The Great Wall
The landing in Beijing was smooth and the anxiety was much less now that we had some experience under our belts. I had organized an airport transfer to our hotel and it was so nice to walk out and have a friendly face and comfortable ride waiting for us. Well worth the extra cost for this momma. (a taxi ride is about 120 ($10) yuan and our airport transfer was 350 yuan ($50). We had about 4 days to explore Beijing. Our Hutong was within the 1st ring of the city and it was within a 10min walk of the metro. We used the metro to get to the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. We hired a driver to take us to the Great Wall, Muitanyu section. We opted for the chairlift ride up and alpine slide ride down. That choice made big points with the kiddos and it was a pretty hot day so I didn’t mind a little help in the hiking department. Just hiking the wall for a half a mile was exhausting! I can see why it took thousands of years to build this wall! (Link to Great Wall info)
I was more relaxed in Beijing but was frustrated by the internet interference and feeling like I was being ‘watched’. I don’t know if I am just being paranoid, but I couldn’t shake the feeling. Luckily we had great cell reception (we are using T-mobile one plan) and I had purchased a VPN (virtual private network) account and we were able to access google maps, ect… I also had purchased a portable charger for our phones and iPads which I found invaluable for piece of mind. I really don’t like being without google!
We managed to take the metro to the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and Llama Temple. For our trip to the Summer Palace we had to change lines 3 times. It was about a 45 minute subway ride to the Summer Palace which is actually much less time than it would take in a taxi and cost us about $5.00 to get there. We got off the metro and looking at google maps it seemed we (ok, I) knew which way to go. It really didn’t seem like it would be that difficult to find. Well, after walking a mile in the wrong direction parallel to what we thought was the Summer Palace we found ourselves about to walk across a major 8 lane freeway to get to our destination. Wrong answer! We decided to turn around and after our 2 mile stroll down a major highway we made it back to the metro station and decided we needed some Dairy Queen. (yes, they have Dairy Queen) Once we reoriented ourselves (and our attitudes) we realized we were looking at the ‘wrong’ Summer Palace grounds. It was a five minute walk to the East gates of the ‘right’ Summer Palace grounds. Ah, the joys of learning and ice cream. 😉 Luckily we don’t have to worry about getting our exercise!
Our time time in Beijing was short and by the end of the 4 days we felt we had a much better handle on getting around. City life is challenging and not feeling comfortable taking taxi’s due to our lack of language skills was a bit limiting. I would agree with the sentiment of most ‘tourist’ travelers that 4 days in Beijing is more than enough to see the major sites. We enjoyed our time and especially the sweet young students working at the Hutong who were so kind and helpful! (We stayed here.)
Overall considering my anxiety, Eric’s dietary ‘restrictions’, the kids addiction to high speed internet, and living within a pretty small budget I would say we are doing excellent. Perspective being half the battle. We are certainly challenged by small crowded spaces and those are many here in China. We are challenged by our lack of language skills, but we have managed to do quite a lot of activity on our own and I am proud of us for extending beyond our comfort zone. There is definitely a tighter rein on my sense of exploration when I have my two young children in tow. The balance of what I want/need and what we all want/need takes daily commitment. Each night Vivian wants to talk about her home and her dog and her friends. I am constantly reminded that ‘we’ didn’t want to go on this trip and I am constantly reiterating that this is a gift to your parents, just try to enjoy it. Hopefully someday it will feel like a gift and not a burden. This is what my yoga practice is for the daily practice of finding balance in my breath and all my wondrous relationships.
Next adventure is an overnight train ride in a sleeper car to ancient X’ian!
Until next time,