Sorry I didn't write last night! We were SO tired. Ryan was asleep by 7:00 p.m., and I fell asleep by 8:00 a.m. We have really adjusted well to the time change in terms of not waking up in the middle of the night and then being awake all night.
Yesterday was such an incredible day! We woke up in the morning and slowly got ready. We had breakfast at our hotel (free with our room thanks to a deal - otherwise, it would cost around $32 US for breakfast). It is seriously the best hotel breakfast I've ever had.
This girl makes us omelettes with chopsticks for breakfast each day. We just pick the ingrediants, and she puts it altogether. My favorite is ham, cheese, chives, and red pepper.
I actually had two omelets yesterday morning because I knew we would need the protein for our big hike up the Great Wall. After breakfast, we began our adventure. Originally, we had planned for a guide to take us to Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, but then we really wanted the chance to experience Beijing by ourselves. So, we decided to travel their alone. We felt confident that we would just go a couple blocks north and a couple blocks west to reach this area. Sure, no problem, right? Well, we found ourselves walking and walking, seeing different areas of Beijing. To make a long story short, we were totally walking in the wrong direction! HA! A nice guy (probably an angel) saw us looking at Ryan's map and told us that we would be walking another 45-60 minutes now (because we walked southeast instead of northwest...haha!!). He recommended we take the subway and pointed toward the way to go. Again, I am so thankful to have had time navigating the NYC, Washington DC, and Chicago metro lines. Navigating the Beijing system was no different, and thankfully, there is enough English on the signs to help us find our way.
I love this picture of Ryan waiting for our train. We had to take one train a couple stops and then switch lines. This is a picture of us walking along with everyone to the Line 1 train. :)
We took the train to the Tiananmen West stop and made our way up to the street. It only cost 2 RMB to ride the train, which is about 32 cents US. What an easy way to navigate Beijing! The train itself was crowded, but it was clean...much cleaner than NYC. :)
This was our first look at Tiananmen Square. As you can see, it is very crowded at the entrance. Last week was National Day holiday, and our guide had told us the previous day that it was very uncomfortable to travel around due to the crowds. This week was much nicer! The weather was perfect...sunny with a nice breeze. Guess God knew what he was doing sending us a week later than we wanted. :)
Beyond this wall is Tiananmen Square. This is a HUGE gathering place just to the south and outside of Forbidden City. Because of our mishap of getting turned around, we didn't have enough time to actually go inside to see this area or the Forbidden City. We were only a teeny bit disappointed because it was fun to just walk around together and figure out how to get around the city a bit. :)
I want to share some things that we have observed and/or learned while being in Beijing.
1. The people here are friendly, welcoming, and willing to help you.
2. Fashion here is quite different. Matching is optional, and I've seen some wild shoes. I would say that compared to the Midwest, it is very different. Compared to NYC, probably similar in terms of unique styles.
3. Seeing little boys makes our hearts LEAP out of our chests!
4. The families we see seem to CHERISH their little boys AND girls. I've never gotten the sense that girls are less appreciated or loved.
5. This city feels quite safe. We haven't experienced any aggressiveness or hostility here. The most hostility occurred at the airport when our luggage was lost. There was one particular American man who totally lost his cool and was shouting at the poor girl working for the airline like it was her fault. :( So embarrassing. We also saw a couple Chinese men who were also quite upset. FYI - being angry doesn't make your bags show up any faster. :)
6. We have only seen 2 pregnant women since arriving in Beijing.
7. Having an ultrasound to learn the sex of the baby is ILLEGAL. We had no idea!
8. Our guide shared that if a husand and wife have a baby and then get pregnant again, the woman must have an operation to remove the baby. So sad. :(
9. Our guide is hopeful that the one child policy could change as the country will have many more boys than girls in future generations.
10. When we smile at people, they seemed surprised and then smile back. :)
11. People can be a little pushy in lines. It isn't orderly like first come first serve like in the US. It never feels aggressive or angry...just the way it is in Beijing. I mean, when you have 1.3 billion people in your country, it isn't a huge surprise that this is how things are.
12. There are bikes everywhere!! Even kids ride on bikes with their parents. :)
13. WE LOVE IT HERE. :)
Ok, back to our adventures yesterday. When we got off the subway, I walked to our hotel, and Ryan went to the mall area to grab some pizza. I was still full from breakfast, but he was getting hungry. His body hasn't adjusted quite as well, but I think he is getting there. Our guide picked us up at noon, and we were so happy to see Summer again! We had been originally scheduled to meet with his brother that day, but we think Summer maybe requested having us again. We told him we had hoped to see him again. Summer always took such good care of us. He recommended we buy a couple bottles of water by our hotel in a little convenience store because water at the Great Wall would be very expensive. So sweet. We did just that and then jumped in the car with our same driver as the day before.
The drive was about 90 minutes long but didn't seem to take much time at all. It was amazing to leave such a large city and then drive north into trees and mountains.
