This morning we wake up to clear weather and 21 degrees!! The brisk wind has blown the smog away what a trade off. Downstairs, waiter Peter, eagerly awaits our promise to try a Chinese breakfast, what the hell. He brings out a type of porage with pickles and marinated tofu to add to it. He explains this is an old Chinese breakfast dish, I gather it was before the very large middle class arrived. The two items together were most interesting in flavor. Soon it was followed by a noodle bowl with small pieces of fish with coconut milk and then a type of fried noodle with egg dish, to my amazement James is following along bravely! I liked the all however with the exception of the eggs in the stirred fried noodles not much reminded me of a western breakfast. Tomorrow Peter states bravely we will try dim sum. His excitment is so infectious and he is eager to share with us his Chinese culture.
Today we head out of town on a trip of an hour or so to the Great Wall. It is in a less visited area and is in the mountains to the north of Beijing. I am being told to dress warmly, I have on three and four layers and am freezing and we aren’t even there yet! Need the motorcycle electric clothing!
The ride out of town is interesting. Beijing has 22 million people living in it and 6 million cars. Most of the people live to the east not to the North which is the direction we are heading. We pass newly constructed high-rise villages that were built to accomodate people working in technology. We pass farms being kept by much older people, very few animals. We saw a few sheep and burros and a couple of dogs not much else. This area is for fruit trees which are dormant like all of the other trees. James and I notice there are thousands of large dormant trees planted along the roadsides maybe to help with the smog, but they don’t help in the winter which is the time of the year with the most noticeable air problem. The farmers are gathering limbs and stacking them for cooking. We come along this impressive gate to a golf course. Golf is a highly taxed sport in China as it takes away from precious farm land, but the new middle class is willing to pay for this. Raymond explains in the summer this is a second home get away area good for hiking and swimming and some low rise condos are springing up to meet the demand.
We arrive at Mutianyu a section of the Great wall that is still well preserved and more remote so fewer tourist. To get to the wall you have to go about a half mile up to a cable car teminal which takes you up to the top of the mountain where the wall laces along the ridge. The emperor of the time was so tired of the raiding Mongols to the North that he mandated this project at great cost to his citizens. To supply the labor he mandated that every family supply one able bodied worker. It was never very effective the Mongols kept coming but, wow what a feat. The wall at the section we visited was some 20 plus feet tall, around twelve feet across but wider at the base with towers every two archers distance apart. There are sections where horse drawn chariots could travel but our section has alot of stairs and that is not the case. Our waiter,Peter, told us he had driven a horse chariot on a section.
Today there is much excitment at the wall, it seems a smoker has caught the brush on the far side on fire. We are joined in our cable car by firemen with fire extinguishers hurrying to the scene. They are joined by others with shovels and axes climbing down the window of one of the towers to attack the fire growing by the minute with the brisk winds.
We grab a few photos and head back, this is just not a good day to hike the ridge as others better dressed are planning to do. Next we head to the Ming Tombs. Chinese culture reveres its ancestors and all but three of the 18 Ming emperors are buried in this area. The road there is a very winding route, James is wishing for a motorcycle-something else highly taxed in China. We go past little villages and small farms to get to this sacred area. The archetiture looks very similar to the forbidden city here again lots of numbered elements to the designs with the same intricate painting and carving. This is the place existing emperors would pay homage to their predecessors, the actual tomb is a large mound which has never been opened located beyond the temple buildings we are visiting. The temple’s ceiling was held aloft by huge sandlewood logs imported from Burma and there were silk burning altars to send gifts to the heavens to honor the spirits of the deceased emperors. The gates have thresholds nearly a foot high to keep out the evil spirits which walked with straight legs and would not be able to navigate the door way.
We head back to Beijing greeted by the never ending traffic. The intersections are nothing like what we have seen before. The traffic lights are considered only a sugestion. Very often there are cars sitting at a light out in the middle or turning on a red light. Everyone stays on their horns all driving along with the bicycles and mopeds. Amazingly,we get back to the hotel. Tonight we have another great restaurant, but the jet lag has caught up with us. A brief nap turns into hours of dead sleep. We awaken hours after our reservation still too tired to do anything but roll over and keep sleeping. Guess that is not a restaurant we will be able to go back to.