Xian -> Beijing -> Hutong Day Tour: Olympic Village, Rickshaw ride, Grand Canal/Jing-Hong, Home visit and Drum Tower. Weather: Sunny, 40-70* and the ever present smog!
We get up at 5:30. We have a very quick breakfast from 6:15-6:30. We check out of the hotel, get on the bus by 7:30 and go to the airport. We go through security and fly on China Eastern to Beijing. They give us a funny little hot dog for our ‘snack’. Once in Beijing we get on a bus again, but glad we aren’t trying to drive in this traffic. We drive by the 2008 Olympic stadium. The bus driver is great and makes a short stop so we can take pictures of the “Birds Nest” and the “Ice Cube”.
Only about half of our group decide to go on the optional tour of Hutong. It is the old part of Beijing which has the old courtyard homes and little narrow streets. These courtyard homes once covered all of Beijing, now only a few still survive. We take a rickshaw tour through these streets and stop to visit one of the local homes.
The rickshaw ride through the old town was fun. However four of our group end up apart from us when we arrive for the home visit! Their drivers took them back to the starting point instead of to the home we got to go in and visit with the family. Modern technology (cell phones) saved the day and got everyone back together.
The rickshaw leaves us at the local home and we then walk along the Jing-Hang/Grand Canal. It is the oldest and longest canal hand built in the world. It is 1100 miles long. It starts in Beijing and connects the Yellow River and the Yangtze River.
Our next stop was to the Drum Tower.
We then head back to the hotel after having lunch at a local restaurant. The hotel we are staying in was built in 1952, but is in nice shape. Rick’s cold has caught up with me and I stay in the hotel while Rick and John go on a city walk with Frank. This is Frank’s home town, but he has to ride the metro for 50 minutes from downtown to his home. He does not own a car. To buy a car you have to enter a lottery system, which he has several times but has never won. Also it is very expensive to pay for a garage space to keep a car if you do own one. Thus the metro is widely used and very crowded, but a fast and cheaper way of transportation.
We go to bed by 9 and don’t even celebrate either John’s birthday or Saint Patrick’s Day. Oh well, it was a good day anyway, and tomorrow is another big day with new adventures – seeing the Great Wall of China and Panda Bears!