Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Week in Beijing

Kids in the Forbidden City

After the chaos of leaving Bangkok, we caught an easy flight to Kuala Lumpur. Two hours later, we arrived in a very new airport, and rented a hotel room in the terminal for 7 hours. The next morning we visited the airport Starbucks -- don't judge us, we were in a Muslim country, and we really wanted coffee. Addiction is rarely pretty.

Wendy and kids in the Forbidden City

The flight from Malaysia to Beijing was uneventful, and, after haggling with two taxi drivers, we managed to get a ride to our hostel at only twice the price we had anticipated. One thing struck us immediately -- Beijing in mid-April is cold! But, what is cold but an excuse to hit Silk Street? (A hagglers' paradise, full of knock-off brand name jackets, watches and clothes.) The sellers have perfected the art of haggling, reducing Charlie to tears at one point, and dragging Aidan to the floor as he attempted to resist their efforts to spread Capitalism. Well armed with 6 new intellectual property-infringing jackets, we hit the Streets to see the great sites of China.

Brooks kids on the Great Wall

The high point of our week in Beijing was walking a 10 kilometer section of the Great Wall. We caught a bus at 6:00 am and took a 3-hour ride to Jinshanling. The kids were real troopers -- parts of the wall were very rough, and extremely hilly. 4.5 hours later, we reached Simatai, where we dismounted the wall the way the Chinese did 1,000 years -- by zipline. Okay, in reality the zipline is not actually on the wall, but close.

Chinese Soldier kidnaps small child

The next day, we went to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. The Forbidden City was the imperial palace for the Ming and Qing dynasties for about 500 years, and it was amazing. Apparently some members of the royal families lived their entire lives without leaving the palace grounds. The funniest part of the day was that probably 30 different Chinese tourists wanted to have their pictures taken with our children. They would literally stand in line, and have their pictures taken one after another. The kids were quite patient with it, at least in the beginning.

Another cultural experience was a visit to the Chinese Acrobats in Beijing. Actually, we tried to go our first night, and kept having travel difficulties. It wasn't until our 4th attempt that we made it successfully. The acrobats did all the tricks that any self-respecting gravity-defying pretzel might do. Except that they did them in groups, stacked on top of each other, occasionally using spears and motorcycles. Needless to say, the kids were impressed, and my neck was sore.

Brooks kids invade Tiananmen Square

In a nutshell, we really liked Beijing. It was a very comfortable city, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that few people spoke English. Nobody approached us on the street and tried to sell us anything. In fact, people would come up to us and start talking full-speed in Chinese, assuming that -- of course -- we understood them. I can't tell you how many people counted the number of children that we have on their fingers and then gave us a big thumbs-up.

Alternative Transportation

Charlie eating Snake

Charlie eating snake

Tea Ceremony at our Guesthouse


Karen said...

Hi guys, I loved reading your blog! Makes Madbury look kind of dull! :-) Please keep the journal entries coming so we can follow your wonderful adventure.

Karen said...

Hey guys! I loved reading your blog. Makes Madbury look kind of dull! :-) Please keep your journal entries coming so we can follow your wonderful adventures.

Grampa James said...

The snake looks yummy! I hope you bring some back for me, NOT.

Pictures taken on the Great Wall obviously do not do the wall justice. That must be an experience.

How were the clay figures when you saw them this week?

Thanks for keeping us posted. What a great trip.

I love you,