We woke up today, to a clear blue but cloudy sky, with no smog. Why?
Because we were at the foot of the great wall. Not in Beijing. At
Mutianyu, a village of 350, in a mountainous area north of Beijing,
perhaps an hours drive away. We spent the night at the Schoolhouse –
a US transplant who speaks fluent everything, and has started up
several businesses – a fantastic gourmet restaurant with western style
cooking. An art glass blowing studio with ultrapure classes and bowls
that sing when struck or “clinked” during a toast and continue to
reverberate in harmonious tones – the bowls are made of the kind of
silicon used in computer chips and have a special finish, and they
SING and SING when struck or rubbed. The same for the wine glasses –
they emit an ultra pure musical note. Anyway the studio is totally
cool (we have a red and white vase that is to die for, and one
particular window at our house awaits it.
This morning we got an early start and took a ski gondala to the
north, high point on the wall. It wasn’t the highest point in sight,
though – the wall actualy goes another 1000 feet higher to the west,
but we were not up to that climb. instead, we hiked down to the South
point, where there is a second ski lift for those that want a ride
down witha view.
I decided to take a tobagan/luge ride – an articulated sled seating
just one person, on a bobsled run made of stainless steel, that lets
you really go too fast. The curves are banked, just like an ice track
for winter bobsleds. The area and wall was refurbished in the 80’s
by….a bunch of Germans , hence the innovatived and thoroughly
exciting luge run down. I was ready to do it again and again. Once
down, you have to run a gauntlet that rivals the silk street store
where the salespeople are tremendously forward. A robe offered for
900 RM (quick, divide by 6 to estimate the US $ amount), finally is
purchased for…….100 RMB. a bargain that we could not have gotten
two days ago, but now we understand how the game is played.
We picked up Lindsey and Kevin Stone near the village, and took them
on a quick run to Ya Show, a place like the silk street but much
nicer, wider aisles, cleaner, with better bargains and less obnoxious
sales persons. We spent hundreds, getting gifits for all those on our
lists, and an item or two for our selves.
Quick, a run across the street to an uber modern shopping mall that
has a ……. cold stone creamery….for some decadent US-style ice
cream, and then on to the village to drop the athletes back into their
world. Wonderful few hours to see her and Kev, and to spend time with
them.. Really a great time. Then back to the CCTV Tower area, where a
super tine restaurant served us Peking duck, asparagus in garlic
butter, and hot and sour soup with a fine Chilean Cab. All for a very
low price, and then back here to the hotel to collapse and sleep (just
as soon as I finish this missive).
We have had a superb day, and tomorrow we begin the 4 event per day
schedule of competitions, with archery to start in another day or
two.. We don’t get to attend the qualifiying/ranking round ,
our tickets for that are useless, but we do get to watch many other
sports in the meantime.
Beijing is horribly smoggy, they are not bothering to shut down
anything like they did for the Olympics, unfortunately. The smog was
just as bad as the day before, despite rains. We’ll just spend more
time indoors as we can.
The trip has already made up for the entire jet lag thang..
More as I go along.
And I have found a way to post photos to a website – go to
and if you *ever* want to go to the great wall, and experience a
fantastic meal at the foot of it, check out The Schoolhouse at
Mutianyu ! http://www.schoolhouseglass.com and
http://www.schoolhousecanteen.com are two websites that will help you
to have the same fantastic trip that we did. They have glass blowers
making the most incredible artistic pieces right in front of you. And
if you are willing to wait for the item to cool, some things you can
actually carry with you. (The most exotic items may have to cool
under controlled conditions overnight)
At this point I have to say, “Hey, this ain’t half bad!!!” it
is actually pretty damn fine! more tomorrow, and I will be adding
photos as I can…. so check back