on December 30, 2004
We started off by going to a govt. run jade carving factory. (Evidently all tours have to go to the govt. run stores)Some amazing work to be seen and purchase! Unfortunately, be very careful about the jewelry, the "14k gold" jade earings I purchased turned out to be nickle plated, so now I can't wear them.
From the jade factory, we went to the ming tombs. We only got to see 1 tomb, but it was truely beautiful. I was amazed to see just how many people leave offerings of money in front of the emperor's statue as a way of buying favors from beyond. The view from the top of the tomb, looking over the compound is great for taking pictures! We were there for about one and a half hours, but I really think you need more time to be able to see all of it.
From there we went to a govt. run cloissionne factory for a "traditional Chinese lunch", and tour. The lunch was actually pretty good, but nothing too fancy.
I don't think there are words to describe what the Great Wall is really like! We were at the Badaling section, which is totally "restored" and of course touristy, but still amazing. You start to see parts of it about 15 minutes before you get to the parking area, so between that and seeing it snake through the mountains you begin to realize just how expansive this thing really is. What I didn't realize was just how high up in the mountains it really was; it's best to bring a sweater. Of course there's gift shops all along going up and down to the parking area, so there's plenty of souvineer shopping to be done. The trip up was scary, as it's like a rollercoaster made up of overglorified skateboards that's motorized going up, and it coasts down with the guy in front using a brake that looks like it just came off of a ten speed bike! (Squeek and burning rubber included!) The views are amazing and it really is huge! It's pretty steep in some places, so make sure you're wearing walking shoes. Make sure if you can get to it that you climb the tiny staircase and go up into one of the turrets, it's higher than the wall so the views are better.
If I can figure out how to upload pictures I'll post some as well.
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