I’ve been pretty fired up for one of my best friends, Holly, to come visit us in China. She was scheduled to arrive Thursday night in Hong Kong, so I had planned lunch with another friend who lives there and booked a hotel for us to stay that night before heading back to Guangzhou on Friday. Thursday morning I woke up to a voicemail from Holly saying her flight was cancelled and she didn’t know when she would arrive. I was so bummed but because I had lunch plans, decided to head to Hong Kong anyway and wait it out. To get to the city I took the train from Guangzhou to Shenzhen, then walked across the customs boarder and hopped on the Metro into the city. When I was exiting the Metro I felt my backpack move. I turned around and saw that some douchebag had my wallet in his hand. I snatched it back and he said “sorry”. Let’s side bar here….If I were a low life, thieving, dead beat like him, I wouldn’t of said ‘sorry’, I would’ve started running with the cash. So not does this guy suck at life, he also sucks at being a loser. I wasn’t going to let him get away with his shenanigans. I grabbed his shirt and decided I would make a citizens arrest. He decided he was going to resist and started running. His shirt ripped and then I had the realization that he could have a knife or turn around and punch me in the face, so I let go. This was my wake up call that I had gotten lax with my travels. No more wallet in the backpack pocket. Lesson learned.
After several irrate phone calls to Delta, I determined that Holly would arrive on Friday at 8:30 am, 11:30am or 7:35pm. I managed to keep myself busy at the airport and take full advantage of their free WI-FI and Facebook access. Fortunately, she arrived at 11:30am and we boarded the bus to Guangzhou. Normally the ride takes 3 1/2 hours, but it was Friday rush hour so it took roughly 6. Poor Holly. After 15 hours of plane I know the bus ride was not fun. The next day we tooled around the city getting pedicures, massages and measurements for a custom suit for her. It was an easy going day which was needed because we were leaving for Beijing early Sunday morning.
We awoke to terencial downpour but fortunately our flight was not delayed. I expected Beijing to be the Asian version of Manhattan. Not the case. The taxi driver had no clue what was going on and the city is laid out like Houston. Sprawling urban areas and everything far apart. Due to Holly’s extensive travel in the US, we were hooked up with a free room at the JW Marriott which included a serious breakfast spread and happy hour dinner and drinks. Big pimpin’ in Beijing. We immediately hit Tiananamen Square and the Forbidden City. They were great sights and we were instantly turned into Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. Everyone wanted our pictures which just made Holly crack up. Both sights were great and had we not been starving and exhausted, we would’ve spent more time. We decided to get a taxi and head to the hotel for a late afternoon nap. As we waked down the street trying to unsuccessfully hail cabs, we chatted about some of the funny cultural differences. I clued Holly into an ancient Chinese secret for potty training children. Just let them walk around without pants or wear the popular, Asian assless pants. I couldn’t have timed it better because no sooner did I say that and I saw a little girl taking a leak in the garden. I laughed, pointed and as soon as Holly looked she saw something horrific. The little girl was not peeing but doing a #2 and Holly just witnessed the whole thing. This would be the focus of many spontaneous outbursts of laughter over the next few days.
Tuesday was almost uneventful and we visited the Olympic Park (super cool) and then got foot massages. Holly wanted a full body massage but the masseuse wanted to give it to her with all of her clothes on and with out any oil. The Chinese are so modest. After that, we were in need of a little fun and went to the bar street which surrounds a lake. There we had beers and ate Roast Peking Duck, the Beijing specialty. We turned in early because the next day we arranged for a private car to take us to the Great Wall and Summer Palace.
We woke up early and were excited about the day which promised to be the highlight of the whole trip. After a hearty breakfast in the Executive Lounge, our driver called to say she had arrived and was waiting outside. We got to the car and she there were other people in the van. Had we wanted to go with other people we would’ve booked a with a group for 200 RMB less. Then the chica advised us we’d be making a stop at the Silk and Jade Factory. I smelled a scam so after reading the girl the riot act, we walked away. Defeated, we headed back to the room and called another driver who gave us there business card a couple days earlier. Same thing. They showed up, no one was in the car this time and tried to take us to the Silk and Jade Factory. Here it was 10am and we have been through 2 drivers already. Instead of walking around and looking for a driver we decided it was time to check with the hotel. The doorman helped us negotiate with a taxi driver and we agreed on a higher (but reasonable) than expected price. Within 30 minutes of dumping our 2nd driver we were finally on our way. And he was fantastic. He took us to the part of the wall that we wanted, made sure we got our tickets, gave us bottles of water and even laughed at my attempts to speak Chinese with him. Totally worth it.
The wall itself is simply amazing. It made traveling to Beijing totally worth it. We went to Mutianyu, climbed until you couldn’t climb anymore, took about a million pictures, sweated in the 100 heat and loved every minute. It was steep, the mountains went forever, and every time we turned around we couldn’t help but say it was more beautiful than the view before. I won’t even low grade the wall by saying, if you ever have the chance to go, then take it. I would say, that the Great Wall is a must see place. Simply stunning, breath taking, heart breaking and totally the most amazing sight I’ve ever seen.
Today was a beautiful day in Guangzhou and we got another massage and did some serious shopping. Tomorrow we’ll be heading to Hong Kong to sightsee and celebrate the 4th of July weekend, American/Chinese/French style – whatever that is.
Check out Beijing’s Greatest Hits by clicking here.