Wednesday, February 2, 2011

August 31 Beijing

Today we went to the Great Wall of China. Words do not exist to
describe what a phenomenal thing it is. This is the Ming wall, built to
prevent a return of the Mongols. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
We used public transport to get there: Taxi from the Xiao Xi’ang to the
Arrow Temple, from which departs the 919 bus. That goes along the
Badaling expressway to the wall. Penny and I both love going places on
local transport with local people, so this also was a treat! We were
especially lucky about the weather. The rain of the previous days had
washed down the air pollutants and so we had a bright and beautiful day. It
was so clear that we could see Beijing in the distance from atop the wall.
We were also lucky in that Phil and Dy had to leave a day early. They
gave their de luxe room in the Novotel Peace Hotel to Butch and Del, who
themselves are leaving tomorrow and had booked an extra day at the Xiao
Xi’ang through Sundowners. So Alaine, Penny, and I were able to use that
latter one as a day room while awaiting the departure of the overnight train
to Xi’an.

I noticed in the lobby that another company, Explore Adventure
Holidays, also uses the Xiao Xi’ang Hotel. There is a
Trans-Siberian group and a China tour group of theirs here. The latter group
is traveling by air.

Alaine met with the Beijing district manager of Sundowners. She will
stay with us through Kunming where she will be replaced by a fellow named
Bill. He is Chinese, and so of course, does speak the language. Also, it
seems that our squawking about the arrangements in Yekaterinburg had
some positive results. Sundowners plans to add another day in
Yekaterinburg to the Grand Trans-Mongolian Tour, or alternatively to leave
earlier in the morning and to go to Omsk, with a one-day visit with hotel
night stop there. The second option seems to me to be a better one.
The Olympics theme was very much in evidence.

Our train to Xi’an left in the evening. Like most domestic trains in
Beijing, this one left from Beijing West Station instead of the central station
where we arrived from Mongolia. The place was huge…the biggest train
station I have ever seen. At least I think so. I have been to Tokyo Station
and to Shinjuku Station, and they might be as big, but I doubt it. There was

a crush of people, and each track had a very long passenger train standing on
it. Gary was very helpful in getting us and our luggage through the chaos
and onto the train.

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