When walking through the Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden city, it was easy to convince myself that I was on some sort movie set.  It was hard to convince myself that it's actually real.

I did not have that problem on the Great Wall.

We started by trudging up an alley created by vendors selling "I Climbed the Great Wall" tshirts and Mao hats.
Patt and Baseemah in front of vendors.
We continued to trudge up to the the cable cars that ferried us up the mountain to the wall itself.  We climbed some more steps, then found ourselves on the Great Wall itself.
It is the most phenomenal structure I have ever seen.  It literally goes on and on and on.  I could count the beacon towers over mountains, then more mountains, then more until they became specks in the distance.

The Wall is difficult to walk on.  The steps are very steep and worn.  The path itself is very well made, but, well, old.  It is very up and down, sometimes at 35 degrees or more.  But the hard walk is worth every minute of the breathtaking scenery.

Going back down the mountain was a breeze.  We took the metal luge down to the bottom and it was totally fun.  I have no pictures because I was trying to hold on.   It is worth the 24 hours of travel time, the jet lag, the cost of the tickets just to see the Great Wall.  Plus, you feel appreciated on the way up!
So I finally got the interwebz working in the hotel room (obviously).  This post will be long, but others I hope will be shorter.

The flights were flights.  I had Pocky and bought a Good Luck Cat cell phone charm in Narita (Tokyo) just to prove I was there.  Narita was boring--I honestly expected more from the Japanese.

We arrived at 11pm last night (so June 24) and woke up to a beautiful day in Beijing.  The sky was blue and the temperature was a cool 88 degrees.

Our first stop was the Summer Palace, a favourite of the Empress Dowager Cixi (who was by all accounts terrible woman.  The Boxers rebelled for a reason).  
As I walk in, swallows swoop overhead.  There are two huge ponds of lotus, but they are not blooming yet.  The huge lake is surrounded by weeping willows. 

My big adventure at the Summer palace was barganing for a Chairman Mao watch.  The watch has a picture of Mao, and his arm waves as the second hand ticks.  I bargained from 100 yuan to 60 yuan (about $10 USD) and avoided being given counterfeit money (John the Tour Guide had warned us ahead of time).  I drew quite a crowd, and I'm sure the locals probably laughed at the price I paid, but I was proud.

At all of the historical spots there are so many people, mostly Chinese.  The Chinese language is beautiful.  It sounds like everyone is singing.  The language is based on 4 tones, which our incredible tour guide John (Li Juan) taught us.   

Next we watched a Tai Chi master go through the first 4 frames of the Tai Chi exercises. Then we tried some ourselves.  I could get into this Tai Chi business.  Check out the blinding whiteness of my legs.

We took a dragon boat back across the lake, then took off for the pearl market, which was quite an experience.  AFter a family style lunch of delicious food (I haven't had a bad meal here yet) we headed for Tiananmen Square.  While I did not trip in the Square, I did trip going up the stairs for lunch. 

Tiananmen Square is enormous.  Gigantic.  Vast.  It can hold 1 million people.  This pic features my friend Baseemah and the Gate of Heavenly Peace.  This is around the time that it really hit me that I was not, in fact, at Epcot.  I was, in fact, in China for real.  

Tomorrow I will share more about the Forbidden City, and our Peking Duck dinner, which was amazing.  I will also try to get a pic of the Incredible John, tour guide extraordi