. Since I didn't know where I was or where I was going, I didn't feel like I'd be in control of the situation. I'm sure they were good girls, but you never know. I watch way to much Dateline. Too paranoid for my own good. I gotta get over that.
We didn't join the girls for a drink, but instead we went to the Houhai bar area for a drink. It was about a 15 minute ride from our hotel. We got out of the taxi and viewed a strip of bars and restaurants lining the water. They were all lit up and beautiful. There were lots of expats there, so we weren't as exotic there. There were tons of young people outside of the bar area kicking around a hacky sack. I haven't seen a hacky sack since I was a kid.
Pretty amusing to watch. People really get into playing it. We walked along the bars to see which one we wanted to spend some time in. Most were full so we weren't able to enter. Most of the venues had bands, or some sort of entertainment. One bar even had a pole dancer entertaining the crowd of happy men outside. Haha. Very cool to see. Those girls are really talented, can't be easy to work a pole like that. We finally settled on one bar that had a cover band playing. I was amazed to hear the Asian man singing Westernized music. They were great. The funniest part of the whole thing was that when we entered this bar my father was sitting inside having a drink. Out of all places, it was really random to run into him there. I ordered a margarita and a bowl of popcorn and watched the band play.
It was a great night, but it was getting late and we needed to get up early the next day, so it was time to head back to the hotel.
Our hotel was very nice. The bathroom was completely modern. The sink was a large bowl made of glass. The room was very clean and sleek. We woke up around 6 packed up and headed downstairs for our free breakfast. We were expecting a continental breakfast but inside we were given a full breakfast buffet. It was very nice, they had every breakfast food you could imagine. I think I settled on a bowl of Rice Krispies. My stomach had been hurting for weeks now because of all the foreign foods that I'd been consuming. So I figured it was better to be safe then sorry. We finished up our breakfast and met up with Kevin again.
We drove over to Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City. Tienanmen Square is the largest city square in the world, and now I see why it gets that honor. It is huge! I have never seen so many people in my life. It was so crowded. As we walked through the square people were staring at me. I had no idea why. I asked my tour guide Kevin, and he said that they have never seen anything like me before. My pale white skin and red hair was an oddity there. And as I looked around he was absolutely right. There were very very few Americans there. 99.9% of the people had black hair so I guess I was a little exotic. People kept asking me to take a picture with them it was too funny. It got to the point where Kevin screamed "everyone line up if you want to take a picture with her.
" hahaha and people really did line up! I couldn't believe all the attention I was getting. I could get used to that! Everyone was so friendly too.
We continued our journey into the Forbidden City. It was built back in the 1400's and was the home of the emperors. There was an inner court and an outer court, and many many halls and palaces. It was so crowded there. I felt like all of China was squeezed into this one area. I was scared that we were going to lose Kevin and be lost in the middle of China. But luckily we didn't. My poor father, who has had open heart surgery and has bad diabetes can not walk for long, so we stopped for breaks every few minutes. If he had known how large this place was he would have never joined us on this excursion. The walking was way way too much for him.
There were a lot of stairs up and down as well as we walked through the different areas of the Forbidden City. By the time we got back to the van, my father basically collapsed in his seat. I have never seen him so weak in my life. It scared me.
We stopped for lunch on the way to the airport. My father was too weak to join us so he waited in the van with our driver. Mom and I went and had another amazing Chinese lunch. Again Kung Pao chicken, beef, veggies, fried rice. And again too much food for us, but it was delicious and there were tons of left overs to bring back to dad in the van. He appreciated the food, and devoured all the food within minutes. We were then on our way to the airport. Kevin came into the airport with us to help with all our luggage.
He gave us a big hug and then we were on our way to catch our flight. I was so sad that our trip had come to an end.
The flight home was a bit tough, but I watched some movies and ate a lot of gross food to pass the time. Finally we were back in Newark and was jetlagged and sad to be home. Asia was BY FAR my best trip yet, and I can not wait to get back to that side of the world. I have already started looking for jobs in Hong Kong. haha. Thank you Asia for the memories! Till we meet again :)