Me and Laura at the top. You can see all of downtown LA all the way to the ocean.
So my adventure begins!
After leaving Ohio, I set off for a short trip in Los Angeles to see my girlfriend Laura and spend some time with her. We went hiking, went on "Let's Make a Deal", went out to the bars, and just got to spend time with her and her friends. A wonderful way to start my trip with a great friend sending me off.
The flight wasn't as bad as I was expecting (13hrs). I stayed up long enough to watch a movie or two and eat before falling asleep. When I woke up, It was 530am and I was in Beijing, China.
It was cold when I arrive and my tour guide, Vivie, brought a coat for me and we set off. The first stop was the Great Wall. We drove through alot of farmland where people rode rickshaws and still had aquaducts. By the time we arrived, it was a bit foggy, and believe it or not, I was the only one on the wall. Vivie and I walked a while while she gave me a brief history and stories behind each part. The little towers along the wall were used for storage
The Great Wall of China
The only person on the wall.
and sleeping quarters but since they are so far apart, and the wall goes for over 13,100 miles, I wondered how they communicated with other guards along the wall. She told me that they would burn wood to signal to other guards, but since the smoke disperses quickly, they would burn wolf droppings as well. Apparently, its burns a black cloud of smoke that rises high into the air. When we came down, the market at the bottom was open, and people were selling souviners and foods. My personal favorite was a tshirt with Barak Obama dressed as a communist. Before we set off, I went to use the restroom, which was basically a toliet seat in the ground, with no toliet paper. A new experience I won't be missing.
We arrive at the Summer Palace (or "the gardens of nutured harmony") around noon. The palace was a place where the emporers would essentially spend their summers here conducting work from many halls, palaces, temples, residneces, bridges and gardens that make up the palace grounds. Every nook and cranny of the palace was hand painted, and the Long Corridor is considered the longest art gallery in the world. Truley
The Summer Palace
Longevity Hill, with the Tower of Fragrance and the Sea of Wisdom Temple.
a breathtaking experience. Aside from all the buildings that make up the palace (which sits on a mile wide lake that was dug entirely by hand), there is about 2 square miles of forests and gardens that contain winding paths through the mountians. Words cannot explain the beauty of the palace, it was my favorite part of the day.
Vivie couldn't send me away without trying some peking duck. Beijing is known for having the best peking duck in the world and . And it really was fantastic. I've tried duck before and found it to be very greasy, but this was cooked to perfection and prepared tableside. Paired with a glass of warm almond milk, I really couldn't have asked for anything more delicious. Needless to say, I headed back to the airport with a full stomach and a smile on my face.
On the drive back, I admired all of the red lanterns hanging outside the doors. Vivie told me that the Chinese New Year (Feb 6) is their biggest holiday and that the red and yellow lanterns were a symbol of good luck and nobility, and when hung by the front door, you welcome these
The REAL Chinese Food
My meal. Peking duck, duck soup, all the mix-ins, wrap it in a very thin-tortilla like wrap, and a glass of warm almond milk ("lulu"). So delicious!
gifts into your home for the new year.
The flight to Syndey (11hrs) was very similar to my previous flight, watched a few movies, at the same meals, fell asleep and woke up in sunny Australia.
Today was my first day diving (3dives), and the water was a bit colder then I expected, forcing me to wear a 7mm wetsuit. Fantastic for keeping warm in the 72 degree water, not so fantastic doing a shore dive where I had to walk to the beach in a thick wetsuit and full dive gear in 80 degree weather. I spent it playing with 50lb blue groupers who followed me everywhere and loved a good scratch on their bellies. I saw the largest eagle ray I've ever seen along with starfish, squid, seaslugs, crabs, and even got to play with a octopus who wrapped it's tenticles around my wrist like a bracelet and camoflagued itself to my wetsuit. Couldn't have asked for a better set of dives with great visibility on my first day here. I'm so excited to see where the next 6 months are going to take me!
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