Got an earlier than normal start today as we had a flight to catch to Beijing; the flight went off without a hitch other than a brief 20 minute delay. We are so fortunate that Jack, our new best friend from SHNU, has not only been able to be with us while we were in Shanghai but arrangements were also made for him to stay with us through Beijing and also through Xian – good for us! When we got through security we were greeted by yet another smiling face, Sherry. Sherry is from a travel agency that SHNU hired to take care of us while we were under their care. After just over an hour of stop-and-go traffic we made it to our fancy, swanky 4-star hotel. We all took some time to rest and unpack and left for dinner at 4:30. After more stop-and-go traffic we arrived at our restaurant. Dinner was WONDERFUL! When we were seated we immediately noticed that there were large holes in the table similar to those in the middle of an “Oyster Roast” table. However after a few minutes a waiter brought a bucket of white hot coals and placed them in the holes followed by a string of waitresses with multiple cold vegetable dishes quickly followed by thinly sliced beef, pork and chicken…what a great experience! After dinner we made our way to a local supermarket for a few staple items.
May 10, 2013
Today we visited Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City. Both of these places are massive and simply take your breath away. Tiananmen Square, around Mao’s Tomb, reportly can hold one million people! Once inside the Forbidden City we began our trek to walk the entire “campus”; home to the emperor of the time, his family, the highest military personnel and other necessary people to support staff. Seeing all there was to see (we think), we made our way to a shopping village, dinner and then called it a day.
May 11, 2013
We awoke today with the Great wall on our mind! After traveling nearly two hours by bus we reached our particular portion of the Great Wall – WOW. To think this is one of the three things visible from space other than the sea and land mass; the group was ready! We had less than two hours to explore and experience the wall and all of its glory so we quickly ascended among the vast sea of humanity (thank you Pedro for the “verbage”). The most adventurous of the group was able to make it to the fifth tower fearing they would delay the group from leaving on time; when I say the fifth tower don’t let the relatively small number fool you – that is quite a feat! After our climb we ate lunch and visited the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace gives a new meaning to the term “vacation home! This area has a larger footprint than the Forbidden City and we explored every inch. After dinner a small group took off to the ”Silk Market” and others went to the market for snacks for our train ride in the morning.