China Trip – Day 12

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”.

Beijing is one big city. I can’t get over so many people living in the huge high-rises .
There is a lot of traffic and the smog is terrible.
It is a modern city with an IKEA store. That is where the people in the high-rises buy their furniture.
Me standing in front of the “Ice Cube” building and the Olympic towers.
The Olympic Towers and the “Ice Cube” building. Note how bad the smog is!
The building called “The Bird’s Nest”.
The “Bird’s Nest” and note how I managed to include a bird’s nest in the tree to the left!

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.

Showing the old style homes built around a central courtyard.
Their little narrow streets.
Carrie this one is for you: a garden plot between their home and the street.
Little narrow street between courtyard homes.
Doors to homes on the narrow streets, in a courtyard block.
Going in one of the local homes for a visit.

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.

Rickshaw ride through old part of the city.
It gets a little hairy when rickshaw versus modern cars happens.
Down a street with shopping.

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.

Part of the Grand Canal.
Walking along shopping area along the Grand Canal.
All kinds of little shops.
This seemed to be a popular item – sugared fruit on a stick.

Our next stop was to the Drum Tower.

That is the Drum Tower at the end of the street, up on top of the hill in the smog.
This would be a very pretty view if it weren’t for the smog. I know I sound like a broken record , but I can’t get over how bad the smog is here.
Once we get there we have to climb the 70 VERY STEEP stairs to get to the top. Note the warning on the hand rail to the left.
Rick makes it up but going down with his fear of heights is another story.
The Drum Tower, looks innocent enough from the outside. It did have good views of the city though.
Inside at the top are ancient drums, thus the name.
There was also a display of ancient time keeping devices, which are no longer used.
A way of telling time with running water, bronze kelou.

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!