The planned layover time for Beijing was 14 hours and we were hoping to get a "day pass" or something that would allow us to leave the airport and see a little bit of the city.
Well, plans were about to change when we landed.
There was much back and forth between immigration and the first airline counter. A really nice lady from immigration did most of the talking for us, in Chinese, so most of the time we didn't quite know what was going on.
But in the end we got a stamp into our passports for that day. Off they send us by train to get our luggage at a different terminal.
Since we don't want to haul around our suitcases through Beijing all day long, we go searching for the Air China check-in counter. Again, there is some back and forth, some misleading information, until finally we find an able airline worker.
And suddenly all the back and forth started making sense. This was to be the first ever flight of Air China from Beijing to Phuket. BUT... it was delayed by 2 days!
Air China would look after a hotel for us and would help us sort things out regarding a visa.
We were very excited about this turn of things, as it would definitely give us a chance to do some sight-seeing in Beijing. And there was no where we had to be at, as we decided against reserving a place in Thailand beforehand.
At the hotel we were led to a breakfast buffet of rather unfamiliar food items.
There was something like a rice porridge, steamed cabbage leaves with hot peppers, and some steamed wheat flour squares in gravy. If anyone knows the right names for these foods, we would love to learn them.
Although it was quite unusual, we liked most parts of this breakfast.
After sleeping off our jet-lag we started exploring the hotel and its surroundings.
Turns out the hotel is pretty close to the airport, but rather far away from all the sight seeing spots that are located in the center of the city.
There were many conference rooms in the hotel, and one of them had this nice set-up. Later on we found out it was for one of two weddings that were taking place here on the weekend.
Since we couldn't do much exploring of Beijing on our own we booked a tour for the next day that would bring us to the Badaling Great Wall and the Ming Tombs. But not without stopping by some factories on the way, as we later figured out :)
First stop was a jade processing factory.
Among many other things they were making these "family balls" from one piece of jade. Depending on the size there are 2, 3, 5, and up to 7 layers inside one ball; one for each generation.
This jade ship was not made from one piece, but still it is an impressive piece of skilled craftsmanship.
Now it's on to the Great Wall. We were both very excited that our unplanned layover would give us an opportunity to visit this great monument that is part of the seven wonders of the world.
There were two paths to choose from, the shorter and steeper or the longer and easier one. We took the first one. This is the look onto the longer route.
It was a rather cold day with temperatures just barely in the plus (Celsius), but the sunshine made it a really nice day.
Climbing the wall wasn't exactly easy, with steps in all different heights and widths. Sometimes so high that I had to pull myself up a step on the railing, and sometimes so narrow that only one person could walk them.
This was at the highest point we climbed to since we were given limited time before we had to be back at the bus.
Rather exhausted, but in awe. And really soaked through all the layers we were wearing :)
The way down was much faster and easier, hence the more cheerful faces.
After the wall climb we were served some really delicious Chinese food. But I have a feeling that it was adjusted to the North America palate and understanding of Chinese food. Nonetheless, it tasted really amazing.
Next stop were the Ming tombs. We actually saw only one tomb as the other ones are spread out over a pretty large valley.
Behind this red box is the actual tomb. It has been sealed by the government to prevent fresh air eroding whatever may be left there.
The next stop was a silk factory. We were shown the different stages of the silk worm before it builds its cocoon which basically is the silk thread.
For our last stop we could decide between foot massages or a traditional tea ceremony. Since the wall climb turned out to be a rather sweaty exercise, we didn't want to torture a Chinese masseuse with our smelly feet. So the decision fell on the tea ceremony.
On our way through the city the bus stopped on the side of the road to give us an opportunity to take pictures of the Bird's Nest, the stadium of the 2008 Olympics, and another building called Pangu Plaza that is shaped like a long dragon.
Exhausted from a long tour day we had some noodle soup (with chop sticks) at the hotel before crashing for the night.
On our last day we had some cookie breakfast (you can read more about that here) and some coffee at the cafe before heading to the airport for our flight to Thailand.
Working a bit at the airport to kill time. Unfortunately we couldn't update the blog in China, as this and other pages were blocked there.
And chillaxing on some great lounge chairs before boarding out plane to Phuket.
On board the plane we were invited to celebrate a little with the airline and stewardesses because it was Air China's very first flight on this route from Beijing to Phuket.