Saturday, May 28, 2011

May 28th, 2011

It’s basically our last full day in Beijing (we leave tomorrow to go to Kunming) and I have committed myself to the hotel room.  My feet are in ruins.  I have blisters the size of quarters under the thick calluses of my heels.  I also have other blistered areas on my feet and my foot bones feel like they are broken.  The swelling in my feet and ankles has not totally gone away either.  Maybe I am a total wimp but pain is pain and I am out of the game for now. 

My cankles and blister (Ok maybe not as big as a quarter but seriously painfull)

I am having culture shock and I hope I get over it soon.  So beware if I have nothing positive to say in this post, but China is kicking my butt. 
Yesterday we were told by the hotel staff that we could easily walk to the Forbidden City so we did.  It ended up taking an hour.  Also, we met this very helpful English speaking woman on the street.  She told us how to get there when we were lost.  She also invited us to visit her art gallery, only a slight detour from our destination.  I was about to say no thank you when Steve happily agreed to go with her.  We ended up buying some art work and she drew Daisy and Zack's names in Chinese for free.  Later I was reading in our guide book and it said "beware of scammers who invite you to tea ceremonies or art galleries, you will end up paying way more than you should!"  Oh well, we like the art we got.  

We went through the whole city, it was slightly interesting, there were big crowds and everyone wanted Zack’s picture. 

At the start of the walk through.

Threre were many buildings...

many statues...

And many thrones.

There were naked babies...

huge crowds...

and lots of people taking pictures of the white haired boy.

At the end there was a neat garden area with these crazy rocks.

There is a moat that goes around the whole forbidden city.  When they dug the moat they placed all the dirt across the street and made a big hill.  There is now a park there and a temple on top of the hill.

The temple at the top of the moat dirt hill.

When we came out, there was a cool park so we went to that and climbed a big hill to a temple at the top with views of the city.  It was great!  I love to see the view of a city from up high. 

Gardener watering on the steep climb up.

The view of the forbidden city behind us from the top of the hill.

The forbidden city goes as far as you can see.

A view of Beijing.

Toy seller at temple with his magical rings.

Where can I get one of those cool visors?

Up in the temple. It was very pretty and colorful.

After the park visit, we walked to Tiananmen Square, another heinous 40 minute walk.  It was a big cement square with lots of people milling about and no benches to sit on.  Chairman Mao’s picture is really, really small in case you were wondering.  

One end of the square.

The other end of the square.

OK, so his picture is actually quite big, weighing in at 1.5 tons.  It just looks small from far away.

The picture is changed out every year before Oct 1st, which is the founding day of the Peoples Republic of China.

On the way home, I insisted we figure out the subway.  No more walking.  So we did and it was really easy to use and cheap. 
We came back to the hotel and rested for so long that it was late when we set out for the night market at Wangfujing Street.  I bought some new shoes on the way hoping it would help my feet to have a change.  It helped for a little while.  Having not eaten lunch, we were anxious to find dinner but got lost trying to find the noodle house we wanted to try.  We gave up and just headed back to the market and thought we would eat there but there was no food except KFC and McDonald's.  Weird.  Oh, and the mystery meat on a stick and live bugs on sticks that people were eating.  So, going against our own rules again, we ate at KFC.  Gross. 
Then we went home, to our hotel.  Forgot to wear my pedometer again!  Double blast!
TMI warning:
Right now the others are out exploring while I sit and rest.  I am not myself and needed to just chill.  The problem:  destroyed feet, fatigue, culture shock, germaphobia, PMS and the worst period I have ever had.  Period.
Tonight we are going to eat Peking Duck and then to see an evening Kung Fu show at the theater.  No walking needed.  I am looking forward to it.   
Tomorrow we will pack up and fly out around 3:30.  Two more days till we meet Daisy!

May 26th, 2011

Yesterday mom and I slept in and then finished laundry and organized our suitcases while Steve and Zack went out to find the fish market.  It was closed but they did some exploring and Steve ate a few meals.  Mom and I tried to do some shopping while they were gone but we quickly realized that none of the clothes would fit us giant people and none of the rings I wanted to buy would fit my sausage fingers.  Japanese women are very thin and petite.  If you want to feel like a big, clumsy fatty, go to Japan.

Ramen for Steve and McDonalds for Zack. Two happy guys.

Around 1:00 we started our journey to the airport.  Through the streets, down to the subway station, onto the train, with all our luggage in tow.  

Riding the subway with waaay too much luggage.

We made it to the airport with little time to spare but we did make it down to McDonald's for a burger and fries as Steve had been led to believe that there was no meal service on our flight.  It is against our rules of not eating American food while abroad but it sounded good and there was no other food around that part of the airport.  Steve had a special 4 patty Big Mac, yes you read it right, 4 patties.  My mom is amazed at how much food he can put away.  He had already had a sushi meal, a bowl of Ramen and a couple of doughnuts before we left!

That's summmm burger!

