Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Farewell Great Wall and Beijing

We are packed to leave Beijing on the 8 a.m train tomorrow.  We spent a relatively peaceful "day exploring areas within walking distance, including the street we are on, which had so many people on it previously that we could hardly see it.  The drum tower and bell tower were inexplicably closed, but we found the Hutong Pizza place we had been unable to locate the night before and had a leisurely pizza lunch perched above a goldfish pond.  We climbed up to a temple in the Jinshiang Park just north of the Forbidden City.  The views should have been great, but were dim due to the haze.  We finished by walking along the moat surrounding the forbidden city, and going through a hutong looking for the house where Mao had lived while working as a librarian at a nearby library, which we also saw.  Interestingly, there was no mention of Mao on either building, at least not that we could read, and the house number "8" between 7 and 9 was even missing from the house that must have been his.  We found a fine dinner in an inexpensive, friendly little noodle shop, where Kent finally got his spicy noodles.  Off we go tomorrow for our first experience of Chinese trains.

Fisherman on moat by Forbidden City

Forbidden city from hilltop

Forbidden city from moat

House where Mao once lived

We meet Hannah on a canal

It may seem strange to be eating pizza, but after two straight weeks of Chinese, we were ready for something different.

A bit more about our second night in Gubeikou, where we stayed in the farmhouse.  After we got down from the Wall on our second day of hiking, we had a long walk back through the town, along a highway and then on a small track back to the house.  We were surprised that there were several expensive cars, including a Mercedes, parked at the house.  Several families were staying in this extremely rustic house.  There was a bathroom, with a very creaky flush toilet, a cold water sink, and a shower head in the middle of the room (the shower did have hot and cold taps, and there was a water heater on the roof).  No towels or toilet.  At night, they put a candle in for light.  My hopes for a warm shower after two days of hiking and one night of sleeping in my clothes in a tent were dashed.  Our room, which was very cold, had a single bare bulb in the ceiling.  We did have warm comforters.  Most washing and tooth brushing was done at a cold water tap outside.  Some of the cooking was done in a small kitchen, and water was heated outside.  Although dinner the night before had been excellent, our second night's dinner was potatoes, yams with a sweet sticky glaze that stuck to our teeth, a plate of some kind of pink sandwich meat that we didn't eat, some rice, and a bit of soup with some mushrooms and vegetables.  We went to bed with the sun, and slept until sunrise!  We "visited" with the other families as well as we could, since they spoke no English and we no Chinese.  Through a series of phone calls it was arranged that instead of taking two buses back to Beijing, we would ride with the family with the 83 year-old grandmother, a very sweet and friendly lady.  The family dropped us at the end of the #5 subway line, and we found our way to this lovely and friendly hostel.

I am not sure why all these obviously well-off people from Beijing were roughing it at the farmhouse for a few days.  What questions we would love to ask if we could only speak the language!

Pictures from the farmhouse

Too cold together out of bed

Our room in the farmhouse

Dumplings fo breakfast!

Getting the teakettle hot

Drinking tea in the farmhouse sitting room

Sweet grandma

Friendly Chinese guest who drove the Mercedes.  Dinner of potatoes, yams, rice, and rice-stuffed cornbread ball.

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