Great doesn’t begin to cover it

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Sunday, we got up early to meet our driver at 6:30am. We failed to find real breakfast (again), but the hotel had some coffee and dry croissants to nibble on in the lobby. Our driver spoke a little English, and we asked what he had eaten for breakfast (rice porridge).

Our drive to Mutianyu gave us a chance to see a bit more of Beijing (like the Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini dealerships a few blocks up from our hotel, and the massive apartment blocks a bit further up). We drove through a couple of small towns, too, and passed giant flower and fruit sculptures on the side of the road.

Once there, our driver took us into a shop where we could buy some overpriced snacks (we decided to make do with what we had), use the toilet (not auto-flushing, just a button on the floor that was easy to accidentally step on) before buying tickets for the tram.

And then we were there. And it was…wow. Jaw-dropping, breath-taking, amazing. A wanted to climb up a ways in the opposite direction of the hike to where we’d go down, and I’m glad we did. We climbed up, up, up. Hundreds of stairs, some steep as a ladder, some only a couple of inches high. No railings but the walls. To think of the effort it took to build it, so long ago. Incredible. And that’s all I’ll say about it, except to say that pictures don’t do it justice, it’s definitely worth seeing, and worth seeing when you’re young enough to hike and climb a bit.

We’d arranged to meet our driver at 11:30, but opted to push it a bit and hike over to the top of a different tramway and giant “slide” to head down. We had to watch our step, but didn’t dilly-dally, and despite the line for the slide, rode our toboggans down and got to our meeting place by noon. We were worried the driver would be upset, but we found him playing ping pong and in good spirits. Whew!

On the drive back, we ran into a bit of traffic, but still got back to our hotel by 2pm. We had lunch at a restaurant at the top of a fancy shopping center. We wanted to eat at “Spicy Grandma’s” but it was still under construction. Regular “Grandma’s” was popular, but when we tried to ask about a table, the girl out front just pointed at a sign– apparently they were on a “break” (like Ross and Rachel?) so that was out. We wound up at a place that specialized in fish, where the guy out front spoke English and was eager to help us. It wound up being very expensive, but was tasty, and our waiter reminded us of Jackie Chan.

After we ate, we arranged our train tickets back to Shanghai through the hotel and then went out to see more of the city. We wandered through the Hutongs (side streets) and along a canal, then down to a lake area where there were lots of people, paddleboats, and bars.

We were pretty tired from all our walking, and took a taxi back to the hotel, where we again called it a night pretty early, and after just one “real” meal.

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