Our flight left early morning from DFW on April 2, 2014 and we only had one stop in Detroit before our non-stop in to Beijing, arriving April 3, 2014. We flew coach on Delta Airlines, an airline I had previously sworn off, and I am happy to say the flight was enjoyable. Personal USB ports to charge electronics and our own personal TV’s to choose free movies and TV shows! However the best part of the flight was that it wasn’t full, so Tyler and I had the row to ourselves! SCORE! Great way to start the trip… extra leg room!
We met up with the driver for our tour when we landed in Beijing. We book our trip with Gate 1 Travel since we heard getting around China can be extremely difficult without a guide. Once we made it to the Xizhao Temple Hotel, I was pretty jet-lagged and decided not to go to the night market with all the local delicacies of fried insects. Ok, honestly who am I kidding, I am a pescaterian and refrain from eating fried baby scorpions if I can help it. Anyway, we decided to stay in and eat at the hotel restaurant because it was easy and then headed to bed, all zombie status, hoping to feel refreshed the next day.
After breakfast the next morning we headed to the Beijing Jinsiwei Jade Factory (according to our tour guide from Gate 1 – this is a government approved jade factory) where guides explained the history, meaning and difference in quality of the gemstone. Display windows showcased jade carvers tirelessly sawing away at their designs with their ancient carving secrets passed down through the generations. It was a great way to see how they create such intricate carvings in jade stones that China is known for.
Once everyone loaded into the bus, we headed off to the Great Wall of China! And boy o’ boy was it a sight! The wall looked as if it would never end. The section of the wall we visited, Juyongguan or Juyong Pass, was secluded and we felt as if we had the entire wall to ourselves. It was a beautiful day, no one was around, and the wall was endless. What more could you ask for? We spent about 2 hours climbing, checking out the Zhenwu Temple, and shopping a bit before leaving for lunch.
We then drove through the Beijing Olympic Green to see the Observation Tower, Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube (HUGE Michael Phelps fan – Go USA!) before our visit to the Temple of Heaven.
The architecture was stunning and the temple sits inside a beautiful courtyard with tons of people buzzing about. I was glad that this was a stop on our tour because I felt that you really got a feel for the local culture here. We watched a Chinese couple take their wedding photos (or at least what we believed were wedding photos) for a while. Outside the temple entrance locals sat, smoked, and played cards. As we watched, we couldn’t figure out what they were playing, but they would smack cards down so hard leaving a pile of cards below in a messy heap. It was definitely worth watching.