Guest blogger – Kathleen!
Great Wall here we come. Dave and Molly, the friends that we are traveling with, are both also KSU alumni. Before we left, Molly had theidea of all of us wearing K-State gear when we visit the Great Wall and pose for pictures to try and get into the K-State Alumni Magazine. So off we went in purple and white. There are multiple sections of the wall that you can visit and we traveled to one that was notopen the last time Tim and I were here – Mutianyu. We took a chairlift up the mountain to reach the section of the wall that we would walk and climb. One of the best parts of the day was the fact that it was a perfectly blue sky that allowed us to see for miles into the distance. That may not seem so incredible but a typical day in Beijing involves a heavy wall of haze due to the pollution. We spoke with a woman who said she had lived in Beijing for 2 years and each time she had come to the wall she was barely able to see to the next mountain and all her photos look like they have a grey filter on them. We were lucky enough to be able to not only enjoy the wonder of walking the wall, an incredible manmade structure, but also being able to enjoy some fabulous scenery. There were two ways to get back down the mountain, walking and riding a sled-likecoaster. Needless to say we took the coaster, which we all thought was a lot of fun.
Interjection from Tim – One thing I wanted to capture was toward the end of our visit on the wall, David, Molly, Kayla and I decided to head in the opposite direction we had come in because David knew a spot that he had been to before and wanted to share it with us. It was the point where the reconstruction of the wall had ended and we were able to continue (past the “Don’t go past this point” sign). We went on for a bit and were rewarded with a wonderful view that not many people get to see. It took a LOT of climbing, though, and some of the steps were between 18-24 inches tall. If you plan a trip to the Great Wall, I recommend it heartily! Now back to Kathleen…
After that we went for a short visit to see the Olympic National Park and get some photos of the Birds Nest Stadium and the Water Cube. It was a mammoth area and easy to imagine the wall to wall people that musthave filled the square we were standing in. The Birds Nest is now used for some sporting events but primarily private concerts that come to Beijing. We learned that the first concert was actually Jackie Chan! The water cube has been opened, in part, as a water park. We would have loved to have toured and seen more, but there is just so much to do here.
Our last big venue in Bejing was to tour the Summer Palace. While the area does involve a palace, the entire area is actually seven times the size of the Forbidden City. It includes a park and temples and a large lake. There was also the longest corridor in the world. Built alongside the lake, it was put in place for the royalty so they could stay out of the rain and the sun. The Chinese call it the longest art gallery in the wall because the entire structure is covered in paintings on the underside. It was at this point where we realized Tim could not find his credit cards and money clip. We’ve been very careful to keep our money in a pouch around our neck, but Tim has for some reason carried his credit cards in a money clip in a side pocket that has a closure and is very safe. For somereason he had shifted it to his front pocket and now couldn’t find it. For several very nervous reasons we waited until it was confirmed by our driverthat it had fallen out in the van and all was well. Whew!
The most interesting aspect of the entire Summer Palace visit was all the stories about the mother of the Emperor, Ci Xi, who was known as the “power behind the curtain”. Her son became emperor when he was very young and then died before he had an heir. When he died, she found a very young nephew who she adopted and made king so she could continue to control the throne. She was ruthless in every way and it is believed she actually had her nephew killed the day before she herself died when she was in her 70s. We are already planning on finding a biography about her for when we return home (yes…we will have to return at some point!).