PART 2 – Continued from Alana Magestro‘s Trip to China – Part #1 Blog Post
Alana continues on her journey exploring China… After breakfast we left to visit the Temple of Heaven. Built between 1420 and 1606, this complex of buildings covers 273 hectares, representing the pinnacle of Ming and Qing architecture. It is three times the size of the Forbidden City. It is a place where the emperors of these dynasties went to worship heaven and pray for good weather and abundant harvests. There is a Palace of Abstinence where the emperor would go to fast prior to the Heaven Worship Ceremony. In 1988 the Temple of Heaven was opened to the public as a park. This is a place where you can see the local Chinese residents practicing multiple forms of exercise, martial arts, singing, dancing, playing cards, or dominoes and making crafts.
We drove past the famous “Birds Nest” where most of the track and field events took place during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It is right by the Crown Plaza Beijing hotel. The meaning behind the design was “cradle of the future”.
Next we visited the Arts & Craft Group Pearl Trading Co. They showed us a live oyster, cracked it open and released the treasure within. Do you know how many pearls are in an oyster? I had heard as was the belief of many in my group that it was only one. The oyster they opened for us had 22! It varies from oyster to oyster. The Chinese freshwater pearl has become almost as popular as the Japanese Akoya pearl. Pink and purple/grey pearls are unique to China. This particular store that Brendan visits authenticates all of their pearls so you don’t need to worry about a fake. The true test is if you rub the pearl against your tooth it will be gritty. This is another unique outing of the Brendan Boutique Journey’s.
We continued on to the Brickyard Eco Retreat, where Brendan Vacations guests will stay one night before visiting the Great Wall. We didn’t have the liberty to stay here, but we did an inspection of this very unique eco-friendly resort and also had lunch at one of their restaurants a short walk from the property. This is a 25 room award-winning sustainable tourism luxury lodge and retreat. All rooms have a view of the Great Wall, complimentary wireless internet access, rainforest showers, hair dryers, iPod docking station and alarm clocks. There is a spa, outdoor Jacuzzi, small fitness center, meeting rooms and activities offered.
After an awesome lunch at their Xiaolumian noodles restaurant, we headed to the highlight of Beijing, the Great Wall. Construction of the wall started in 221 BC and wasn’t completed until 1644. It was built mainly during the three dynasties – Qin Dynasty (221 B.C to 206 B.C), Han Dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D) and Ming Dynasty (1368 A.D – 1644 A.D). It was built bit by bit throughout these dynasties and eventually joined together. It is the only man-made object visible from the moon. The wall is over 13,000 miles long stretching from the Gobi Desert in the west to Shanhaiguan near the China Sea in the east. The purposes of the Great Wall have included border controls, allowing the imposition of duties on goods transported along the Silk Road, regulation or encouragement of trade and the control of immigration and emigration. Also, the defensive characteristics of the wall were enhanced by the construction of watch towers, troop barracks, garrison stations, signaling capabilities, through the means of smoke or fire, and the fact that the path of the Great Wall also served as a transportation corridor. The Badaling section is the most popular and the most crowded. We visited the Mutianyu section which has fewer tourists, spectacular views and is made with some of the oldest exposed rock on Earth’s surface. After an uphill trek to the launch of the cable cars, we continued up to the top on the cable car. This would be an impossible task for those that are not in good health or have trouble walking. It was without a doubt the highlight of my trip.
Due to extreme traffic, we arrived at the Marriott Hotel City Wall late and had a rushed inspection and dinner before leaving to make our reservations for a Kung Fu show. The Marriott is about “5 miles” from the Fairmont, a couple blocks walk to the nearest subway and a great choice for those that that want a central location. This is a smoke free hotel. Rooms have wireless internet access, tub and shower, flat-panel TV, DVD player, laptop-sized safe and iPod docking stations. It has five restaurants, a fitness center, spa, and a ½ Olympic sized pool. They do charge for breakfast.
The Kung Fu show was not what I thought it was going to be. It was actually more like a play that incorporated Kung Fu and Tai Chi. The Shaolin monks performed the show at the Beijing Red Theater. It was quite enjoyable and an impressive production.
See Part #3 Later this Week for Alana‘s Final Leg of Her Journey Through China!