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Week 11 – Beijing and Great Wall

At home most of the week – Alexandra and I coming back at the same time was a little disruptive to the calm that Sharon and Annelise were getting used to. But it was a good week and we got some stuff accomplished which will make things smoother in the future. Proud of both girls for getting good grades again…Alexandra in a class where she really had to try to get the grade that she did and Annelise who got an optimal grade in her math class.

My original flight back to Seoul was via Beijing for a 2 hr layover but I changed it to be a 1 day and 2 hr layover so that I could do some quick touring. I arrived at the airport mid-afternoon and hopped on a train to town and by the time I got to the hotel to drop of my stuff and grab a quick bite, it was 5pm and the major attractions were closed. But it was about 70 degrees and decent air quality (for Beijing at least).

The Forbidden City is a series of palaces and government buildings from around 1400 and I headed to there shortly after landing- but the cab driver took me to a side entrance where I got out and was accosted by a bunch of old ladies to buy guide books and trinkets and there was nowhere to walk. This guy on a scooter/rickshaw asked if I needed a ride to the other side and I asked how much and he said 3 (about 50 cents) – so I escaped. But a mile later at drop off he said “300” (about $50) and showed me a card that said custom tour 300. A dispute ensured and I offered him a 100 and he was insistent and chased me down trying to grab my wallet – I had a couple of choices, either hop in the rickshaw and leave the guy behind or walk towards the police….I chose the latter and he didn’t follow. Across from the Forbidden City was a series of parks and palaces and I attached some pictures. 

 

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Overlooking the Forbidden City from the north – I pretty much was the only person out of 20 million in the city wearing khakis – I had left Dulles 18 hours before this picture and looking pretty rough.

After it was dark, didn’t know where to go, so headed towards the expat area of town as that is usually a good place to go in any capital city. Sanlitun is the area and it was as I expected and found an all night Beijing (Peking) Duck Restaurant. Very good and very spicy – but you really had to work to get the meat – each piece was 90% little bones. The bathroom was an epic mess – it was one shared room (but you could close the door for privacy) with a hole in the floor and every time a women went in they screamed.

Did find a slice of Americana in Sanlitun – A Hooters and had to check it out. All local staff and very nice – the bartender introduced me to another American thinking we might know each other (since only 300 million people live in America). We did not know each other – but we did have a mutual friend and a connection to Big 12 basketball (he went to Iowa State). We bemoaned the performance in the tourney and headed off to the “talent bar” – there are about 10 of these places in a row and they put on the hard sell to get you in. Basically it is a karaoke bar with people who sign up in advance, along with circ de solei type acrobat tricks. The music was mostly 80’s and 90’s and it was pretty entertaining.  

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One of literally thousands of cheap trophy stores on a street….picture to the right.  The guy said all of the stores were a part of a conspiracy to flood the US market with cheap participation trophies which would be handed out to the youth without any real accomplishment and after a generation or two the youth will be unable to deal with the stress of real problems and the US will become weak.

On Sunday, I did make a reservation in advance for a ride and tour of the Great Wall….usually I prefer to just try and figure it out (and save money) but with a tight time window decided to take the easy way out.  Except for very heavy traffic that caused us to change our destination at the wall, it worked out perfect and back to the airport with an hour to spare. The guide was very good and honest about how China is improving with the way it treats its people but it is far from the west.

 

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The shops – Michelle Obama was there last week and these shirts were for sale everywhere (guy offered for $2 – by far the cheapest shirt offer). Apparently the Chinese thought it was a compliment – “Oba Mao” was underneath the picture. I don’t think Michelle bought one.

A sober reminder as we pulled in as the adjacent Hilton parking lot was packed with TV trucks…it must have been the hotel with the families from the lost MH 317 flight.

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