We flew into the very impressive Beijing airport and made our way to the hotel. It was October 1st, and the celebrations for China’s 60th anniversary were well underway. Most of the city was closed down for the festivities. It was an invite only celebration for the country elite though and everyone had to watch it from home. The day before we arrived smog apparently clouded the city, but government used 18 planes the night before to put chemicals into the air to magically make the smog disappear and the weather perfect. We had beautiful clear skies with incredible visibility and it remained during our whole stay here. In the evening we went for dinner at a great little dumpling restaurant. Later we watched the celebrations on TV before heading onto the streets to witness part of the fireworks celebration.
The next morning we took a bus out to see the Great Wall. We went to Mutiyanu and took a gondola up the hill to the edge of the wall. A few of us climbed to the highest part of the restored section and then ignored signs and carried on well beyond to original parts that were showing their age, with a single small dirt trail through the brush along the top of the wall. It was a great day and we managed to get little sections with very few people on it. On the walk along the restored section to the exit it had become crowded. Leanne took a chair lift down and I took a toboggan on wheels on a metal track.
In the evening I went to a Kung Fu show, which was ok, and did have the occasional impressive display of action. I followed this with dinner with a few others and we had the funniest local server who helped make the meal a blast. We closed down the restaurant as we were the last to order minutes before it was supposed to close and ate at the same time as the workers. We were brought free dessert at the end and it was great.
Today we spent the morning at the Temple of Heaven before going for great noodles at a restaurant nearby. Later we wandered through Tiananmen Square. It was so busy it felt like half the country was there. Everyone in the nation is on a week long holiday that coincides with the country’s anniversary. All of the floats and display screens from the huge performance were there on display. It was great to see it all. With so many people visiting the capital from non-tourist sections of the country they are endlessly asking to take photos with us. In particular they absolutely love getting their photo with Leanne. Since she doesn’t like having her photo taken this is particularly funny, but she always obliged. We left the square and went through the Forbidden City. We had a local guide and the pace of the tour was frustratingly slow. Leanne and I left a bit early to try to squeeze in a little extra from the city, but just had enough time to visit one more exhibit. After the tour we parted ways with our travelling companions and went to a phenomenal view point on a hill in the park.
We had 360 degree views of all of Beijing and stayed there well past sunset. In front of use were the rooftops of the Forbidden City. To the left was a full moon over the financial buildings in Beijing and to the right the sun was setting over the high-rises. Behind us we could see all the way to the hills where the Great Wall is. We were in a pagoda with a lot of others. We were talked into posing in traditional outfits. I was dressed as the emperor and Leanne as one of my concubines. We were quite the spectacle and everyone was taking our photo. We had a great romantic evening there just loving the views. We followed this with a return to Tiananmen and we are so happy we did. In the dark it takes on a whole new look and all the elements from the parade and celebration were impressively lit. We eventually made our way across it and hoped a cab to a restaurant for a farewell dinner with our group. The meal was Peking (Beijing) Duck and it was definitely a meal highlight. It was a nice conclusion to our little tour. We were with a good group of travellers and we hope to see a few of them again sometime in the future.
Early tomorrow we fly to Kunming and start a whole new trip that takes us through Tibet and the Himalayas to Nepal. We are looking forward to it. Photos are uploaded here: http://mcwilliams.ca/photos/China