At the Pearl Market

Alicia and I show off some of our purchases from the Pearl Market in Beijing.

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The Temple of Heaven

Tragically, we were distracted by shopping, and this is as close as we came to the Temple of Heaven. ]

Travel tip: The park is open until 6, but the gates to the temples close at 4.

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Great Wall

The Great Wall of China. I still can’t believe I actually got to go! It was the only place I knew I wanted to see on our trip. We took an overnight tour offered by our hostel and had an amazing time exploring the wall.

We left the hostel at 1 pm and drove two hours to the far end of the Badaling section of the wall. This was not the Badaling section teeming with tourists and souvenir stalls. In our entire time on the wall we saw only one other group. Our guide showed us where the tents were and told us what time to meet back for dinner and then we were free to explore the wall!

As amazing as it was to be at the Great Wall, all I could think about for our three hour hike was how many stairs there were, and when they would stop. It was quite the workout. Up and down, up and down, some parts on rocks that crumbled beneath our feet or on stairs only half as wide as my foot. The extreme concentration I was putting into not dying of a fall or a stroke meant that I took only one photo of myself on the wall, and it’s that beauty up there. I’m not sure what I was thinking.

 

After a delicious dinner we were set free on the wall until 8:30 the next morning, when the guides would be back to pick us up. All alone on the world heritage site, we had a good time playing with our cameras and flashlights, until one of the flashlights fell over the wall and we were forced to compete in events of physical strength instead.


The night was cold, windy, and more than a little miserable, but it was worth it in the morning, when we woke up to watch the sunrise. Some of our group were ambitious and went on a two hour trek, but I only made it to the first tower. The view was spectacular.

I definitely recommend the overnight tour. While we might not have been at one of the most famous or most beautiful areas of the wall, having the whole place to ourselves was amazing. The tour cost about $90 and included three meals and all the camping equipment. I would however, recommend bringing warm clothing and an extra blanket so you can sleep well enough to hike in the morning.

How to: We booked the trip through Leo Hostel, a place I would definitely recommend staying!

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Fame

In Japan occasionally a fearless youth will ask us for a picture, or take our picture surreptitiously, but in China we were celebrities. Everywhere we went people not so much asked, but pushed us into pictures with their children, or themselves.

This sweet old lady came up to Scott and grabbed his hand at the Olympic stadium and gestured wildly for her friend to take their picture.

These cute children ran up to Alicia to pose.

These children’s mother posed them with us before running back to take the picture. The little girl loved it.

A whole family got into this shot.

Even on the great wall in our sweaty disarray we were stopped for photos!

While I thoroughly enjoyed it for the week I was there, I can see how people live there would tire of this. Also, I wonder where these pictures end up…

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Yungang Grottos – worth the trip to Datong.

The second part of our tour in Datong took us to the Yungang grottoes. Half an hour outside of Datong, this site has more than 200 caves with 51,000 carvings and statues of Buddha.

Our excellent photographer managed to get us in to show the sheer size of this guy, which is the second largest buddha on site. Located in Cave #3, he was one of the first we saw, and definitely on of the most impressive.

The caves themselves were enormous and formed by digging into that window at the top to carve out the inside of the cave before knocking out  the door from the inside. This particular cave had a musical theme and all the little Buddhas carved around the entrance were playing musical instruments.

The detail and colours were amazing, even though some of the Buddhas were completely covered in coal dust blown from passing trucks. A few years ago, government officials ordered the road to be moved, so that the passing traffic would no longer affect the grottoes.

My favourite cave had carvings which told the story of the Buddha’s life, from conception to enlightenment.

While this particular Buddha’s enamel was eroded away, his arm is still held up by the man under his wrist. Some of the other similar sized Buddhas had lost their arms entirely.

The site was immense, much too large to fully explore during the two hours we spent there. However, we still had time to discover that not only is this site full of amazing cultural and historical value, they also sold excellent peanut brittle cookies in the gift shop.

 

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Cute Boys at the Forbidden City

It’s probably true that I take too many pictures of cute children.

But they are so cute.

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