May 23:  Beijing and Mutianyu

A rowdy group of Americans (some college group, or maybe high school) woke up me and Koenraad (my roommate throughout the tour) at 3am and again at 6am.  Some of them seemed be having problems with alcohol.  I had earplugs in and shut it out somewhat, but we both went out to tell them to shut up, and Koen called the front desk to complain, which was a waste because they couldn't understand his Dutch-accented English.  I really wasn't too pissed at them because they had a few hotties, and obviously beverages stronger than Tsingtao, and I wouldn't have minded partying with them.  I didn't sleep after 3am, more because of adrenaline than the noise.

In the morning we took a 2-hour minibus ride to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall.  MJ brought his mom with us.  The Wall immediately became the second-longest object I've ever seen.  My schlong remains the longest.

The Great Wall was built to keep poorer ethnic groups from coming into Beijing.  Nice to see Congress recognizing a good idea.

We had to walk a little bit uphill from the parking lot.  The whole way there were stalls selling shirts, drinks, Communist hats, etc.  I was really hoping they'd have an "I'd rather be in Chyna" shirt, but didn't see it offered.

We then took a cable car up to one of the towers.  You could go back down the same way, or take the Camelback-style slide, or walk down.  The latter was the only free option.  I was worried because my left knee gets sore when I do a lot of walking down steep hills (like when I hike down from the Hollywood sign) but ultimately there was no pain, at least in the knee.

Royalty once sat in our particular cable car.

Here are a bunch of uncaptioned photos of/from the Great Wall.  You'll see one of a graffito saying "This wall is great", which I suppose could serve as a caption for the rest.  Strangely, all graffiti on the Wall is in white.

I probably missed some photogenic angles along the way because I was talking with Anne Marie the whole length of the walk.  You know, alpha male, I had to do my duty.

On the way down we saw this donkey tied to a tree.  I think he belonged to one of the guys selling refreshments on the Wall.

Passing the stalls again on the way to the parking lot, I bought a Coke.  The woman said it was $1, and I had nothing smaller than a 20, so I gave her Y100 and walked away.  D'oh!  That's a $12.50 Coke.  I think I thought I was giving her 100 Thai bhat.  I had officially lost track of what country I was in.

Returning to Beijing, we went straight to the acrobatics show.

This is the acrobatics theater (Chaoyang Theater).  I don't know if "acrobatics macrocosm" is Engrish or a legitimate description.

We'd actually arrived at the theater too early, so MJ bought the tickets and then the rest of us went for a walk.  We found Tuanjiehu Park up the street, which cost only Y1 to enter, so we did.  Inside I saw a longhaired Chinese guy playing the saxomaphone.  I asked out loud "Is that Bleeding Gums Murphy?" and at least Terence got the reference.  I like being able to make such references around non-Americans.

There was a lake in the park, but nary a duck floating on it.  We figured that's because all ducks are turned into Peking Duck.

We returned to the theater for the acrobats show.  I usually spell it "theatre" but now I'm stuck being consistent with "Chaoyang Theater".  The acrobats were nothing special.  Most of the balancing acts cheated with a wire.  What pussies!  I was expecting at least one crazy stunt worthy of a "holy shit" or "ECW" chant, but nothing was anything near the level of the man-child's stilt spin at the Moscow circus.

Acrobats dressed up as giant dogs (resembling Barkley from Sesame Street) and balancing on a ball.  Right after this, the dogs ran into the crowd, causing a large group of schoolgirls to squeal in glee or horror.  Pandamonium nearly erupted, but these were dogs and not pandas, so bedlam is as far as it went.

Look at this douchebag.  I could do this too if I had a fucking rope holding me in case I fall.

This was somewhat impressive.  Guy on top is balancing on a board on a cylinder, and the guy below him is doing the same while also supporting two girls on the side.  But again, with that wire, where's the danger?

For dinner we had another traditional meal, the hotpot.  A vessel of boiling water and vegetables is set in the middle of the table, and raw meats, more vegetables and noodles are delivered to the table one by one.  You drop the meats etc. into the water, wait a while, and take them out when they're done.  Not bad.

The hotpot.

After dinner, MJ, Koen, Terence and I went to the Lotus Market (north of the Forbidden City) where there are a bunch of bars.  We couldn't find a good one (quiet and cheap) but we found one with outdoor seating where it was buy 6 Heinekens (Y40 apiece) get 1 free, so we did that.  I could have had another few, but instead we went back to the hotel and I was in bed before midnight.

Oh yeah, exiting the Lotus Market we saw tiny precious kittens for sale.  I commented that they were just little enough to fit in the hotpot.

I wrote this in my journal today but I forget exactly when and where it happened:  MJ asked us "Have you studied abroad?" and without hesitating I replied "I've studied lots of broads."  No reaction.  Tough crowd.