After 4 years of living abroad and traveling, I finally convinced Jon that it was time. Time to head to China. We had wanted to wait to visit China when the kids got a little older and easier travelers, we had heard that English was spoken little and that it was hard to get around. But, if not this year, then when? So off we went….
We arrived in Beijing early in the morning and started exploring the neighborhood we were staying in, Doncheng, specifically Wangfujing. The weather was pleasantly cool and clear compared to the heat we are still suffering through in Abu Dhabi. We decided to give the subway a go and try to find the Silk Road Market. We find the kids always behave best when we bribe them with little trinkets along the way, and where better to head than the largest knock-off shopping center I have ever seen. We needed sustenance and settled on a cafeteria near the Silk Market. No one spoke English, but there were pictures and prices on the wall and we could point and smile. We ended up with the most delicious hot pots of noodles, veggies, and meats.
Our second morning found us on way to the Jiankou Section of The Great Wall of China. We had looked at a lot of tours on line that would take us to a rebuilt section of the Wall where it was easy for tourists to get to and visit, but then we started seeing tours that allowed us to hike from one section of the wall to another. Our kids are ambitious hikers and climbers, why not? We weren’t quite prepared for this;
Unfortunately for pictures, it was a foggy day. But it was gorgeous being up there, the leaves were changing, it was not too hot because the sun wasn’t out bright, and we hiked until our legs nearly fell off. The Great Wall of China is over 8000 km long protecting it from invaders over 2000 years ago. It is amazing that it is still standing. After the initial ascent that we had to pull Amelia half way up, we reached the first guard tower and it was nothing but amazing from there.
There are a million more pictures of our hike on the Wall in my public album. The hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu took us over 4 hours of solid up hill, down hill, and side hill climbing and hiking. It was one for the record books. We hired a your guide named James to get us to the Wall and around, it was so interesting to have him with us and to learn about what it is like to be a 20 something in China. To be married and working, and wanting to live in the city of Beijing because it is more convenient for their jobs, but the government controlled rent being more than most make. To be allowed only to have one child; and if you have a second, you are fined AND fired from your job. I can’t tell you how many people asked us if BOTH of the kids were ours in astonishment. We enjoyed a delicious lunch and cold beer with him after the hiking, and slept like rocks that night.
Day 3 had us exploring more of Beijing with a trip to The Forbidden City. It was originally the home of Emperors for over five centuries, “forbidden” to everyone but the ruling class. Today, everyone and their brother goes for a visit.
We spent the rest of that day wandering around different neighborhoods and checking out the Wangfujing Night Market with food stalls. Home of stir fried scorpions and caterpillars. Sadly, the camera was back at the hotel. And no, we did not give them a try.
We then traveled to Xi’an, a 2 hour plane ride from Beijing. Xi’an was the capital of China for centuries. During the Qin dynasty, Emperor Shi Huangdi ordered an elaborate tomb built for himself, complete with warriors, horses, animals, and carriages, all made out of terracotta. More on that later….
Xi’an is a city of 15+ million people and is on the Silk Road, the trade route that went up through Asia into the Middle East. An import of the Silk Road is Islam, and we started our rainy morning in the Muslim Quarter of Xi’an.
The people of Xi’an were traditionally farmers, and depictions of everyday farm life are all over the city.
We then visited the City of Wall of Xi’an that surrounds the entire city.
The wall was over 20 feet high and flat on the top, with amazing guardhouses (see above picture) stationed along the way. We had heard that you can rent bikes and ride the whole way around, unfortunately it was raining and cold so we had to skip the bikes and go for a short stroll.
At the entrance to the wall they had on display some of the traditional weapons that were once used to protect the wall. Behold, one of my most favorite pictures ever:
Back to the tradition of farming in Xi’an, in 1974 and farmer was digging a well about an hour outside of town and started uncovering body parts, terracotta body parts, that is. This is what was eventually uncovered:
Over 8000 warriors, horses, and chariots have been found so far. And this is just the army that is guarding the mausoleum, which they have not opened to the public yet. All of the warriors have different facial expressions and poses. They were apparently painted at the time they were made (221-206 BC) but have since faded having been buried all of that time.
Most of the warriors were discovered in pieces and it was so interesting to see the process that the archeologists are taking to reconstruct this impressive treasure.
It was a fast and fabulous 6 days in China, yes there were several times we would try to talk to someone and get a blank look or people would just start speaking rapid fire Mandarin at us. But the food and the sights and the memories, made the difficulties a trip well worth the 4 years it took me to convince Jon to take.
All photos can be found here including the super cool photo above, taken by Charlie on his Ipod!