This was the view as we were walking up to the entrance of the Great Wall. We decided to go to the Mutianyu section of the wall, as we heard it was less crowded and very nice! We definitely found both of those to be true.
Lots of people had set up tables with various items to purchase along that path to buy tickets. Our guide purchaed our ticket for us, and we also purchased a cable car ticket and a toboggan ticket to get both up and down the mountain.
I love Ryan's face here! It was so fun to ride up the cable car.
It was pretty steep in certain sections, and we were excited to reach the top.
This was our first view of the Wall from the top. :) Just totally breathtaking. Summer shared with us that the construction of the Great Wall began in 221 BC!!! To be standing on something that was created 200 years before Jesus was born was just unbelievable. It really make you think about how young our country is. We are just babies in the US! Summer told us that 300,000 soldiers and 1 million laborers helped build the wall, which is the equivalent of 1 of every 5 people living in China during that time. As you can imagine, the Wall was built for protection, as the Chinese were being invaded by nomads from Mongolia (the side of the wall where Ryan is standing). The towers were used for soldiers to look for enemies, to store food/weapons (swords/arrows). Larger towers were also used for communication. They would use dry wolf dung and burn it to send smoke signals to one another. The number of smoke signals would communicate how many enemies were coming (more smoke = more enemies). Various dynasties worked on the wall throughout history.
Summer was getting is started on the wall. He took a few picture of us together, which was really nice!
We said goodbye to Summer and decided to climb the steeper side of the wall. I was walking paying close attention to the stairs, as they are uneven, and I didn't want to fall, when all of the sudden I heard, "Vinfried (vin-freed)!!!" "Ryan!!!" HAHAHAHA!!! I still laugh about how funny it was. Ryan saw the same guy he sat next to on the plane - the one who had adopted his daughter 9 years prior. What are the chances?? Ryan said, "I know one person in China, and it's you!" SO FUNNY! We all got a good laugh, grabbeda a quick picture, and went our separate ways.
This picture shows where we stood at the furthest tower we were allowed to climb.
Ryan pretending to be a Chinese soldier with a bow and arrow.
I wanted to post so many pictures to give you a real sense of what we experienced yesterday. There were certain sections that were SO SO steep. Some of the steps were almost as tall as my foot to my knee. Then, you would have other steps that were just a couple inches tall.
To get back down the mountain, we go to ride down on one seater toboggans. You guys, it was SO SO much fun!! See the stick I am holding? You push down to go fast, and then you pull toward you to slow down and brake. I'm not going to lie...I was pushing it down as fast as I could, leaning into the turns to keep up speed. It was a blast!! Ryan was behind me, but I didn't see him until almost the end. He, too, was going as fast as possible down the mountain and videotaped the whole thing! I can't wait to show the kids when we get home.
We met back up with Summer, bought Noah a quick gift (a sling shot for 30 RMB). We didn't see anything we wanted for Tuck or Liam, so we made our way to the car. The drive back to Beijing took quite a long time, as it was rush-our traffic once we reached the city. I had to ask if we could stop to use the restroom because it was taking so long. Again, our driver took great care of us! We went into a nice restaurant, and they gladly let us use their restroom (or washroom as Summer called it). This was my first experience with a "squatty potty," and to be honest, it went just fine! :)
Our next stop was Snack Street (Night Market), which was a long area where tents were set up serving all kinds of food. I asked Summer if the people in Beijing like to stop there to eat, and he assured us that no they did not...it was simply for the tourist. He told us not to eat anything because it was "dirty." He said, for example, they only wash the vegetables once, and he didn't want us to get sick. Again, this man took such great care of us.
Summer and our driver took us back to the hotel. We exchanged a bit more money to pay for his services and the drivers for all four days (2 days were to and from the airport). We paid 2160 RMB for the services, which is equivalent to $352. We'd spend that money again in a heartbeat to work with Summer. Like I said, we thoroughly enjoyed talking with him and learning about his wife and 2 year old son, as well as learning all about various aspects of Chinese culture. Thanks to him, we felt very at ease and comfortable in Beijing. For those of you looking for a fun vacation, please consider Beijing!! Private Guide Beijing (Jack Won is the owner) took such great care of us. We gladly tipped our driver and Summer well, and gave Summer a $1 bill US to give to his son. We hoped to find a gift for his son but never did. Our kids always love getting foreign money, so we hope his son will feel the same way.
After saying goodbye, we walked back to our favorite little noodle bar and had dumplings again. The pork and cabbage dumplings are amazing. We had COLD Sprites and then walked back to our room, falling asleep soon after.
We cannot believe our time in Beijing is over. We really have enjoyed our stay here! Our driver is picking us up in less than an hour to take us to the airport. We fly to Chongqing at 1 p.m., arriving there at 3:40 p.m. We will meet our guide, Michael, and head to the hotel, Le Meridian. This afternoon, we will not only be in our son's birth country, we will be in the same city. #onestepcloser