Monday, May 20, 2013

Beijing with Gusto (Part II)

Our major sightseeing was scheduled the following day. We took the tour to the Badaling section of the Great Wall. The sight of the wall was indeed breathtaking, and how it was even possible to construct it in those times, in that terrain, in those circumstances and in that magnitude, is no common feat.

It’s hard, however, to reflect upon this world wonder while being shoved by thousands of Chinese. So after taking enough pictures, we went down via cable car and waited at the bus.

The only other stop on the tour was at a silk factory. We knew we were in for a sales pitch but when the guide demonstrated how the silk is produced from silkworms, we couldn’t help but marvel at how those gossamer strands were transformed into an incredibly strong material. When she showed us how light the silk comforters were and how soft to the touch, I could tell that many of us were going to hand over our credit cards before the pitch was over.

On our way to the silk place, we passed by the Olympic Village so we knew it wasn’t far from our last stop. So instead of riding back with the group to our hotel, we had ourselves dropped off near Bird’s Nest. We also made sure to get from our guide Helen the address of the hutongs so that we could direct our cab there for dinner. She wrote it down in Chinese script.

There were plenty of tour buses parked near the Olympic Village, but the area was so immense that, in spite of the crowd, it didn’t feel cramped at all. We waited until Bird’s Nest and the Bubble Wrap building across it were lit before we left.
By the time we had our fill of photos, we were famished. We took a cab to the hutongs. This is probably my most favorite area in Beijing. It was old and gritty but not squalid. In fact, there was an artsy vibe to it.

After walking the length of either side of the main road, we found a nice Italian restaurant named Luce where we ate really well. I would have wanted to go back to the area and explore it more but transportation was starting to intimidate me. After dinner, we waited for hours to get a cab that would take us back to our hotel. We almost froze to death in the cold and my bladder almost exploded from hours of holding it because I refused to use the restaurant’s comfort room.

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