Today started at 9am after we again had buffet breakfast. Today was great wall day. The wall is about 60km from the city. On the way we stopped at a jade factory. We had a tour of the factory and they showed us how they carved the jade, that there was hard and soft jade and that jade came in many colours not just green, eg white (local to Beijing), brown and rose. One of the blokes carving away had his iPod in his ear. What a dude. The jade factory guide then explained some of the symbolism for some jade carvings. There are these balls inside balls inside balls inside balls called happiness balls. They represent family. The outside has a dragon and a Phoenix (emperor and empress) and inside is another smaller ball which denotes their children, then another inside that which represents their grandchildren and so on and so forth. A great concept and all carved out if the one piece of jade. Very skilled craftsmen. Jade also symbolizes power and protection. There were many deliberations over purchases but then we were on our way to the wall.
I would hate to go to the wall in peak season because Everyman and his dig was at the wall. I've never seen so many buses in one place, it seemed endless. We chose to climb the badaling part of the wall, well by climb I mean take the cable car most of the way up. Mind you it was still a bit of a hike to the top. So many uneven stairs and such a steep grade on the non step parts. I would hate to visit it on a wet or snowy day as it would be very slippery. Many a fracture to be had. We had our photos taken at the top and started to climb down the otherside. I was watching a Chinese family climb up the stairs and motioned for them to continue, a bit of encouragement and next thing you know we're having photos taken with the whole family. Lots of photos too. Then there were more people who wanted photos. We were very much celebrities. It was a welcome change from people just taking pictures of us. We climbed back up and on the way down there were more people who wanted pictures. Glad I'm not famous and that I didn't have to sign anything. We must have looked friendly because we weren't the only westerners there. There was a fur clad Ruski looking lady in a skirt and high heels, not exactly ultimate treking threads.
It's quite unimaginable to think of the number of footsteps required to create so many scoops in the steps.
We took the cable car back down to the bottom, and navigated the maze of humanity out if there. Evidently this was not a busy day.
We had lunch at an enamel factory. Again another demonstration of the handicraft an again very skilled. Like I may have said previously Chinese attention to detail is phenomenal! You can see this throughout all facets of society. Lunch was a more western Chinese affair. Chicken, beef, vegies and a truly delucious bean curd dish. Loved it. Yet again way too much food. After lunch it was retail therapy time. Si many beautiful things to chose from. I ended up with some mini teapots and a few other things for gifts. Took along time to decide. I don't like the way the service people don't leave you alone. You can feel the pressure. Almost claustrophobic. Anyway I purchased my goods and it was off to the hot springs. I must say I was a little underwhelmed by them as there were not as many pools operating as I had expected. Maybe because it's sort of wintertime still. We had a soak in a nice warm bath besides the pool. Who knows what may have been living in there. I was keen to punch out a few laps but you had to have a swimming cap to do so. There were some interesting and questionable styles displayed in the pool. I now know the meaning of Chinese water torture as one poor lady was trying to learn how to swim but was swallowing more water than anything else. Her husband (?) just kept taking her back to the middle of the pool to start again. He wasn't nasty or anything just the poor lady wasn't having a great time. Good on her for having a go though.
Once we were suitably boiled and pruned we went back to the changeroom. Firstly, there was many a sight in the changeroom before we even got changed into our swimmers. Nudists everywhere! Michelle and I got beckoned into a room and the little chinese lady motioned for us to take our swimmers off. I was a bit confused but she showed us the loofa mit and mimed a rub down. Well we couldn't say no and there we were, topless with 2 chinese ladies buffing dead skin cells off us. I thought I was pretty good with the whole exfoliation caper before but to see the amount of skin that sloughed off was amazing. I must have been like a snake shedding it's skin. It felt like you were getting buffed by a floor sander, but it was still nice and refreshing. The resultant smooth skin was definitely worthwhile. The next stop was the shower to remove the excess skin then time to get changed.
Our next and final stop was to a silk factory. More education as we learnt about silkworms and silk. Again, so many gorgeous fabrics and garments. The scarves and carpets were amazing, so soft. We then cruised through the city back to our hotel. As it was peak hour it took a while but we finally made it. Traffic in Beijing can be best described as fluid. There is definitely a lot of give and take between all road users. Evidently it works on some level. I suppose when you live in a country with 1/4 of the worlds population you get by somehow. Beijing has almost as many people living in the one place as the whole of Australia. I do like wide open spaces and now I appreciate it a bit more. We returned to the hotel and said our goodbyes to our driver and guide. We also finally found out her name once she gave us her business card, echo!
We tried the concierge desk one last time for oishi, but alas he didnt arrive. Deflated we went to our room and started packing up our gear. Before you knew it it was time to find food. Left to our own devices I think we went ok. We had an array of dumplings and pork ribs. Michelle had fender aka fanta and I ordered the local beer, which ended up being a longneck of draught beer. Great times. Kinda tasted like old school tooheys draught.
After dinner it was shopping adventure time. We perused around the supermarket and found lots of special delicacies for the train. We then went in search of dessert where we ended up at maccas. Michelle had a chocolate sundae and i had a poneapple one. It was really nice, kinda like pineapple snack.
After our yummy desserts the next step was to try and locate a maestro ATM to get moolas. That was a trek in itself. Eventually we found a HSBC ATM. All was good for Michelle but alas some dim wit has a brain explosion and couldn't remember ones PIN. What a tool! Even tried across the road at citibank because I was sure I knew my number but I was still an idiot. So after that we called it a night, went back to our room and started packing. One last check at the concierge desk for oishi but alas he had not arrived.