Wow…everyone slept even better last night (nearing normal!). A good way to start the day.
Today we headed to northern Beijing for a more unusualtourist experience. We drove for about two hours (a big hit with the kids!) to the Longquin Gorge. Along the way we caught our first glimpse of the Olympic buildings the Birds Nest and the Water Cube. That was pretty awesome.
Longquin Gorge includes the largest dam in Northern China and a narrow body of water at the base of large cliffs. The boat ride was a bit like riding down a large non-moving river that snaked in and out of impressive rock formationscovered in brush. The Saunders told us that the area was very reminiscent of the famous Guilin area in Mia’s home province of Guangxi. We’ve not travelled there and won’t be able to get there this time either. It is one of the most visited sites in China. They said this was very similar, so it was neat to get an idea of what we’ve missed in Guangxi.
Once off the boat we climbed to a Buddhist temple and lookout area. We passed on the opportunity to bungee jump – my heart wanted to but my trust level was not high enough to make the leap. Kayla wanted to even more than me!
After making our way back down, Kayla and Mia joined Dave Saunders and his daughter Lydia on a small boat. They were out for about an hour. We relaxed in the shade in a picturesque spot and met two women from Chicago who each had an adult daughter. It was the first time I remember hearing anyCaucasian speaking English, so we jumped into a conversation with them. They were bigger adventure seekers than us. One daughter had taken on the bungee jump and all four had climbed to the highest point lookout (about an hour’s climb).
After returning to our starting point by boat, we came back down from the top of a dam on a toboggan. It was pretty much the same as the sleds we road on Breckenridge last summer. A very fun way to get from point A to point B.
Once down, we headed to a local restaurant where we enjoyed our first authentic meal. I must say that the heat has been keeping us from being very hungry – that and the large breakfast we enjoy each day. Still, the food was very good and surprisingly non-threatening. We were told had we ordered a fish or a rabbit we would have likely seen a “head” on our plate, but the dish’s we ordered were quite similar to what we might have expected at a good Chineserestaurant at home. Our guide Vivie ordered for us from the Chinese menu. She said they scam tourists by having them order from a “visitor’s” menu that has higher prices. Ah, the joys of travelling with a guide.
We made our way back toward Beijing, but made a stop at the famous Ming Tombs. On this site there are mausoleums of 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Vivie suggested not going to the tombs, but instead walking the “Sacred Way”, which was the entrance to the area of the tombs. The Sacred Way is pretty much one really long walk down a path that leads to the Tomb of the first emperor buried in this location. He is the same one who built the Forbidden City and is highly revered. The path is quite peaceful with trees lining on both sides for most of the way. There are also a number of very large animals on both sides of the path. Every so often you come across a matching pair on each side. There are some known animals like elephants, camels and horses, and a number of fictional ones like several of the dragon’s sons (beast made up of different combinations of real animals). There are two pair of each animal. The first set we would come across was kneeling and the second set was standing. Supposedly, the animals are there to guard the tombs and to give them a chance to rest, one pair guards during the day and then at midnight the standing ones kneel and the kneeling ones stand. Unfortunately we couldn’t wait until midnight to see if this was true!
Once back in the van we decided to have Dave and I, along with Megan and Kayla, head to Wangfujian Street, also known as “Snack Street” where vendors sell an interesting array of thing we weren’t going to eat. There were live scorpions on skewers (they would roast them before you ate them), squid, fermented tofu that smelled so bad they almost put Kayla over the edge, beetles, various larva, centipedes, and a variety of reproductive parts from sheep and other animals (a.k.a. Rocky Mountain Oysters where I come from).
There was also a small version of NYC’s Times Square where the street was blocked off and there were a huge shopping district with bright lights and a lot of energy. Then we found a small alley of eccentric booths filled with all kinds of things we didn’t need but wanted to stop and look at.
Once finished with this experience we headed to the one thing we wanted to eat – Haagen Daz!
We caught a cab back to the hotel (Vivie’s advice saved us again as she encouraged us to avoid picking up a cab too close to the shopping area as we would get raked over the coals by the driver’s who prey on visitors there).
While we were gone, Kathleen and Molly took advantage of a quick bite at the happy hour and then took the little girls to the swimmingpool.