Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time we lived in Indonesia (as you do) and one day my friend told me how much she admired that I picked up and traveled with my kids and ditched my husband when he had to work. This caught me off because I didn’t really think it was a big deal. (Big) Daddy has limited vacation time, (Fabulous) Mommy has places to see and things about the world to teach my kids so we just go. I didn’t know that this wasn’t something that some other moms just regularly did. As we chatted over coffee and paint (what fabulous wall art we created) we hatched a plan to pack up our collective six kids and go! We figured we’d do a long weekend in Bali. Something easy to break her in.
Fast forward a bit and Big Daddy tells me he’s just got to go home and visit the family cottage in Canada. He needs some R&R. No problem I say, I’m going to China, what should we do with the kids? We sat our three boys down and gave them the choice: Cottage in Canada with Daddy or China!!!!! with Mommy. Two came with me and one went with Daddy.
Ok. So now I’m going to China with two thirds of my offspring. I called my friend and gave her my best pitch. Sure, we’d never been there. Sure, we didn’t speak a word of Mandarin. Sure, it wasn’t a weekend in Bali but if we were really going to show our kids #GirlPower then ten days in China was surely the way to go.
So off we went. It was a dazzling few days and I can’t wait to go back. I was smitten. What was this country that spent 200 years building a big wall to keep their enemies out? The patience, the planning, I was seriously fascinated.
And the people! In China I never saw a person sitting idly by. People were reading or dancing or practicing a martial art, or playing a game, or laughing with friends. I’ve come to learn that you can understand the ethos of a culture by just sitting back and watching her people.
There was not nearly enough time to do all that we wanted to do but we did hit the hot spots. And as an added bonus we got to visit a childhood friend who lived there at the time. I count the days in my dreams until I get to go back. What a wonderful place. Truly.
The Great Wall. It's probably totally cliche but it's really breathtaking. Even when you know from textbooks that it is the only manmade structure on earth visible in space and even when you know it took 200 years to build in the days before power, even when some parts of it are so crowded with people you can hardly breathe, even, even, even . . . it's really a site to behold.
Right near Beijing you can do the touristy thing and ride the toboggans at Mutianyu. If you don't have much time to explore this is probably your option. Just be prepared for throngs of people.
If you have the time it's well worth heading out of the city a few hours to see some of the more remote parts of the wall. Some of these parts you literally just get to see. It's really hard to appreciate the enormity of the thing with photos but I tried.
Heading back to the city there is plenty to see and do. More than you could ever experience in a vacation, for sure!
A favorite highlight for the adventurous eater is the night markets. I will admit right here that I was pretty glad to be a lifelong vegetarian so I didn't have to eat some of this stuff!
There is going to have to be a Beijing Part II post to cover even more of the highlights but let me leave you with a few pictures of the locals just enjoying life! If China is on your bucket list I'm ready to start helping you plan!
Happy travels, friends! -Suzanne