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Sunday, February 27, 2011

February 27: At Last! I meet the Great Wall!


Morning came quick! We had to start the day earlier because we were driving out to the Great Wall today! Before the Great Wall however we had a couple stops, the first one being the Summer Palace.
I found the Summer Palace to hold the most interesting history to me. At one point China had no Emperor (he died with only having a child aged son) and two Empresses, one is considered good and one is considered bad, can you guess which one is known as the Dragon Lady? The Dragon lady (the bad Empress) became one of the Empresses because she was second in rank from the Empress and gave birth to the only son of the Emperor, the future Emperor. Though the Dragon Lady became an Empress after the passing of the Emperor, she was considered the lower ranking of the two. Skipping past all the developments, alliances, manipulations, trickery etc. the Dragon Lady became the head Empress. Lets fast forward some more: her son died, she adopted her nephew as her son so he could become the next Emperor, when he got old enough to start talking about politics he didn’t agree with the Empress so she put him on house arrest in the Summer Palace. He was on house arrest till her death and he died soon after she did, it’s rumored that she poisoned him so he couldn’t rule. All of this is to say that the Summer Palace was the Dragon Lady’s favorite place to be and this is where her adopted son was under house arrest. It was interesting hearing about this historical drama as we got to look into the buildings and rooms of these people.
(Summer Palace is on a lake that is only about a meter deep at its deepest point.)
(An art walk! This walk was listed in  the 1990 Guinness book of world records for the longest painted corridor in the world!)
(Marble boat that the Dragon Lady would sit on to look out over the lake.)
Our unlisted activity today was a visit to a Jade shop. We learned how to tell the difference between fake and real, high quality and low quality. It was fun to look at the jade jewelry but it’s not one of my favorite stones. I wish we could have just looked but the sales woman who was assigned to us was very obnoxious and wouldn’t leave us alone. We played, ‘ditch the sales woman’ in the large warehouse but we weren’t very successful. Chris wanted to purchase a silk sown picture but we weren’t willing to pay the price being asked. Because the woman was being such a pain in our neck we played hardball with her. When it comes to bartering you have to be firm, which is hard for Chris and I sometimes, but her annoying-ness made it easy for us. I gave her our price and she said she couldn’t go that low and offered us a price $5 below ours! I clarified and she said yes, we knew she messed her numbers up but let her go with it. As we arrived at the picture she stopped dead in her tracks, “I made a mistake! I didn’t mean that number!” I told her that it wasn’t our fault she made a mistake, that we accepted the offer she gave us and wouldn’t accept the offer she wanted to give us . She got all nervous and didn’t want to talk to her boss about what happened but she did. We wound up settling to buy it for a dollar more than we wanted.
We were more than ready to leave the Jade shop when we headed out to the Ming tombs. The site was chosen by the third Ming Dynasty emperor Yongle (1402–1424), who moved the capital of China from Nanjing to the present location of Beijing. After the construction of the Imperial Palace (the Forbidden City) in 1420, the Yongle Emperor selected his burial site and created his own mausoleum. The Ming tombs of the 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty were located on the southern slope of Tianshou Mountain (originally Mount Huangtu). From the Yongle Emperor onwards, 13 Ming Dynasty Emperors were buried in this area.
(The trees were growing through the brick wall!)
(Ancient money that was on display.)
After the tomb I was starting to get really antsy about getting to the Great Wall! At this point it was just a lunch stop sitting between me and the wall! We got to have Chinese food for lunch. It was pretty good and we had a lot of fun getting some time to just sit and talk.
Oh the wall, where do I even begin! My eyes started tearing up as soon as it came into view! Jenny said that it is very rare to get the opportunity to see the wall with snow on it! She took us to the entrance of the wall, snapped a few photos, and then told us she we had an hour and a half. Only and hour and a half?! I could have climbed that sucker all day! The first little stretch of wall was an incline without steps. Because of all the packed down snow it was slick as ice! People were falling down and sliding backwards just by attempting to get to the stairs. I was not going to let a slick patch of snow stop me from climbing that wall! Thank goodness Chris and I are tall with long arms! We wrapped our arms over the top of the wall and muscled our way up the incline!
I was so concerned that I was going to be cold at the wall because of the weather, but I failed to take in consideration the epic Stairmaster exercise we were going to perform. We had the goal of reaching the top (of the stretch of wall we were on) and by powering through hundreds of stairs we made it!
(My first step on the wall!)
(Getting down was tricky due to the uneven icy steps!)
(Taking steps the ‘old fashion’ way wasn’t really working out, so I decided to slide down the staircase railing banister style! At first people were laughing at me (this upset Chris) but then they realized I wasn’t falling, struggling, and going rather quick! Before we knew it most other people were doing this too! I started a trend on the wall that day, ha!)
(And forget about trying to carefully walk down the incline, I took a seat and gathered some impressive speed! A man at the bottom was cheering and told me I was smart.)
Jenny was surprised I didn’t immediately fall asleep after getting back into the van. Considering that I had been falling asleep on and off all morning and afternoon before the Great Wall I don’t blame here, but boy was I pumped after that!
Our second unlisted activity for the day was a Chinese traditional tea ceremony. We got to sample different types of tea both in taste and smell. Each of the teas had a health purpose, once specifically for the liver. I told Chris he needed that and the woman immediately asked if he was a drinker. I don’t think she believed him when he said no (she immediately followed that response with, “smoker?”), but we didn’t feel the need to get into a conversation about Chris’s condition.
Since arriving in China Chris has been talking about peking duck. I’ve never had duck, let alone in this form, to be honest I didn’t really understand what the big deal about it was… and then I tasted it! Wow, yep, can’t really put into words what peking duck is like! Does anyone know of a place in the Seattle area that serves it?! Supposedly a cook can get about 120 slices of meat off of one duck. A few of these slices is placed in the middle of what looks like a crepe, place a few onions and some sauce on top, roll up and enjoy! Wonderful!
Today was the last day we had with Jenny! The tour part of the trip finished today but we opted to add a free day on our trip, which is tomorrow. When we go back to the airport after tomorrow it’s just going to be our driver and I didn’t know that! Jenny turned into a friend to me. We talked for hours in the van about life, family, and religion. She was a great tour guide but what I’ll remember most is what she told me about herself. I cried when we parted, goodbyes are so hard for me. We exchanged e-mails though so I hope we can continue to grow our friendship!
Chris wanted to get me out to take my mind off of Jenny. We went on a bakery mission! A woman in the lobby told us that there was a bakery down the street. Something we’ve learned about China is that road lines and crosswalks don’t really matter… We played real life fogger across a 4 lane road, there was a crosswalk but no signals. Sometimes you get stranded in the middle of the road with cars traveling on either side of you!
We aren’t too sure what we’ll do tomorrow. Chris and I didn’t realize how all encompassing the tour trip was going to be and if we knew we probably wouldn’t have added the third day on. Oh well,  Jenny gave us directions to a few different places. We’ll see where we wind up!

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