Five hours in a car to JFK, sixteen hours on a plane to Hong Kong, three hours of delay in a massive airport, and a short three hour jaunt to Beijing had us anxiously awaiting our hotel beds. We arrived at the Jian Guo Garden Hotel shortly after 10 pm Thursday night, and hit the pillow.
Friday we started early, with a wonderful American-Chinese breakfast buffet, and piled into the van with two other couples (also adopting children), our driver, and our guide, Jennifer. The driving here is similar to that of New York or Boston…one hand on the wheel and one on the horn, with the occasional yell out the window. There are very few cross walks, and very many bicycles, rickshaws, and people all vying for the same road space.
Our first stop was Tian' an Men Square and the Forbidden City. Aside from being massive, what struck us was simply how old and rich the history is for the Chinese people here. Most of our man made history in the US is barely 200 years old, compared to some of the buildings and structures that are over 600 years old, and still well preserved.
We then split up the group and boarded those rickshaws I spoke of. After several close calls and maneuvers that would make Jeff Gordon proud, our drivers brought us to one of the oldest housing sections in Beijing. It was a small little village, almost self-contained, that was home to over 100 thousand people. One of these homes opened up for us to cook our group an authentic meal. It was delicious! Also, it was air conditioned…..which is a luxury in most homes and apartments. Since the temperature was pushing 100 degrees, we were grateful.
Our next stop was at a tea house, for an authentic traditional tea service. We learned about several different types of tea, of how important and symbolic tea is to the Chinese people, and that in our country, we are just way to impatient to see the value in the simple things….like making a cup of tea! Choosing, brewing, serving, and even drinking the tea has a right way, and a wrong way. It was a very neat experience.
We ended our tourist adventures on Friday with a Chinese acrobat show. It was amazing. The kids thought that it was something that you might see on America's Got Talent, only better. Dinner after the show was at a small local place that served very spicy chicken sandwiches, and burgers. Yes, you guessed it…McDonald's. Ordering the food was almost a bigger adventure than eating it!