Beijing Impressions & Surprises
1.The city is really quite modern due to the efforts made for the Olympics. The streets are clean and there’s lots of greenery, flowers, and tree-lined streets.
2.There aren’t as many bike riders or as much traffic as we expected from movies, documentaries, etc.
3.The food is great!
4. Believe it or not, there’s a Starbucks at the base of the Great Wall of China.
5. No scary bugs so far!
A quick note about breakfast in our Beijing hotel…it was served buffet style with a variety of both American and traditional Chinese breakfast items, along with baked beans and corn on the cob. There was a made-to-order omelet station and a personal server to give us coffee. Val was super excited about the dim sum options and Jessica loved the yogurt.
Our first adventure of the day was to the Summer Palace. The palace has the longest corridor in the world, which is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records. It has over 14,000 scenic paintings of all the various regions of China as well as scenes from daily life. The story of the Summer Palace relates to the demise of the Qing dynasty due to the Empress Dowager Cixi’s desire to sink the money set aside for updating the navy into a marble boat to enjoy on her summer vacations. Thanks to our amazing tour guides, we skipped to the front of an endless line of tourists and took a ride in a dragon boat across Kunming Lake.
After that, we were off to the Olympic Village to visit the Bird’s Nest Stadium. It is surprisingly beautiful and very impressive in person. They had cute little lights on the ground that looked like miniatures of the stadium, which was super cool.
Next, we flew to Xi’an, which is about a two-hour flight west of Beijing and was the capital of China under the crazy first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi. It was also the starting point of the Silk Road. Once we arrived we had dinner, and then experienced the amazing nightly bazaar in the Muslim Quarter. Wow! Talk about craziness! They were selling everything from toys to giant calligraphy brushes with an amazing array of interesting food options like rice lollipops. Occasionally, a motorcycle would try to make its way through the crowds of people while giving the impression that they had the right of way in the middle of a shopping area. One of the kids on our tour said, “It’s like they don’t even have any rules!” (It reminded Val of a much crazier and even more crowded version of Vienna’s Naschmarkt on the busiest Saturday you can imagine.)
We checked into our hotel and were AMAZED at how beautiful our room was. We are super excited about it and may never leave. We’re talking granite bathroom, living room, two TVs, two desks, two showers, and it’s all brand new. We are livin’ it up in China, folks!
Tomorrow we get to see the Terra Cotta Soldiers!!!!