There have been so many things to see and places to be it's been hard finding time to collect my thoughts to blog. The weekend was used to explore the Great Wall, Imperial Gardens, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and Ming Tombs.
We started out our saturday morning bright and early headed to the Great Wall. Toward the end of our hour long bus ride trip, we noticed the famous misty mountains appear through the haze. It looked just like the posters in American-Chinese restaurants; surreal moment that'll be with us for the rest of our lives.
It seems many tourists don't truly know what to expect when visiting the Great Wall. If you ever embark there, make sure to bring at least three water bottles. The trip to the top of mountain took me a little over one hour, which is composed of solid steps (some over 1 1/2 feet high). I feel I should have been training on the step climber at home before coming.
Later that day we headed over to the Ming Tombs, which wasn't too fancy, but the shear size of the place was impressive by itself. (All of the pieces of paper in the picture are yuans, I know it kind of looks like garbage.)
Afterwards, we were able to eat a group dinner at a more historical restaurant ( underneath the restaurant they made hand-made decorative vases). Although we liked the food, we were underestimated by what type of "Chinese" food we preferred. Professor Sobelman was rather quick to order more classical dishes.
On Sunday morning we headed off to the Forbidden City which is located in the center of Beijing. (Because it is located in the middle of the capital city, there really isn't a "down town" or "metro" in Beijing at all. That means there aren't any skyscrapers, which is a common expectation for a lot of tourists.) The Forbidden City is about 170 acres and has 9,999.5 rooms. We thought the ".5" was for a half bath, but it ended up being more like a 3-season porch...
The views were amazing and truly should be experienced in person. There were multiple courtyards that would take one's breath away. If you've ever watched any old Chinese kung-fu movies I'm sure you've probably seen something very close to the Forbidden City.
The Imperial Gardens (located in the Forbidden City) was very different from regular gardens in that it has rocks everywhere. In China, it is common to take lava rocks, or boulders, and transport them to one's backyard to show how "great" one's family was. The basic idea follows that the bigger the rock, the more expensive it is and the harder it is to move. Lava rocks are located far from Beijing thus it was very hard to obtain them back when the Forbidden City was built.