I think I am going to have to break this one up into two posts as we covered a lot of ground in Beijing and I took a lot of photos. We had The ultimate tour guides who knew exactly where we needed to go in Julie’s brother Dan and his wife Ashley. These two were the reason we took this trip to Asia as they’re soon returning to the US after 5 years or so in Beijing. Ever since we got married, we have been saying we’d go visit them in Beijing and it was so amazing to finally make it happen and be there. They were amazing hosts. It was fun to have people to tell us the best spots to visit in the amount of time that we had – as Beijing is a HUGE, sprawling city with so much to offer. They even let us use their car and their driver Jerry. Jerry was awesome and zipped us all over the place (more on Jerry later).
We got to Beijing in the morning and were greeted by Ashley, Tate (their 3 year old son), and Jerry. We headed straight into the city. The first thing we noticed was how blue the sky was. After hearing all about how nasty the pollution is there, I was like, hey this isn’t bad at all, what are these people talking about? Ashley assured us that we were lucky as that was the most clear day there had been in months. On the way to their place from the airport was the Olympic Park which we had to stop at. The Bird’s Nest, the Water Cube…I mean come on – don’t you remember just looking at those in awe during the 2008 Olympics? They were even more impressive up close. The architecture on the Bird’s Nest is so precise and made me wonder how on earth the architect came up with the concept, nonetheless putting it all together.
Bam. Look at that blue sky and look at that Bird’s Nest. What a beautiful piece of art.
Here is the cauldron that was attached up at the top of the Bird’s Nest during the Olympics. Remember how amazing those opening ceremonies were?
Even the lights along the sidewalks were pieces of art.
Meet Ashley and Tate (Dan was at work). Tate had an encounter with a coffee table corner the night before we got there and split his eye open. So he was sporting a nice big bandage.
The combination of the steel, and the red, and the blue sky behind was “to die for” as my mom would say.
This structure was on a my bucket list of architectural feats to see during my life. So I get to check that one off. Call me crazy but I think I could have just sat there and looked at it for an hour.
Here is the second coolest part of the Olympic Park, the Water Cube. Remember how this one lights up at night?
From there we headed back to Dan and Ashley’s apartment to drop off our stuff and went to their favorite hole in the wall joint to get some Gong Bao Chicken and spicy green beans. Again, I don’t like Chinese food in general, but this stuff was tasty. You can see the guy in there cooking the food.
We then headed over to see Dan at work. This is the building that Dan’s company owns and he oversees. It is in the middle of the financial district of Beijing. Beautiful building.
He took us up on the roof to see the area from above. He said there are days when you can’t even see the other buildings across the street there, so ya, we lucked out with a beauty day.
We had time to stop by the bead market real quick. The markets were one of the most enjoyable parts of Beijing. The Chinese are some serious bargainers!
Best. Part. Of. The. Trip. not one, but two trips (two different nights) to the Chinese foot massage place. We have been hearing about this place ever since I met Julie, so we (especially me) were really excited to go there. There are these 4 chairs set up in a dimly lit room with ambience music playing, they bring you a menu to order whatever drinks/food you’d like and you sit and chat for a while. Then the four masseuses come in and give you a little bow, and then soak your feet in this crazy hot bucket of water with minerals and oils in it. While your feet are soaking, they give you back, neck, and head massage. Wow, this was a mixture of pleasure and pain as these little ladies pack some serious strength! I thought my head was going to explode at one point as she was squeezing my neck so hard. It was hilarious. Then we sat back and enjoyed 75 minutes of the best foot massage ever. All the while we were having great conversations with Dan and Ashley – they are so great. It was so fun to talk with them and hear about their adventures over the last 5 years in China. We liked it so much, we ended up going back the next night thanks to Dan and Ashley realizing our (my) enthusiasm for them.
The next day was Thanksgiving. This was a Thanksgiving we will never forget. We climbed the Great Wall. This lived up to every single ounce of expectation that either of us had. It was absolutely surreal to be there on this thousand year old+ wall and see it traverse the mountains for as far as you could see. It wasn’t as clear as it was the day before, but the visibility was still pretty great, and after being in crowded Beijing it seemed like we were on our own there on the wall.
I think I will just let the photos do the talking here.
We hiked up as far as we could to the part of the wall that hadn’t been restored/kept up as well. No naked flames in case you were wondering.
This is Julie doing Hazel’s “I Feel Alive” pose. Saydi, be sure to show this one to Hazel. Look at the wall way back there on the left. Can you imagine being put to the task of building this thing. Crazy rules do crazy things.
These two photos give you an idea of how steep some parts of the wall are – we were literally hiking up it like it was a ladder.
This is the interior of one of the little posts/lookout house/soldier quarters that are every quarter mile or so on the wall.
It was so amazing to dream of going to a place for so many years, and then suddenly be standing right there on top of it. If you’ve ever considered going – GO. It will exceed every expectation you have. Oh ya, and the way down was seriously awesome. Check it out below.
So after hiking all over the wall for most of the day – we headed down to meet Jerry (who was nice enough to drive us out to the wall) to head back to Beijing for Thanksgiving dinner. Of course this is the first thing this guy tried to sell us – gotta love that. We were cracking up. I did get a pretty awesome t-shirt for my collection that says “I climbed the great wall”.
On our way back into Beijing, we cruised past the Pants building (CCTV Building) and some other cool architectural pieces.
The Forbidden City from the car. More on that in part 2.
We expected to be eating Peking Duck instead of Turkey, but we totally had a full on turkey dinner that night. Dan and Ashley invited some friends over and we had a good old turkey day feast in the middle of Beijing.
Then to cap off the night we went to the Night Market. This, along with the foot massages was something I had heard a lot about. It is here where you could get pretty much any kind of weird creepy animal/insect on a stick and then have it deep fried and eat it there on the spot. It was so weird. But so awesome at the same time. I will just let your mind wander to try to figure out what everything is. Watch out for the scorpions, sea-horses, pigeons, and frogs. Cripes. And yes, we actually saw some people eating these.
This guy is cool, huh?
And just in case you want to get a feel for the atmosphere/craziness there, check out this video.
So, it was definitely a Thanksgiving to remember. Still loads more photos to come from the rest of our time in Beijing. Stay tuned for the Summer Palace, The Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and awesome Chinese people.