We arrived in Beijing after a ten-hour overnight train ride from Yangzhou. Fresh from a good night’s sleep for some and a not so good night’s sleep for others, we boarded the bus for a short ride to the hotel where we dropped our bags before heading out to do a full day of sightseeing. We drove over to the south side of Tiananmen Square, where we marveled at the sheer size and scale of the square. We looked north toward Mao’s portrait and then headed to walk underneath it on our way into the Forbidden City.
After spending an hour and a half wandering around the Forbidden City in small groups, we met in the garden at the north end. From there, we headed to lunch at a Yunnan restaurant. After lunch and a little bit of wandering around that street, we headed over to Beihai, where everyone hopped in one of three boats and puttered around the small lake. Tired after a long day of walking, we drove back to the hotel to refresh ourselves with showers, and then met again to go out for hot pot, a traditional Chinese meal. We were fortunate to be entertained by a skilled practitioner of the Chinese art of face changing 变脸, where masks are revealed one after the other, almost instantaneously, without the audience having any idea how it is done.
On our second day, we again arose early in order to head off to the Great Wall of China. Avoiding the overcrowded and over commercialized access point closest to Beijing, we headed northeast to Mutianyu. Although there were plenty of people, it was hardly crowded for one of the most visited attractions in China. The day started out cloudy but soon became sunny as we walked along this impressive accomplishment that did little if anything to keep out the northern invaders. We drove back into the city and stopped by the site of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where we saw the famous Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube. From there we went to a Xinjiang restaurant and had a delicious meal of lamb kebabs and other delicacies, followed by ample amounts of fruit. We went to a famous shopping street called Nanluoguxiang 南锣鼓巷 for a brief look around, before heading back to the hotel a little bit after 8:00 p.m.