With a day to fill before our flight home, we were able to go out and see some of the sights. Most of them were on the freeway.
The Natural History Museum organised for a visit to the Great Wall. Several sections can be easily be reached from Beijing. We went a bit further out as the outer wall is more impressive. They have been rebuilding the wall and adding to it so you don't know if it's the ancient one that was useless at containing Mongol hoards, or the modern one built to be useful at containing tourist hoards.
We waited for the bus to take us from the lower car park up to the Wall itself. Then were told we could drive. But by the time we found that out the person who told us was not the Great Wall traffic information officer, but someone sending us off to another car park where they get a kick back.
The next person we asked refused to tell us anything unless we gave them money. So after this confusion we parked the van again only to discover the buses were no longer running as the drivers had all gone to lunch. It was like a bad joke.
We decided to head back toward Beijing and stop at another section, apparently a pretty-good-Wall. It looked in excellent condition, so obviously they weren't the original bricks. This wall went pretty much straight up the mountainside and was, in fact, a Great Staircase.
We made it up to Watchtower #10. By then the heat and the climbing meant I was soaked in sweat. The older Chinese men roll their singlets up over their belly to cool down (or else it's an unofficial Olympic belly-off). Naturally I followed suit. But older Chinese men don't have body hair so I attracted the appropriate attention for an escaped gorilla.
The next stop was the Summer Palace. The emperor's personal playground when the Forbidden City got too forboden with that summer Hutong pong. The English and French destroyed it to teach the Emperor a lesson for not buying all their consumer goods - although these 'consumer goods' were shipments of cocaine.
As it's summer holidays the reconstructed palace was heaving with families. It can be a soothing peaceful contemplative place. But not today. As the average income increases, families can afford a holiday and Beijing is a popular domestic tourism destination.
There was a forest of flags being waved by guides and it was time to escape the Palace and jump into the traffic for some peace and air conditioning. Back to the hotel where those kebab things were good. Unfortunately, I fell for the old photo-menu propaganda. Again. Roast gristle on a stick, anyone? Really, who thinks, "I know, gristle, yum, that would be great BBQ'd"? If you can guess what I ate please don't tell me. I don't want to know.
Desert sounded good so we found a bakery. They made the fluffiest little buns that surprisingly tasted like nothing at all. Amazing.
This is my last blog post and I wanted to say that for just about every observation we made about life in China, we would see a contradiction a minute later. "I never see prams"... "You never see Chinese couples holding hands"... "You never see a Chinese driver use their indicators"... and always a minute later our ignorance was paraded in front of us.
I have mentioned my colleagues by first name only in this blog series as they might not want to be associated with with incoherent rumblings, but now I'd like to thank them properly:
Fara Pelarek - Visitor Services Manager, Australian Museum (and dino show presenter in English)
Albert (Liu Linde) - Beijing Museum of Natural History (and dino show presenter in Mandarin)
Steven Adlerton - Assistant Director, Australian Museum (and China tour visionary)
Meng Qingjin - Director, Beijing Museum of natural History
Li Jianwen - Deputy Director, Beijing museum of Natural History
Xu Yue - Director, Beijing Association for Science and Technology