We flew All Nipon Airlines to Beijing, a 3 ½ hour flight.  It was a nice airline with lots of leg room and low and behold, a really nice big meal!  We also had our own TV’s with movies, TV shows, video games and music to choose from.  Deeeelux!

Our huge plane.

Goodby Japan!  (Can you see Mt. Fuji?)

We arrived in Beijing at around 8:30 and by the time we went through customs, got our luggage, changed our money and got in line for a taxi, it was 10:00 pm.  We tried to get a Van taxi but he wanted to charge us $100 usd so we literally squeezed into a small taxi, Steve up front, mom and I in back with Zack on my lap and our two big suitcases on the seat next to me.  No seat belts.  He drove like Satan was chasing him, all the while talking on his cell phone, weaving in and out of the freeway traffic, ignoring the lines, and going sooo fast!  Mom was gasping in horror; all I could do was pray.  I have never been so scared in a car.  Then we came upon a wrecked car that had been completely burned up in a fire, firemen and water all over the place.  He barely slows down but gets out his phone and snaps a picture.  I lost it!  I couldn’t stop laughing.  My mom was like: “Deidra, it’s not funny!”  But really, how does a car catch on fire and burn completely up?  Only in China.  That cab ride cost us $40 usd.
We did make it to our neighborhood alive.  Yes, he just dropped us at our neighborhood, we had to drag our luggage down a dark street  at 11:00 pm.  A nice lady helped us find our hotel.  We wanted to stay in a traditional Chinese place so we chose The Double Happiness Courtyard Hotel and it is in a traditional old neighborhood called a hutong.  It is really cool and if you have ever seen a Chinese movie set in the old times it looks just like that.  It is really clean and has a nice bathroom and the beds are comfy.  Also a breakfast buffet is included.

The street our hotel was on.

The entrance to our hotel, The Double Happiness Courtyard.

The courtyard right outside our room.

Zack's in good spirits, mom looks kind of dead.

The bathroom

Zack and grandma's bed

This morning we got up and ate breakfast (we had fried rice, fried eggs, bacon, breads, juices, yogurt drinks, and cereal but a myriad of Chinese food was available) and then our driver arrived to take us to The Great Wall.  He was a good guy and spoke better Japanese than English so Steve mostly spoke to him and translated for us. 
We chose to go to a less touristy area of The Wall with a little further distance.  It was fabulous.  There were some ski lifts to take us up and then we hiked along the wall for what seemed like miles.  It was very steep and mostly made of stairs so it was a hard hike.  The air here is hazy so I hope our pictures turn out.  

We visited the Mutianyu section of the great wall.

Riding up the ancient chairlift to the wall

We had quite the hike and still only covered a small portion of this wall 

We paid a small fee to take Zacks picture on this donkey.  The family before us paid a small fortune.  Ha!  Too bad we couldn't ride this donkey instead of killing ourselves hiking up and down this mountain.

These Chairman Mao hats and paraphernalia were sold all over China.

After we hiked about ½ the length of that portion of the wall, we turned around and went back and rode an Alpine slide back down.  It was a good slide and we kept getting yelled at for going too fast, but we are used to going fast on the slides!

A quick stop for a soda and we were back in the car with Mr. Yong.  We asked him to take us somewhere good for lunch and he sure did!  He drove a ways, stopped in a little town and up to a little hole in the wall.  He ordered for us because we don’t know what we’re doing.  The food came and it was all really delicious.  Soup, salad (we couldn’t eat it, not cooked), tender chicken in sauce and then you wrapped it in these tofu wrappers, another dish with cooked cucumber, mushrooms and meat, some delish bread and jasmine tea.  It was all really good and cost only $8 total!  Not $8 each person, $8 total!

The Restaurant.  No idea what it was called.  At one point in the meal Steve had to go potty.  Our guide told him to just go outside.  So he did.

It was seriously so good.  Zack was tired and the guide told him to go lie down on the couch behind him.  You can't tell but it is filthy.  I gave him a look that said "over my dead body do you lie on that couch!"

We then started back to Beijing to see the Summer Palace.  On the way it started to rain and then pour.  I suggested that maybe we should skip it but it was on the agenda so on we went.  It literally dumped buckets of rain and there was a lot of lightening then entire time.  We didn’t end up seeing much of anything so it was pretty much a waste.  We were soaked by the time we got back to the car despite our $1 poncho’s. 

The ceiling of the pagoda we spent most of our time in.  Along with 200 other people.

I'm saying, "Can we go now?"  There was tons of lightening and I was freaked out.  So was Sharon.

I think this was right before I slippd and fell down and my skirt came up.  
We went home and then after it stopped raining and a little rest we went out for dinner at a really good restaurant where Steve had frog legs.  Gross.  But the rest of dinner was really good.

"What are you going to eat?!"

"Just some delish frog legs.  Mmmm."
Forgot to wear my pedometer!  Blast!  Goodnight!