July 10, 2011
This morning begins with a long ride to the Olympic sites, preceded by what feels like a government “recommended” tourist stop at one of Beijing’s latest development projects which rests on the former site of what used to be an actual (and fairly ancient) traditional neighborhood. The place is practically deserted and as such, somewhat creepy. We all play along with Gary (who BTW is wonderful), but no one lingers when its time to hop back on the bus and continue our journey.
The 2008 Olympic sites, Bird’s Nest and Water Cube etc., are quite spectacular; hopefully our pictures do them justice. Funny thing, these non-Chinese tourists tapped T. on the shoulder, holding their camera. He assumed they wanted him to take their picture, but of course, they wanted to photograph HIM. Since I’ve made it my business to document all of these bizarre encounters, I then proceeded to photograph them, only to be told to get in the picture myself! Apparently, they wanted both Jay-Z and Beyoncé :)!! BTW, they were from Moscow, where I assume there are few Black Russians that don’t come in a glass.
Next, of course, another shopping stop. This time, it was the jade factory, quickly followed by the adjacent cloisonné factory; it’s a good thing I already have too much jewelry. Lunch, which seemed premature after such a huge breakfast, was included in today’s tour and was served at said factory. The meal was a plentiful if strange array of cold cuts, pickles, tomatoes, bland cabbage soup, French fries, bok choy, rice, a strange sweet and sour fish dish, lamb kabobs etc. One lady in our group, Rose, is Chinese and noted that there was really nothing authentic about that weirdly eclectic mix. After lunch, we headed to The Sacred Way, an excursion that added nothing to our trip, just some neatly aligned 500 year old statues reminiscent of a gigantic chess set.
Finally, on to The Wall. There are technically 4000 miles worth of wall so the key is to pick a scenic segment of it for climbing and pictures. Gary took us to the Badaling segment, which is the one Nixon visited in the 70s, and probably the most photographed for representations of the site as a whole. The wall, of course, was amazing, a little steeper than I expected, and laden with international and domestic tourists. We saw more Black people in this one afternoon than we had seen in Beijing as a whole so far. Be that as it may, we, especially T., continued to be the object of fascination, and found ourselves posing for many pictures with our utterly dumbfounded Chinese hosts.
After two hours at The Wall, we boarded our bus back to Beijing. The ride, which should have taken an hour, took two hours, which gave us a little time to sleep. Apparently, city traffic doesn’t take Sundays off.