China Recap Part 2!
Next morning, back to the airport again, and we can kiss the choking pollution of xian city goodbye. We fly into Beijing to meet Mishiro's cousin, and... we can't find her! Nowhere to be seen. We try our IC cards at the phone, no good, have to by new ones, try to figure out what area codes to use, etc. Finally we call her, turns out her husband Brad was there to pick us up instead. So we find him and he takes us to their house, which is in a remarkably nice part of town. Brad was actually a really cool guy. He works in Beijing for a major news company so that lead to a lot of interesting conversation.
So, they've got two kids who are really lucky. They grew up speaking both English and Japanese, and have picked up some Chinese by growing up in Beijing. They've got friends from all over the world at their international school. So again, pretty lucky to be exposed to all that culture at a young age. They probably don't realize how fortunate they are though.
Back to the trip. We all hopping into the car and went to a great lunch restaurant that was popular with the international crowd. Then, we planned to drive to Tiannamen Square, but it was actually blocked off for an African presidential motorcade. So we hop on the subway instead. Turns out a lot of area was sealed off for the big China/Africa summit. So we couldn't see as much as we would have liked. Still, Tiannamen Square (it's really big), Tiannamen (big portrait of Chairman Mao), and a little bit of the "Forbidden City" (big, classic architecture). It's all a fairly impressive sight, and of course packed with tourists. Then, we found a shopping street and looked around, didnt buy too much though.
After that everyone was pretty spent, so we went back to the house. I don't remember how exactly, but we ended up getting pizza- real Italian-style pizza!- for dinner. I had been wanting that for awhile so I was pretty happy. We also had some of the shochu and kabosu we had brought with us from Oita, so that was nice as well.
The next day, our big goal was the Great Wall. We decided to go to the Great Wall at Mutenyu. It had plenty of great views and wasn't as swamped with tourists as the other sights. Plus it had a tobaggan ride you can ride on the way down (not part of the original wall of course; extra fee, of course). Normally it should only take about an hour by car from Beijing, but thanks to many poorly-signposted traffic roundabouts, we got pretty good and lost. So, taking one wrong turn at a traffic circle, that cost us probably about an hour. Great. Anyways, we finally got it figured out.
After buying our ticket, we had a good long walk up the mountain to get to the hill proper. Some good exercise. Then, we made it. Well the wall is pretty much as you'd imagine it to be- long, winding, an impressive sight. Definitely lived up to the expectations. It's very steep at times too, again, another good workout. I should mention it was extremely windy that day- that made it quite cold, but also blew out all of the pollution so we got a good view. We found a place out of the wind and sat down for lunch. Maybe the coolest picnic I've ever had. Then, we took the tobaggan ride back down- you just ride this sled down a long chute with plenty of twists and turns. It was pretty fun. Then we headed back. Everyone was pretty tired.
But we had one thing still left to do. We called up a driver and headed into town for Peking Duck. I should mention how cheap food was there. The two of us had a famous gourmet meal in downtown Beijing with beer for less than 50 bucks. Great. Anyways, we went to a recommended restaurant and it didn't disappoint. The duck was great, and the skin was really the best part- crispy and delicious. The problem was they served it to us last, so we were almost completely full already by the time it arrived. A real challenge to get it down, but I had to do it. It might have been my only chance to eat that so I had to finish.
We woke up early the next day to get to the airport. We rode with a journalist for the Guardian (British news paper). That was cool. But then at the airport, again, it wasn't cool. We actually couldn't find the check-in counter, and then I got a nosebleed! Great. It's not done yet. We get into our gate, and there are no shops! I'm not sure why, but I hate that airport now. Mishiro-sensei was freaking out because he didn't get enough souveniers to give away in Japan, and if you're Japanese, you have to bring back souveniers. Failure is not an option. Yeah, turns out it wouldn't be a direct flight to Fukuoka either- we'd have to stop at Qing Tao and switch planes. The fun never ends. But at Qing Tao, Mishiro gets his omiyage, we get on the final flight, and all is well. Except I got searched and patted down at Fukuoka customs, but hey, that's part of being a foreigner in Japan right. I did get to use the Japanese/Foreign Residents immigration line though, so I felt special (and it was only a fraction of the size of the regular foreigner line too).
Mishiro drove back this time, and he was on a tear. I think he must have been trying to set some time trial records on those mountain roads. Anyway, its not done yet. He insisted on going into school, on our day off, after a long ass trip, to hand out the souveniers. I wasn't happy, but what can you do in that situation. Man, that took forever, but finally everybody went home, and I had to get ready for school the next day! Great.