Day 2 in Beijing, and we had one thing on our mind: The Great Wall. We got a private car for the day, which is only about $80, and that will take you anywhere you want to go in an 8 hour period. This cab driver was only 1 of 2 people that were sincere to us while we were in Beijing. There are really no traffic laws in this city, and he made sure that he was the fastest on the road at all times and never got caught in traffic jams. In other words, he was the greatest driver of all time. We decided to hit a part of the wall in the town of Mutianyu. It’s about 60 miles from the city, and a lot less touristy than the closer part of the wall. It took us just over an hour to get there, and we were not disappointed. You really have no idea how immense this wall is until you see it up close. Some parts are so steep that if you slipped, you’d be going down quite far with no chance of stopping yourself.

Ladies dancing at the Temple of Heaven

One cool part of the wall in Mutianyu is that you can take a ski lift to the top since the area is so steep, and then take a toboggan ride on the way down. We of course had to take this opportunity. How often can you toboggan down a Wonder of the World?  I was kind of surprised to see how many people were out at the wall in March, seeing it was still a bit cold for the average traveler, but visitors from all walks of life were there. The weather was also suprisingly clear, and supposedly if you are looking in the right direction, you can see Mongolia from one part of the wall. Maybe we saw it, maybe we didn’t, who knows.

At the Great Wall in Mutianyu

At the Great Wall in Mutianyu

After we left the Great Wall, we figured we’d knock out as much of Beijing as we could in one day, and while we had our driver. We headed to the Lama Temple (most elaborate temple in Beijing), the Olympic village, which honestly was a huge disappointment. The facilities are in an area of the city that is near……nothing!! And unless they can book big events like the PanAm games, those buildings will rot pretty quickly, especially with the amount of pollution in the air. Everyday we got back to the hotel from touring all day, it felt like a film of dust and sand was on your face. I guess the city is having major issues with sand deposits from the nearby Gobi desert, which dumped over 300,000 tons, yes I said tons, of sand on the city last year. As Beijing expands, it encroaches on the desert more, and like in every other situation where cities grow too far, nature wins. Lets just say being “green” is not on the top of the priority list in China.

We hit a couple more small temples in the city, before heading to a small market area in search of Peking Duck for dinner. The Chinese eat duck like we eat steak, albeit at much cheaper prices. Annemarie and I are huge fans of duck, so we had to find a decent place to have some. Well, we did, and we ordered duck, and it was amazing. They carve the whole duck right in front of you onto three plates (dark, light, and skin). They then came back 10 minutes later with the rest of the duck cooked and seasoned. Just imagine everything you normally wouldn’t eat, that was course 2 of duck dinner that night. Annemarie had a few pieces, and said it was tasty. I was too busy having mini bowls of soup from the huge bowl (meant for a family) that I ordered. I really didn’t care that I didn’t touch it seeing it only costs $2.00, which was a blip when we got the bill for our pot of tea and whole duck. I’m just kidding, the whole bill was $18, ridiculous. There are some things in China that I enjoy, and cheap food is one of them.

Peking Duck

Peking Duck

On our last day in Beijing, we just hit some markets and saw some financial buildings that were put up for the Olympics as well. We also hit the Temple of Heaven, which was more like a carnival with all the karaoke and old people dancing all around the monument. I then lost all respect for the people who think the building is a very important historical piece to China when I saw a huge jumbo-tron bolted onto the side of it. There are jumbo-trons on everything there, and they are so bright at night they blind you, but rumor is that’s the only type of advertising that the Chinese respond to. Not sure on that, but that was the last straw for me. We called it an early day since we had an early flight to Hong Kong. Here’s a shot from the Temple of Heaven:

Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven

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