Day Two - Beijing
After a proper hunt around the breakfast buffet for a meal closely representing a good start to the day and trying to access the hotel gym (only to be told it opens at 9am?), it was off the see the Great Wall of China!
Along the way we were treated to an unexpected stop at a Jade Factory, which for those who don't know, is pretty much standard Asia behaviour. This was the best set up I have seen however, quite educational and the jade carvings beautiful. A highlight for some of us was the discovery of real coffee in the shop there, of which I was served my latte in a takeaway cup with straw (it mattered not at that stage in the morning!)
As the drove further from the city we all of a sudden saw the most incredibly high mountain range that looked totally impenetrable, and there it was, the Great Wall.
We visited the 'J' section as the coach was able to pull up the closest to the wall there. Our tickets were purchased, we were all over 120cms tall, and off we went!
Our guide had given us some impressive historical facts on the way (did you know those that died while building it are buried underneath?) so the group soon naturally split up into fitness levels and made their goals on the horizon. Whilst there were many places to stop and catch your humid breath on the way, it was packed with visitors from all ages.
Definitely wear cool clothing but protect yourself from the sun, take some water but not too much to carry, and if your kids aren't super active- don't expect to get too far! The different sized steps were at time a challenge and footpath space to rest a premium.
I had buddied up with another agent from the countryside like me, we made it the first tower we could see with an ornate roof, without taking ourselves too seriously or knowing we could reward ourselves with an ice cold beer once we got there! So take cash!
After lunch we had a quick shower at the hotel and soon found ourselves on rickshaws down through a very old community and treated to a home dinner which was by far the best and most authentic meal we've had. We walked from there to our waiting bus which took us to a shopping district Hou Hai. It's seriously like the Venice of Beijing with all the canals and bridges. Around from the shops and right on the water were many local bars with great rooftop areas were we enjoyed a cool drink before heading to a Kung Fu show at the Red Theatre.
The show was quite polished and very authentic in its costumes and music, we knew what was happening as the speaking parts were in English (or Chinglish so our Beijing guide says!) Lots of westerners there doing the same thing, so very very busy!
Back to the hotel and a group of us visited the local eatery next door (it's around a quarter of the cost of doing the same thing at the hotel). We managed to get what we intended to order and enjoyed every bit of it!
Wasn't long before we hit the sack to be awoken by the phone ringing a touch before midnight. It was reception with a friendly message to let us know the police were on their way to our room - whaaat?! A quick call to our host who let us know they were checking passports and how many people in the rooms, as had just happened to her. After a nervous wait we were questioned, our passport copies ticked off, apologised to then it was back off to sleep - get me to India, stat!