Update: Uploaded photos from the Summer Palace, The Nest, and Xi'an:
When booking this trip, we thought we were being smart by not booking the kind of tour that runs you ragged and leaves you no time and energy for the little things in life such as leisurely strolling and exploring on your own. Guess we weren't as smart as we thought :-)
Our 4th day in Beijing, before flying on to Xi'an, was dedicated to two sights, or sites: The Dragon Lady's Summer Palace, and the Nest. Not much I can tell you about the Summer Palace, since it was so overrun by droves of [mostly Chinese] tourists led by guides with blaring, amplified microphones. There were some pretty trees, rocks, statues, and paintings... and a lake with a stone boat... and lots of stories about the formidable Dragon Lady.
|Stone boat in the Dragon Lady's Summer Palace. Amazingly, a tourist-free photo!|
|Statue of ferocious dragon at the Summer Palace|
It wasn't as impressive as the Forbidden City, while the Forbidden City itself, though huge, was a bit of a letdown: very run down, dusty, dead-looking. You needed a lot of imagination to see it as it was in its prime, shiny with color and splendor, bubbling with life and cruel death.
So, on to The Nest -- that incredible feat of architecture built for the 2008 Olympics. The outside is beautiful, and the interior is amazing.
|The Bird's Nest -- Beijing National Stadium -- amazing architecture|
|Inside the Bird's Nest (Beijing National Stadium)|
A 2-hour flight took us to Xi'an, a city with a population only about half the size of Beijing's. But you can look up all that info if you wish. We were met by our local guide, a slim, efficient woman who told us we could call her Wei. Works for us.
We arrived at the Day's Inn hotel, checked in, got as far as the elevators... and got stuck in a queue. Apparently, some six tourist buses (coaches to the Brits among you) had arrived shortly before us. The hotel seemed mobbed. Word of advice: If you can help it, do not go down for breakfast between 7-8 a.m. on such days. This morning, there was hardly a spare seat in the dining hall; the staff could simply not keep up with the demand for coffee, muesli/granola, bowls, butter, and an assortment of other breakfast things. Luckily, an English couple who were occupying a table for four saw us going round and round in circles looking desperate (and hungry), and invited us to join them.
Today's tour began with a walk/bike-ride along the old city walls: the guys hired bikes, the ladies strolled and chatted. The guys in question were Michael (a.k.a. Hubby), Colin, and Pete. The ladies were me, Susan and Kathy. We've been getting along so splendidly that, wherever we go, we're being asked if we've been friends for a long time. No, we say; only met them 4 days ago for the first time... Our first guide, Wang Yi Hong, when wishing us a good trip, told us to keep together "like sticky rice".
|Our second guide, Wei, explains the history of Xi'an's old city walls|
Traffic both in Beijing and in Xi'an (and I suspect in most if not all other cities) is crazy: everyone honks, shoves, pushes, as best they can: cars, buses, bicycles, scooters and pedestrians. Traffic lights? Ha!! Might trumps right. Every intersection is a battlefield. I gasp and hold my breath at each intersection, expecting someone to be run over. So far, sigh of relief, no harm done to anyone as far as I could see.
Time to get ready -- we're going to dinner and a show.
Sorry, no time to proofread or self-edit.
Catch you later, Internet permitting.