Early to bed meant early to rise despite the previous long day of travel. I had the in room coffee with the tea kettle and Nescafe coffee packs that already had creamer and sugar mixed in.
One advantage of not having my brother with me is I get two bottles of water and both coffee packets. 😉
It was mid-day in the states so I was able to message my family using the hotel wi-fi and check email. I also figured out what my problem was with charging my iPhone and iPad the night before. The lightning cord plugged into my iPad wasn’t the one plugged into the wall!
The toilet wasn’t flushing properly from when I checked in but I didn’t want to wait for maintenance the previous night. I called the front desk and someone from maintenance came up in five minutes with a plunger and took care of it.
It was a sunny, clear day thanks to a windy night that blew all the polluted air somewhere else. We were extremely lucky!
I went down about 6:15 for breakfast and boy was it a zoo. After finding where to join the line I selected bacon (English style), french toast, scrambled eggs for breakfast. I went to the fresh fruit area for watermelon.
Coffee and juice were harder to find. I went to some machines that were labeled only in Chinese and found out quickly it wasn’t what I was looking for.
I then found the line for coffee by the people standing in it.
Tip: Get a small cup AND fill a soup bowl with coffee so you don’t have to stand in the line over and over. Put in coffee and hot milk; no cream that I could see.
I also had a roll with butter and samosas. There was a line for eggs cooked to order and I might get those tomorrow with some toast. I didn’t take any pictures of the breakfast spread this first morning as I was busy getting acclimated but tomorrow will have several.
The Great Wall
Everyone on bus 5 met our tour guide, John, in the lobby at 8 am. I had packed my backpack with things I might want on the bus today including pillow, e-reader, and snacks. It’s much lighter than it was yesterday!
Several people were 5-10 minutes late but we all were finally seated. There are 35 of us; the tour had 38 booked but three canceled right before the tour date including my brother.
Next stop will be the Great Wall and it was about a 90-minute drive. First, John gave us general information and then introduced us to our Beijing guide, Lisa. Lisa was very knowledgeable but talked nonstop the whole day with only two brief respites.
It was very cold today so most of us were bundled up with gloves, hats, and winter coats.
We walked to coffee shop closest to the wall gate and used the washrooms before walking up to the entrance together.
Once inside we were left to our devices for a couple of hours.
Unfortunately, I didn’t hear any guidance about what direction to go; just to be sure to exit the same place we entered. So I went right; that’s the hard way I later learned from John!
Everyone dispersed which was a little disappointing as I had no one to share the experience with or snap a couple of pictures of me. So I had to use my selfie stick (I’m not very good as you’ll see from the pictures).
I climbed up three towers. It was pretty crowded and very steep but at the same time not as difficult as what I’ve been led to believe from other blogs. It will only be a problem for those with mobility issues.
I ran into a couple from my assigned table who are very nice and learned he would keep going while she would turn back at the next tower. She offered to join me walking back as that was my plan too. Some people on the tour made it to the furthest tower in this section.
We got back with over an hour to kill in the coffee shop store and that was PRETTY boring. Unless you wanted to buy a drink/snack to sit at the snack bar (which became so crowded that wasn’t even an option) the only place to sit was outside in the freezing cold. I did a lot of walking around.
Some people on the tour made it to the furthest tour in this section so that was impressive.
Next, it was time for lunch so we took the bus to a cloisonné factory.
After a 5-10 minute tour of the factory (which was pretty interesting if I say so myself), we went to lunch in the restaurant upstairs.
This was our first meal at our assigned tables (your table assignment is on your name tag). Everyone else was from Arizona and we have the same flights to and from China. The two couples I hadn’t met previously are traveling together.
We were served 6 or so entrees with a big plate of rice, a soup tureen and oranges for dessert. Our table was given two bottles of beer and one large bottle of coke to share plus a pot of tea.
Lunch was pretty tasty. One problem we had was coordinating the turning of the lazy susan (this went on the entire trip). Some table mates would turn while others were trying to get food on the other side of the table.
After lunch we had time to visit the washrooms and, of course, shop. Most the toilets are squat style but the handicapped ones all have western style. Toilets so I just waited for one of those. I also learned that if toilet paper is provided, it’s in a communal roll by the door. My pack of facial tissue was used a couple of times the first day!
I didn’t buy any of the beautiful cloisonne items as they are quite expensive (and rightly so given the amount of labor involved). There were vendors outside with more reasonably priced souvenirs. I bought three wind chimes here (one for me and two for gifts).
We were supposed to board the bus at 2:50 pm, but of course a few people were late. This continues all day.
The rest of the day will be in the next post. If you missed the other parts of the recap the links are below.