So today is our first Beijing day. And we’re exhausted from the flight fiasco last night. I think We were able to get about 3 hours sleep before we headed out for the day. Breakfast at this hotel is the usual amazingness. Nicole and I put the nooders in our mouses and off we go.
On the way out we discover Gary has traded in his women using bathroom ways for peeing in every inappropriate room he can find. We all go to the bathroom and Gary is out and waiting for us all when we’re done-unusual… he says he didn’t go to the bathroom. He tried but realized he had actually walked into the electrical room and stopped just short of peeing on the air conditioning unit. Insert my “should we be worried about his mental health” face here.

The first stop today will be the famous birds nest! I’m so excited to see the Olympic stadium! It had been a goal of mine since the Olympics in Beijing-such a cool design. We take the obligatory selfies and Oooo and ahhh. I get the feeling our tour guide doesn’t feel the same awe and she explains to us that to put this and many other Olympic stadiums in meant many people had to be displaced from their family homes and now have to lease new homes from the government at extreme expense  I think to the low income Chinese this kind of progress represents a fear coming to fruition-everything can be taken away from you at any time. To the rich-this is exactly the kind of thing they want…. out with the old in with the new. China has become the richest of the rich and the extreme poor. Not homeless– the Chinese are adaptive and resourceful-we saw no homeless. But there doesn’t seem to be a middle class. And the young people have little in respect to prospects-competition is fierce. But at least in today’s China you are allowed to leave and pursue a financial future elsewhere.

Speaking of which-our waitress from the ship emailed me!!! She was adorable asking for the picture we took together. She said she will practice her English and write to me again soon. I’m totally adopting her.

Anyway, from the birds nest that is surrounded by the beautiful Chinese roses, we head to Tiananmen  square. I was looking forward to this area, but after reading some reviews on trip
Adviser I wasn’t expecting there to be to much info given by our guides concerning the tank protester. Even though the Chinese now enjoy “free speech” old habits die hard. Most don’t speak of this incident. Actually they don’t even point out the area this infamous -hand up to the war machine- event took place. We had done our research so could identify it pretty easily-and word spread through our group-with some annoyingly insisting the guide discuss it.  She skirted all questions about it. They finally got the hint.

Side note-were at this somber location and I’m in the back of the crowd LOSIN’ It. Until
Beijing we hadn’t seen many beggars-maybe 2? In the whole trip. But Beijing seems to be crawling with beggars-some legit with a missing limb or severe burn. It can be quite heartbreaking-although you temper that with the fact that dismemberment is a form of capital punishment here and you realize you never know who your giving your money too…in any case, one of these beggars is at the square-older-ish lady (maybe 60) and is clearly pretending to cry….and pointing to her “baby” in a wheelchair next to her. She’s holding a sign that says “my baby born 4 years ago no grow. Help. give stretch money.” Then you see this supposed 4 year old. In the wheelchair. She’s clearly a 40 year old midget with a fresh perm and a soother in her mouth. Taking the soother out every minute or so Saying “I’m baby” with a deep smokers rasp. She has on a baby Bonnet and has her size 8 feet stuffed halfway into knitted baby booties and periodically is checking  her iphone and texting people. At one point she lights a cigarette and her “mom” yells at her to stop and points to us- a clear “be cool!! There’s people looking!!”  She hops out of her wheel chair and stomps on the cigarette to put it out. Then climbs back up and flips the bird to her “mom”z. I’m Like, DIEING.  Trying not to look like a jerk for laughing considering there are tourists around us who seem to be eating this act up! Please don’t judge-this was not someone with a disease-or clearly anything wrong with them at all. This was a money grab. And I had to give it to them-very inventive. Anyone who knows me well knows how much this entire thing thrilled and entertained me. I gave them a yuan. Chris and I took a selfie with them…. see above….And giggled for hours.
Back to the tour. We walk through the imperial palace with its gigantic picture of Mao. It’s 39 degrees in this wide open square and we are all feeling it. I notice a lot dressed for our usual 25 degree wether thus far- and they are regretting it now-this is not a humid heat. It’s pure hellish dryness. We continue to walk through the palace-the residence of the royal family at one time. Their Westminster or Versailles. It’s one beautiful court yard after another and then a large pagoda with stone, metal and porcelain details on the typical flared roofs. We get a beer to walk with every chance we can and it may not be helping with hydration-but it does a lot for the mood 🙂
The jet lag/lack of sleep from last night is catching up and by 2pm we are ready to give up. But we plug on. Lunch is the usual family style and we sit with our favorites tonight. Kaylee, auntie and Janet and Terry. Karlee is a stunner -see pic above-and a rock star and took her 70+ yr old aunt to china with her to show her the world. She takes such good care of her. And Kaylee has a small limp so she is a slow walker like me-so I always know I’m going to have someone to be with if I float to the back of the crowd. Plus she LOVES to shop. So she’s always up for a good “we’re totally lagging behind-we’ll catch up! Go without us!” So we can slip into a shop. Nicole and I have come to really like her a lot.
After lunch we tour more of the palace and then it’s time for some in to group to go to some kind of mask show? It’s a singing and dancing and water show. I picture it being a cross between phantom of the opera, Kungfu panda and me slowly chewing my own foot off to get away-so we pass on this one. We decide to take the hour to source a grocery store. We are getting dangerously low on rum and beer and chippies. So off we go. We find a Walmart-ish type store- a little of everything. We again get rum, beer, soda, snacks and chocolate for about $30CAD altogether (yay china!) and just clink around for a while-backpacks loaded down for the evening. Nicole and I go into a 7-11 and find Gin! And…. PANDA CONTACT CASES!!! We check out a subway to see if they have weird toppings-nope. Exactly the same as Canada. We make our way back to the bus and sit along a fence and drink some cold beers while watching the most adorable Chinese children take roller blade lessons. They are as taken with us as we are with them-And mutual pictures are taken 🙂
We go from here for our Peking Duck meal! We sit with a couple that explains to us how to eat it-it’s a whole thing. The duck is expertly prepared-all fat rendered off with the crispy skin left on. They usually serve Peking 3 ways. First with rice wrappers (almost like a soft tortilla but see through thin), scallions and Hoisin sauce. You spread the sauce and scallions on the wrapper and fill it with duck breast meat and roll it up like a Fajita. Secondly-they make it into a mixed dish (kind of stir fry) and then usually the bones and skin are made into a soup.  It melts in our mouths. And that’s another tick off the life list. Have Peking duck in Peking. Amazing this life We’re living. I’m so thankful for these experiences with my sister and hubby and brother.
It’s an earlyish evening and we make it back to the room by 7pm. We run the bath on our huge hot tub. It’s water directly from the spring at the resort and it’s too hot to even think about getting on right away. We leave it for a while and go to Nicole and Gary’s for drinks and chats. After many many laughs-there’s a 30 minute-wanna see what I bought today that I didn’t need or even want or have any use for???-show and tell. I win. We get back to our room 2 hours later and then the water is perfect!!! Still extremely hot-perfect for our weary bones. We have a good long soak with beer and candles and then off to bed for another long day tomorrow 🙂