The Great Wall
Happy fourth of July everyone. We celebrated by Skyping our oldest daughter while she held up her cell phone up to the webcam and played a video that she had recorded of the fireworks at her grandmother’s the night before. It was just like we were there. Not.
This was another full day of sightseeing. Our first stop on the way out of Beijing was at China Beijing National Stone Place in the Sand River Town Industrial City. I’m pretty sure that there are some sort of prearranged financial relationships between our tour company and these upscale shopping establishments that we stop at, but it was nice looking at pretty jade for a hour. Too bad we were there for more than that. Katie and I scoured the large store looking for the most expensive item: A 880000 yuan (US$140,000) carving of an apple tree. We did get three little jade animals for the girls for a bit less.
The Great Wall is no longer contiguous. The sections that were built 2000 years ago are gone, so we toured a section in Mutianyu that was built a mere 600 years ago. Unlike the wall in Badaling we visited 8 years ago, this section had a cable car that took you up to the wall from halfway up the mountain, but there was a precipitous walk from the tour bus to even get to the base. Chris stopped when she reached the Wall adjacent to the cable cab exit at the top, while I took Katie and Claire through a handful of sentry towers built into the wall.
As expected, there was a continuous stream of kiosks selling crapware at the cable car base exit. We had a steep pathway to walk down, at sometimes only three feet wide, while you were barked at from both sides to buy something. Stuffed pandas, t-shirts, plastic swords, they all sold the same stuff, so they all tried to make it up in volume: The volume of their voice. I tried not to cringe each time Chris stopped to look at fans for the girls. And yes, we got taken. One of the fans purchased another parent came unglued the minute we got back on the bus.
Our group lunch was a glass restaurant down the mountain in a nice green house setting. The eleven youngest daughters sat one large table while the other thirteen of us sat at an adjacent table. Our drinking glasses, as in every restaurant we’ve visited so far, have been a TSA-approved 3-ounce capacity, with no refills. Beer, regular Coke, and regular Sprite. Never diet and no bottled water. Most of the time I choose beer just to avoid coating my teeth with sugar.
Claire has made a buddy and they swam with most of the other young girls when we got back to hotel. They held hands when went to dinner and they’ve held singing contests on the bus whenever they could find someone else to be a judge. Claire massacred Rolling in the Deep and Jingle Bell Rock.
Our group again split into young and old tables for dinner. Halfway though the meal the girls were bouncing between tables looking for more soda to drink with the spicy food when our tour guide came to the rescue with a two-liter bottle. The restaurant was a 150-year-old, 24-hour, 3-storey establishment famous for its Peking Duck, which of course, we had to have because this was the last evening (for everyone but us) in Beijing.