Wow – another wonderful day exploring new places, cultures and foods! Our host, Dr. Stephen Cheng from the University of Akron, met us with 2 local students to have an adventure.
First on our list today was the Great Wall of China. At one point the wall extended over 6,200 miles! There are remnants today that can be climbed and walked upon. Being a believer in technology, we chose the site with the sky-lift! Once we were part way up, the last 200 or so yards weren’t too bad! The views were amazing. When you look at this seemingly unending structure to the horizon, you wonder: how the heck did they DO this with human power and basic tools??? It truly is a global treasure.
As we drove ever closer to the mountains, they most reminded me of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. Tall with lots of vegetation. As we got into the Great Wall region, you could begin to see sections snaking their way across a ridge or marching down a steep slope. As we descended there were several areas alongside the road where small camps were set up. Turns out they are bee keepers and there were numerous hives set into the woodland areas.
Next we stopped back in Beijing for a Peking Duck lunch! Yum. I wasn’t too sure about trying it, but so many people have raved about how wonderful it is – so we gave it a go. First come all of the other dishes: fruits, vegetables, meats. Then comes the special chef to cut and serve our duck. It takes over a week to prepare Peking Duck! Once it is sliced and served, you take a ‘pancake’ and put a wonderful plum sauce on it with a few pieces of duck. Roll it up and enjoy! During the Olympics there were only 2 foods really liked by the Olympic athletes: fried rice and Peking Duck; they served over 1,000 per day.
Our next stop was in Northwest Beijing: the Summer Palace. This is where the emperor went to escape the heat. It’s a huge compound – at least 300 acres, including a huge lake – almost the size of Big Round Lake in Hayward, WI. The palace was only for the use of the emperor and his entourage – so about 200 people at most. It’s a beautiful setting and the buildings were erected in the mid-1750s. Some were burned and rebuilt in the 1800s. We were on the longest covered walkway anywhere. There are beautiful scenes painted along the upper beams.
Our host, Dr. Stephen Cheng provided these details from our meals:
The restaurant with Dr. Li for the dinner was “The pearl of Tai-Lake”.
Two lunch restaurants are “Quan-Ju-De (for Beijing duck)” and “Man-Chun-Lou” (for the hot pot).
Someone asked what it’s like to be in Beijing. Watch the Disney movie Antz! There are people EVERYwhere! All the time! Both the Summer Palace and Great Wall were PACKED with crowds today. With it being a weekend AND nice weather, they came out in force. Families, little kids, elderly parents on pilgrimage, and the international tourists. The roads were filled with cars – apparently weekends are ‘free’ driving. During the week, depending upon your license plate number, you have to leave your car home one day per week. So with 20% of the drivers off the road during the week, I believe they were all trying to make up for it today!
The special treat while returning to the hotel was to drive past the 2008 Olympic site of the ‘Bird’s Nest’ and the ‘Water Cube’. Both are so impressive – the structures are fabulous. We had 30 minutes to recharge and it was off to a dinner banquet.
Tonight was the most impressive banquet. These were friends of Dr. Cheng’s who hosted the dinner. There were 9 of us around the table with the largest glass lazy-susan I’ve ever seen. At one point tonight there were 20 dishes around the perimeter! Green beans, radishes, pork, beef, fried rice, fish (the whole thing) and other dishes that I’m not sure what they were. The main course was fresh-water puffer fish (not the salt-water poisonous one in Japan) in special dishes with a candle underneath to keep it warm. When the fish was served the sauce was so hot it was bubbling – was the fish still breathing??? I wasn’t too keen to try this, but what is one to do, but step out and try new things. It was delicious – the brown sauce the fish was in was so flavorful and the fish had a great texture and taste. I confess to skipping the skin and the head. Fresh fruit was served for dessert – watermelon and cantaloupe we know – but the third was a white, firm flesh with seeds that look like kiwi seeds in it – not sure what it is, but it was excellent.
So we’re back at the hotel, ready to call it a night. We have another big day of seeing the Forbidden Palace and a few other places before heading off to a night at the Chinese Opera! Cheers!