Today was day 2 in Beijing. I slept nine hours last night (three more than usual) and have mostly caught up up with my jet lag. Still, I made it down to the eccentric breakfast buffet at 6:30 am, when the buffet opened. Had breakfast with Dad, then Mom showed up, then
I’ve been to the Great Wall at three different sites over the years, including a previous trip to Badaling, but this was
Let’s just say the Great Wall doesn’t meet OSHA standards. Portions of our climb were ladder-steep, literally. Here’s
I made the first peak,
Coming back from Badaling, we stopped at a Beijing style restaurant on the outskirts of the city. This was the kind of place where you can visit your lunch swimming in its tank ten minutes before it hits your table. We were in a private room upstairs with yellow silk on the walls, and deliciously of shredded pork with bamboo shoots, beef and mushrooms, a cold celery dish, a vegetable medley built around lotus root, and several other goodies.
We’d already decided to skip the Summer Palace in the interests of energy. So after the restaurant, we headed for the Olympic to see the Bird’s Nest, the Water Cube and some of the other rather extreme architecture. Unfortunately I’d had the camera’s white balance set for indoor shooting at the restaurant, so everything I took at the Olypic site is very washed out. One of the things which drops out completely is the Seven Star Hotel, a fifty story building shaped like an Olympic torch (seriously) with a four story video monitor about halfway up its side, and an eight story video monitor looming next to it. Very Bladerunner.
The plaza there was filled with Chinese just hanging out, like an impromptu street festival. our guide bought
Dinner shortly here at the hotel — we don’t have the energy to go out. Some combination of the hotel Internet, the Great Firewall of China and Flickr is seriously misbehaving, so I’ve literally been able to upload one photo. (See above.) The other two thousand will have to wait.
I’ve had almost no time to write, this blogging being the sum total of that, to the point where I am already quite behind on even critical email correspondence. It’s all part of being busy with
Being here is intense, though. I was born in Taiwain, and raised there during most of my grade school years. China has a vibe which feels like home to me. I can half-understand some of the conversations around me. The smells are familiar. At the same time, this is 21st century China, not 1970s Taiwan, and it is so different. I find myself drawn to old people, the narrow alleys of the hutongs (traditional villages), the life of the streets. These are lovely people busily crafting prosperity out of a long and difficult legacy.
More to the point, they are
All amid ancient history, modern beauty, grinding poverty, elaborate riches, and some hella good food.
Tomorrow, we are off to visit a hutong, go to art exhibition, and see an acrobatics exhibition. Tomorrow night, an overnight train to Xi’an, where on Easter Sunday we will visit a mosque, and we will see the terracotta armies guarding the dead emperors of old.