Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Exploring Beijing during Golden Week

Beijing, China's capital is the perfect city to see where old China and new China meet. Our first stop was to the Dongyue Taoist Temple.
Old and new mixed

We have never been to a taoist temple before...what a trip! We highly recommend going to check out this temple as it was really interesting, colorful and full of awesome weirdness (is that a thing?) The temple displays 76 different departments of death.

Each chamber is completely different with colorful statue looking things and totally worth the time and entrance fee (less than $2 USD)

Sunday we opted for the weekend only Panjiayan antique market and hoped to find some real treasures. The antique market is on a blacktop parking lot with all sorts of stuff displayed. Regardless of what we asked to see it was $100 USD. Small perfume bottle? $100 USD  Necklace? $100 USD...didn't matter...their starting price was the equivalent of $100 USD.

Being that this was an "antique" market, the one English word every seller knew was "OLD". As we would laugh at their insane price, they would insist that the article in question was old. Ya sure...right. I saw a necklace that was really cool and although I already knew the price (everything starts at $100 USD) I asked the lady anyways...How much? She thought about it for a second and punched in to her calculator 700 yuen (about $100 USD). We all laughed and walked away. Every seller next to her was screaming at her....telling her she asked too much. They were reprimanding her as we were walking away. Although we don't speak Chinese...we got the drift that they had told her she should have learned from others mistakes...DON'T START AT 700 yuen!!

Before leaving the market, I saw one last items I was interested in. A small fish necklace charm. Again the guy started at 700 yuan, claimed the piece was real old and we laughed. But I really wanted to charm. We were walking away for good when he stuffed the calculator in Phil's hand and asked us to make an offer. I told Phil I only wanted to pay 100 yuan ($15 bucks). Phil thought that was too insulting. Jessica grabbed the calculator from Phil, punched in 100, and showed the seller. He agreed to accept 100 yuan. The surrounding sellers were cheering. I got so excited I had to take a picture. Someone had finally sold something to the white people! Success..or maybe not.

As we walked away from the "antique" market where Phil kept muttering, "I swear they just throw this crap in the dirt to make it look old" we came walked into the Panjiayun daily market. HOLY COW....rows and rows of crap (er, I mean good stuff). And well, what do you know? The same crap (uh, I mean, "antiques") that people were selling around the corner on the blacktop for 20 times more! And what else do you know....my fish necklace charm that I had just happily paid 100 yuan was being sold by someone who's first offer was to sell his for 30 !!  Whatever. The man has a family to feed and I'm happy with my $15 USD fish charm....even if I could have purchased the same one around the corner for $3.

Monday we went to the Great Wall and it was spectacular. We literally couldn't have asked for a more perfect day. 75 degrees? Check. Crystal clear skies? Yup. Only a fraction of the people we were anticipating? Thank Gawd yes.

How's this for steep?
We went to the Mutianyu area of the Great Wall, 2 hours from Beijing. Most people go to the closest area, Mutianyu is NOT the closest area which means it's also less crowded, by a few million people. We chose to take the gondola up to the top of tower 16 and then walk to tower 19 and all but crawl to tower 20. 

The top of tower 20 was nothing short of breathtaking. As if experiencing the Great Wall with our family wasn't gratifying enough, being there with Emma was exceptional. We've never seen her so happy. To be standing on the Great Wall in her home country. Beyond awesome. 

We spent about 4 hours on the Great Wall, which went by fast. With every step we would look at the new incredible view. Although we had purchased gondola tickets for the ride down, Emma insisted we walk...all. the. way. down.

Sweet Jesus, the day after first crawling up to Tower 20 and then walking all the way down off the mountain, Phil and I were feeling old. Real old. Like we could hardly walk the next day old. Shit we do for our girls.....

I'd love to show you pictures of the Forbidden City, but we don't have any. We suck and didn't buy tickets in advance. Although all of our co-workers told us we were insane for going to Beijing during the Golden Week, due to the enormous crowds, for some reason that didn't translate into pre-purchasing tickets to one of the most popular attractions in all of China. We are considering going back to Beijing for Christmas.

Before heading home, we went to the Lama Temple. We love the different temples. They're so colorful. Peaceful. Less crowded.

3 story Buddha in the temple. Stunning
Smoke from prayer sticks filled every temple

It is possible to enjoy China during the Golden Week, so long as you arrive at your destination on Saturday and get the hell outta dodge by Tuesday. China makes people work on the first weekend of the holiday (in order to take off the full week) so while everyone else is at work, places are less crowded. By Tuesday the crowds of millions show up...and the fun is over. 

While Phil was buying our subway tickets back to our Airbnb, the girls and I were standing behind the row of ticket dispensers next to a wall as it was the only place to be without feeling like we were going to be crushed. I felt a hand in the middle of my back and was shoved out of the way. A new walkway was forming behind us with the influx of another million people into the subway. These people were squeezing themselves between a wall and a row of ticket dispensing machines!! I've never seen crowds like we did in Beijing. Living in China brings a whole new meaning to the word, CROWDED

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