Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake
jaylake

[travel] Beijing day 2

Today was day 2 in Beijing. I slept nine hours last night (three more than usual) and have mostly caught up up with my jet lag. Still, I made it down to the eccentric breakfast buffet at 6:30 am, when the buffet opened. Had breakfast with Dad, then Mom showed up, then the_child. Afterwards I sorted through bloggy goodness and got ready for the day.

We rolled out at 9:30 and headed for the Great Wall at Badaling. On the way we stopped at a jade dealer, where we saw some exhibits on the fine art of jade carving, along with several thousand square feet of jade jewelry, art and kitsch, and a wing of Chinese furniture and antiques. Presents were acquired all around (including for calendula_witch, though not yet pearls), then we made it the rest of the way to Badaling.

I've been to the Great Wall at three different sites over the years, including a previous trip to Badaling, but this was the_child's first trip. Much of the Great Wall is in ruins, but these areas have restored and expanded for tourist access. It's actually pretty nice. The van dropped us at the visitor's center, then the_child, her mother and I made the hike. My parents wisely elected to sit out, and putzed around in the shopping area instead.

the_child and our guide have already become great good friends, and so when we hit the Wall itself, they sprinted ahead. MotC and I hung back, taking our own pace. Eventually MotC had had enough and turned back, but I pressed slowly onward.

Let's just say the Great Wall doesn't meet OSHA standards. Portions of our climb were ladder-steep, literally. Here's the_child on the way back down:

IMG_4403.JPG

I made the first peak, the_child and our guide made the second. The day was very hazy, so much of the photography is iffy, but it was still quite pretty. I waited for them to return, and we made our way back down.

Coming back from Badaling, we stopped at a Beijing style restaurant on the outskirts of the city. This was the kind of place where you can visit your lunch swimming in its tank ten minutes before it hits your table. We were in a private room upstairs with yellow silk on the walls, and deliciously of shredded pork with bamboo shoots, beef and mushrooms, a cold celery dish, a vegetable medley built around lotus root, and several other goodies.

We'd already decided to skip the Summer Palace in the interests of energy. So after the restaurant, we headed for the Olympic to see the Bird's Nest, the Water Cube and some of the other rather extreme architecture. Unfortunately I'd had the camera's white balance set for indoor shooting at the restaurant, so everything I took at the Olypic site is very washed out. One of the things which drops out completely is the Seven Star Hotel, a fifty story building shaped like an Olympic torch (seriously) with a four story video monitor about halfway up its side, and an eight story video monitor looming next to it. Very Bladerunner.

The plaza there was filled with Chinese just hanging out, like an impromptu street festival. our guide bought the_child a kite, and she ran around like crazy. We admired architecture until we got tired of it, then headed back for the hotel. The driver dropped us off at a nearby bookstore so we could score more gifts, then we walked home.

Dinner shortly here at the hotel — we don't have the energy to go out. Some combination of the hotel Internet, the Great Firewall of China and Flickr is seriously misbehaving, so I've literally been able to upload one photo. (See above.) The other two thousand will have to wait.

I've had almost no time to write, this blogging being the sum total of that, to the point where I am already quite behind on even critical email correspondence. It's all part of being busy with the_child, and I know everyone understands, but it still bugs me.

Being here is intense, though. I was born in Taiwain, and raised there during most of my grade school years. China has a vibe which feels like home to me. I can half-understand some of the conversations around me. The smells are familiar. At the same time, this is 21st century China, not 1970s Taiwan, and it is so different. I find myself drawn to old people, the narrow alleys of the hutongs (traditional villages), the life of the streets. These are lovely people busily crafting prosperity out of a long and difficult legacy.

More to the point, they are the_child's people. I was raised among Chinese, which she was not, even though this is her ethnic identity. She is on a journey of the spirit much farther ranging than even this lengthy journey we have taken in person. I have in a sense come home, and she is in a sense discovering home for the first time.

All amid ancient history, modern beauty, grinding poverty, elaborate riches, and some hella good food.

Tomorrow, we are off to visit a hutong, go to art exhibition, and see an acrobatics exhibition. Tomorrow night, an overnight train to Xi'an, where on Easter Sunday we will visit a mosque, and we will see the terracotta armies guarding the dead emperors of old.

Originally published at jlake.com.

Tags: child, china, family, personal, photos, travel
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