Shane and Rosie made their way out to Beijing Airport, a bit bleary eyed, at 5.15am to meet Lee off the plane.
It was lovely to welcome her to our adventure, but the award for cutest fond hello goes to Tom. When we arrived back to the hotel around 7am, Tom woke to the commotion of hello-ing, propelled himself out of bed naked and launched himself around Lee for a huge hug. Many laughs were had.
Later in the day Lee took both of the kids out. Lee had much joy in telling us that Tom was to say: he was very happy that she was here, and that there are three reasons for this. First he loves her very much, second she buys them treats, and third she gives them a break from Mum and Dad yelling at him!!
Our preconceived notions of China: pushy; hardened by Communism; stoically Chinese; the poor and the rich; pollution; grime...
Realities of Beijing: (mostly) charming folk; beholding things Western; optimistic; wealthy; immaculately clean; amazing architecture; constructive energy...
Given that, the old bikes and motorbikes still dominate the city and a few of the old boys still wear their Chairman Mao caps.
The wide streets and cycle lanes are a positive feature of the city.
We stayed in a lovely hotel - Beijing Traditional View Hotel - in amongst charming alleyways (hutongs), with exciting Beijing cuisine.
The weather and smog levels were very kind to us over the first two days.
We'd arrived in the right week, the waterways were still frozen.
Of course, we visited the Forbidden City. It reeks of the power and opulence of the emperors of old.
Lee has visited the Forbidden City when she was last in Beijing, and decided to shop instead. Scary really!
Followed by a day tour to the Great Wall at Mutianyu and to the Ming tombs,
There are 13 Ming burial chambers strewn over 80km with only one fully excavated. Pretty amazing in a country with such an amazing depth of culture and history. The site was apparently torched during the Qing period, thinking it was the Forbidden City...
Each brick has the manufacturer's mark!
Then off to the Wall, where we not only took the cable car but took the cable car taken by Bill Clinton in 1998. The tour was 200Y kids 300Y adults including the Ming Tombs.
The Great Wall is not just a wall. We were in awe. Grasping at its history, marvelling at its engineering, wondering about the blood spilt in its creation and occupation. It was a sinuous military city with guard towers and the occasional chapel located only a few hundred metres apart. A seriously effective defensive megalith.
We spied a mahjong board inscribed into one of the flagstones. How long ago? How many times was it used?
The towers were home to handfuls of soldiers.
Shane, Helen, Rosie and Tom - and Lee!