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The last supper

Beijing Travel Blog

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The cable car at Simitai

Returning from the Great Wall we all decided to celebrate our last night in Beijing with a local specialty, Peking Duck. Robert explained that Beijing has always been called Beijing but because of the different accent of the southern Chinese, several other countries believed that the city was called Peking. Therefore, the local specialty is known as Peking Duck, when it really is called Beijing Duck.

Robert dropped us off at the best Beijing duck restaurant and before leaving showed us which direction to walk to get to the bars. We were immediately happy upon entering the restaurant, because it was clean and beautiful and while waiting they provided free wine. Our group appreciates all booze (or grog for our Aussie friends) we truly appreciate free booze.

The steep hike to the wall
We waited about 15 minutes and in that time we enjoyed several glasses of free wine. We also enjoyed the very clean, western-style restrooms at the restaurant...they even had paper towels and lotion for our dry hands! :)

We ordered one duck plus soup and spicy peanut chicken for the table. We continued our celebration with several beers and by the end of dinner we were all pretty silly. The duck was fantastic, very tender with crispy and delicious skin. The chef carves the duck table side which is a nice touch. The meal was wonderful and we shared lots of laughs over the delicious food and flowing drinks.

After dinner we walked two blocks to the bar area. The street had a string of several bars and nightclubs and we were pulled into one by the bouncers. Once inside we noticed two young people on stage singing American music, karaoke style.

The Great Wall snaking into the distance
The couple was the "band" for the night and they sang song after song to the karaoke machine. They had great voices and sang very well in English. We recognized all of the songs, mostly 80s and 90s and we started singing along and clapping and swaying to the music. Before long the entire bar was singing with us and the singers were sending cheers our way. When the singers took a break the stage was cleared for....pole dancers. First a scantily-clad woman got up and began gyrating and dancing on the pole. It was a very gymnastic routine, but luckily she did not remove any more of her clothes. After her song a man got up, also scantily-clad, and did his own pole dance. Then the two of them did a pole dance together. It was unreal, in the middle of communist China, to experience pole dancing in a bar. The singers returned and we all started dancing and singing along again. During the midst of our celebration we befriended a nice couple from Lebanon, when they sent us over a round of drinks. We sent a round back and we spent the rest of the night partying with our new Lebanese friends!

It was a fantastic night and even though I know I won't be as happy in the morning, I'm glad we got to celebrate our last night in Beijing in a big way!

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The walk up to tower 11, tower 12 is on top of the hill, beyond the slope

Happy 86th Birthday to my Grandpa!

Today we set out with our friends to see the Great Wall of China at Simitai. Several people recommended seeing the wall at Simitai rather than Badaling because it is less crowded and atop huge, beautiful mountains.

Simitai is approximately 100 kilometers from Beijing, which equates to a three hour drive. Suzy and Tim arranged our driver, Robert, who was the driver who transported them from the ship to Beijing. Robert's friend had a van and was able to drive all six of us to the wall. Robert speaks English and was able to give us lots of interesting cultural and historical information during our journey. The drive itself was just as scary as the drive from the ship, but this time I was in the back of the van and unable to see the road as well, so it was easier to ignore!

We asked Robert about the people in Beijing and spoke openly with him about some of our negative opinions.

The surrounding mountains and the wall
Robert was very honest and told us that throughout China people in Beijing are seen as lazy and rude. Robert said that people in Shanghai work very hard and are very capitalistic but that people in Beijing are not interested in capitalism and are known to have more culture but less work-ethic. Robert told us a lot about growing up under communism. Robert was completely loyal to the communist government. Robert talked about which countries were the friends and enemies of China when he was a child. Robert said that America was the number one enemy of China and all of the people of China were told and believed that everyone in America was homeless and living on the streets because America was such a poor place.
Happy to share the view
Robert said that Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea were the number one friends of China as was the Soviet Union until the end of the cold war.

Robert talked about China opening up and to me, it seemed that Robert did not view this very positively. Robert said that the Chinese people now realized that everyone in America was not homeless, only a small few. Robert said that with economic freedom came greed and desires and these concepts were foreign to the Chinese. We asked Robert if the people in Beijing were pushing us because they did not like Americans and he said no, the people in Beijing push everyone because the city is so crowded and they are used to having to push to get anywhere or to get anything in life. Robert talked about each family getting coupons for food.

Our favorite Aussies!
Robert talked about the need to register your children with the government. Robert talked about the one-child policy in China. It was a fascinating insight into the culture and politics of China. Learning about communism in class does not provide any idea of how it works in actual practice and speaking to Robert was quite a learning experience. Having just been in Nagasaki, I was reminded that China and the US were allies during World War II and in 1945 China was very happy that we defeated the Japanese because the Japanese had been attempting to take over China for the past 15 years and the Japanese soldiers had tortured and killed many Chinese. By 1949, all of that changed and the Chinese from that point on were told and believed that America was the number one enemy.

Arriving in Simitai several members of our group were surpised to learn that the wall is on top of a huge mountain range and we still had to get to the top of the mountain.

Partying at the bar
I expected a hike, but apparently the others expected to be dropped off right at the wall. Luckily, Simitai has a cable car that takes you most of the way up the mountain. The cable car was likely installed during the 1930's and it is important to keep your focus on the beautiful mountain ranges that surround you because if you watch the cable overhead you might begin to feel like the entire contraption is going to plummet to the earth!

From the cable car the hike up is short, but quite steep and rocky. There are some steps along the stone path, but no railing and the path is only about 4 feet wide, with a steep cliff alongside. Brian and I took our time walking up, Brian could have gone much faster, but I was a little unsure of myself so I paused several times to get my bearings.

Pole-dancing
To his credit, Brian would not go on ahead of me, even though I asked him several times to go ahead. He is a true gentleman!

Once at the top we were amazed by the wall itself and the incredible view. The Chinese began building the wall in 200 BC and by the time Columbus sailed for America more than 4000 kilometers of wall had been constructed across China. At Simitai the wall was constructed on the border between Mongolia and China. Standing on top of the wall you can see what used to be Mongolia on one side and China on the other. The wall skirts along the top of a huge mountain range and it seems to be an impossible construction project. How did they get all of those stones up that high, and how did they ever construct that wall? From Simitai you can walk for hours in one direction, along wall that has been reconstructed and maintained over the years, or you can walk for hundreds of feet in the other direction until you reach tower 12 and the end of the reconstructed wall.

The "band"
I walked up to tower 11 and then watched as Brian, Tim and Lee hiked up the last section of rocks to tower 12. From tower 11 you can look down and see miles and miles of wall snaking off into the horizon.

After walking around for an hour or so, we all met back at tower 8 and had a beer together. With the effort of hiking, the heat from the sun and the wind we all shared the type of thirst that only a cold can of beer can quench! Sharing a beer with new friends atop one of the great wonders of the world is an experience I will never forget!

The cable car at Simitai
The cable car at Simitai
The steep hike to the wall
The steep hike to the wall
The Great Wall snaking into the di…
The Great Wall snaking into the d…
The walk up to tower 11, tower 12 …
The walk up to tower 11, tower 12…
The surrounding mountains and the …
The surrounding mountains and the…
Happy to share the view
Happy to share the view
Our favorite Aussies!
Our favorite Aussies!
Partying at the bar
Partying at the bar
Pole-dancing
Pole-dancing
The band
The "band"
Dancing with our Lebanese friends
Dancing with our Lebanese friends
Tsing Tao on the Great Wall
Tsing Tao on the Great Wall
Beijing
photo by: Deats