Monday, November 1, 2010

Nov 1 2010 | Beijing: The Wall - is this where we came in?

Olga reflecting at The Great Wall in Autumn
This morning our extended group of coworkers and their families met up for breakfast and headed to Mutianyu, a slightly lesser-touristy part of The Great Wall of China. Most of the walkable parts of the wall have been renovated (rebuilt) over the decades, this section being no exception. One thing it does offer, that was most likely not part of the original design, is a ski lift that effortlessly takes you up the mountain, and a toboggan luge that brings you down.

The irony continues to be omnipresent: an ancient army fort has become a tourist trap and a symbol of the outreach of the country.

Toboggan rides!
 Our driver dropped us off at the Temple of Heaven as his shift was ending. There is an ornate 14th century campus of Taoist temples here, but for me the highlight was the "flash mob" style of groups spontaneously engaging in activities. We saw areas with:

Temple of Heaven synchronized dancers

- Loud synchronized calisthenics
- Tai chi
- Choreographed dancing
- Chinese checkers
- Mah jong
- Chinese card games
- Spontaneous song set to ancient Chinese violin
- Flying kites
- Feather-laden hacky sack
- Shirtless joggers
- Musical top on a string

the actual Temple of Heaven
 We ended up having dinner at a Muslim hot pot place. The difference between that and regular hot pot is that they use water instead of oil, charcoal instead of gas, and the only meat we had was lamb. It was delicious! The various mushrooms, cabbage, and sesame peanut sauce were my favorite.

Pigeon brings a whole new meaning to Street Food
Walked back to the hotel by way of a street food market, which included highlights such as live scorpions on a stick and a tray of pigeons.

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