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Published: September 26th 2012
Well, we finally made it to our restaurant last night by getting off the bus and walking the last quarter mile in the rain. The poor driver took another half hour to get to our destination. Beijing traffic is something else.
All of our meals are served family style with the dishes placed on a central lazy Susan. And the dishes keep coming! Here we had about 8 meat and vegetable dishes besides the duck. The Peking Duck itself was good but not as good as Mom's. Yes, my mother-in-law occasionally invests two or three days preparing a duck that comes out sweet, brown, and crispy, so we are spoiled and couldn't quite appreciate the mediocre version. We loved the purple sweet potato moon cake that we had for dessert, though. Tasted like a coconut brownie.
Sept. 26: woke up raring to go. We're either running on adrenaline or else there's a LOT of caffeine in all this tea we're drinking. What a difference in the weather today. Instead of overcast and threatening, it's bright and fresh. Great day for the Great Wall!
Of course, first we had to fight the now-familiar traffic and get about 50 km
out of town. Eventually we left the city behind and entered the surrounding mountains. We had expected to share the Great Wall experience with throngs of other tourists, judging by photos we've seen, but OAT does a good job of finding out-of-the-way places, and that was especially appreciated today. We went to a portion called the Wild Great Wall and had it pretty much all to ourselves. What a gorgeous day and spectacular view as we climbed the 700 steps to one of the towers! The stone steps are worn and falling apart in places. That no two of them are the same height or depth also made for tricky footing, but everyone in the group managed without incident. We spent a perfect two hours there before lunch at a private restaurant (i.e., a home), where we had many vegetables grown in the family's garden.
The next stop was the 2008 Olympic Village where we walked along a broad pedestrian boulevard between the National Stadium and the Water Cube (Remember?).
The only event we competed in was outrunning the vendors who chased after us with everything from kites to stuffed animals to melon slices on a stick.
Perhaps you are wondering about the sanitary conditions. Well, probably not, but I will tell you anyway. Every couple of hours we are directed to use the Happy Room, our guide's euphemism. He was correct in telling us that some Happy Rooms are Happier than others. Those who have traveled in Asia know that the typical toilet is not something you sit on but is a basin at floor level (see photo). Depending on your clothing, balance, and the condition of your knees, this can be a major challenge. And don't forget to ACT (always carry TP). What do we talk about on the bus? Not the Forbidden City or the Ming Dynasty but whether we might be able to find a western-style toilet at our next stop.
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