We were determined not to sleep right away so as to try and adjust to the time change, so we freshened up a bit and headed off to the local Carrefours (think Super Mega Walmart on steroids) and browsed their overwhelming array of everything. We picked up some potables and snacks before heading to the hotel health club for a full body massage. Tip #3- do this. Being pummeled into bonelessness for 45 minutes was just what we needed to relieve the travel knots and went a long way towards making us feel human again. After a quick drink in the hotel bar, we joined M. and H. for a lovely meal and then headed up to our rooms...
Where I promptly freaked out because I realized I hadn't packed a two dollar piece of plastic that was supposed to allow me to connect to the rest of the world during this trip. Once that problem was solved (the plastic bit turned out not to even be necessary) I made a couple of quick calls home, and we fell into bed, utterly exhausted, but excited about the days to come.
I have no idea why we woke up at 4:30, but I popped out of bed bright-eyed and raring to go. For those of you who know me personally, try to pick your jaws up off the floor. After a nice breakfast with M. and H. we met with our local guide, Cindy and one other family, D. and D., and headed out into the big city (17M people). Tip #4 - Beijing traffic is every bit as crazy as everyone says it is. See example A below which was taken just outside our hotel, on a not typically busy intersection.
We headed straight for the Temple of Heaven, which is located in a large park full of folks dancing, practicing tai chi and sidewalk calligraphy. The temple and surrounding buildings had some of the most beautiful architecture and porcelain tiles I've ever seen. The colors were especially vibrant as this area was recently restored in anticipation of the 2008 Olympics.
After the temple, our guide Cindy, took us to a restaurant for a delicious lunch. It was served family style on a lazy susan and the staff just kept bringing dish after tasty dish. Everything was good and I even ate and enjoyed the fish! After lunch it was off the the bell tower, which apparently is the training ground for the Great Wall. Then a new guide and a brave rickshaw driver took us on a tour of a local neighborhood called a hutong. We learned about this type of traditional community, visited with a family, and pet their sweet dogs. (Hi Ollie and Greta. We miss you!) Next, we visited a local kindergarten and played with the kids, who were mostly a little shy because they had just woken up from a nap. After dinner (Tip #5 - skip the KFC), we ended the evening with the Chinese Acrobats show. It was loud, colorful and amazing. I had no ideas bodies could bend those ways.
Blogger is giving me trouble uploading photos but you should be able to see the whole day's worth here.
More later tonight!