Friday, April 18, 2008

Day 3: The Ming Tombs, THE GREAT WALL, and the Donghuamen Night Market

On our third day in Beijing, we took the BIG TOUR. It's the whole reason I even went on this trip. Seeing and walking on the Great Wall of China is one of my Bucket-List items. We had great weather and were lucky to be paired with our fleet-footed, ever-so-elusive guide, Allen, again.

In order to give any mist time to burn off and the temperature time to rise, we started the day with the Ming Tombs. Many emperors of the Ming Dynasty are buried here, but only a few of the tombs have been excavated. The tomb we visited was the tomb of the 3rd Ming emperor, a general who seized control from his nephew (the 2nd Ming emperor). When the Emperor died, his 18 favorite wives were buried alive with him, 9 on each side of his tomb. That sucks.

To get to the tomb, we passed through the Yin-Yang Gate. This served as the gateway between the world of the living and the world of the dead. You had to step through leading with your right foot and come back leading with your left foot, and when you came back through, you had to shout some saying and then jump up and down and wipe any lingering spirits off of you. I would have been suspicious that this was all just an elaborate ploy to make foreign tourists look like idiots, but other groups of Chinese tourists were doing it, too.

This is the Emperor's head stone! As Allen explained to us, if you're an emperor, everything that has to do with you is much bigger than normal. As with a traditional headstone, the body was buried just behind it. If you look to the back of the picture, you will see trees on a hillside. That hillside was the emperor-sized coffin mound! The Emperor's body is buried under that hill.

Click here to see more pictures of the Ming Tombs!

After the Ming tombs, we had lunch at the local jade factory (and got to spend a great deal of time in their showroom and gift shop), and then it was off to the GREAT WALL!! We went to the Badaling section of the wall, the best-preserved and most popular section close to the Beijing area. We were told this big rock says "The Great Wall of China," but really, for all we know, it could say "Chairman Mao rocks!"

The wall was very steep in some places, making it a great hill workout for me. Alex was able to keep up with me without much difficulty, and even beat me on a short race up! Another challenge of the wall was that the stairs weren't uniform in height. Some of them were two-inches tall, others were two-feet tall!

You can kind of get a sense for how steep it was in places in this shot! The going up was hard, but the coming down was hard, too! By the time we were almost back to the bottom, our legs were shaking!

Here you can see the fantastic view. It was still very early spring, so there wasn't a whole lot of green yet, but you can get a sense of the mountainous terrain and the wall that just goes on into the distance.

Click here to see more pictures of the Great Wall!

That night, we went back to our favorite shopping area, Wanfujing Street, which was only a short seven-minute walk from our hotel. It was just off Wanfujing that we discovered the Donghuamen Night Market!

This 1/4-mile row of food carts serves tasty snacks and delicacies almost exclusively on sticks! Many carts offered sugar-coated fruit, which wasn't really all that exciting, except that they had these really tiny apples (the size of golf balls!). The majority of the carts, however, offered much more exotic fare! I know what you're all thinking, but no, we did not get anything. The locals were buying, the tourists were taking pictures and staring.

Giant prawns (on a stick)

Grasshoppers and black scorpions (on a stick)

Grubs (big, fat worms) guessed it--on a stick.

Click here to see more pictures of the Donghuamen Night Market, including bees on a stick, centipedes on a stick, sea urchins (not on a stick), and a great example of "Chinglish"--what happens when Chinese people try to translate stuff into English!

We grabbed dinner in a small, local restaurant near the CCTV tower (the tallest tower in Beijing). This time we knew not to order too much. We had a feast of peanut chicken, steamed rice, and broccoli, for the equivalent of $4 (total). Sweet! We also caught a great view of the city from the top of the tower and were inundated with Olympic stuff! Click here for some shots of the tower, the city, and me giving an Olympic press conference!

It was a wonderful, exhausting day! On our last day in Beijing, I went to the zoo and saw the famous pandas and Alex and I caught a show of Chinese acrobats. I'll post pictures of that soon.

Thanks for keeping up with our travels and stories!


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