Beijing 06/18/2011

Keith reporting:
Saturday, 18 June 2011 The Great Wall of China Keith reporting here. We had a very full day, and have finally returned to our hotel at 7:00pm. After another one of those interesting breakfast buffets, we met Peter at 8:30am and headed for the Lama Temple. It is considered to be one of the largest and most important Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries in the world. Built in the late 1600s, it is home to many significant pieces of Buddhist artwork, including three pieces that are in the Guinness Book of World Records. The most impressive was a 26m tall Buddha made of a single piece of white sandalwood. There were hundreds of Buddhists there, traditionally burning incense and saying their prayers. The smell of all that incense is still stuck in my head some 10 hours later. We witnessed a monk chanting blessings over articles people would place in front of him, which they would then take home to continue good will there. It was another piece of world culture and religion that we experienced for the first time. Kasen was mildly impressed.

From the temple, we went to Olympic Park, home of the 2008 Summer Games. We took pictures of us in front of the Birds Nest Stadium, as well as the aqua center and several other sites we recognized from the televised version we saw three years ago. As impressive were some of the other buildings and hotels built in that area for the Olympics. We went to one of the hotels to go to an Americanized toilet. This has become a major score for Kasen anytime we can find one on this trip. She is not at all impressed with the standard Chinese toilets, and has refused to use them since her first experience yesterday. Note from Karen: Kasen has a big smile and a loud YES when we see a traditional toilet. My yes is a silent, but happy one.

From Olympic Park, we headed out on the hour long trip to the Great Wall of China. On the way we stopped for another excellent lunch arranged by our guide, and a short visit to a jade factory and retail store. There was a jade ship there which took a Chinese jade art master over three years to build. It was as large as a bedroom, and cost $1 million US. Many other pieces there sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. We bought nothing, as we experienced China travelers know the real shopping bargains are in our next city of Guangzhou. We can probably get that jade ship for no more than a half-million there!

Next came the part Kasen has been looking forward to, second only to her baby sister Karis. We arrived at the Great Wall around 1:30pm, and were given about an hour and a half to explore on our own. The Wall was built over an 1800 year period, beginning in 221 BC. It was started and stopped over several different dynasties, each time to protect against different enemies. It stretches for thousands of kilometers, and as many of you know, can be seen from space by the astronauts. It was over 90 degrees when we arrived and began the unbelievable climb to one of the watch towers for great views and photo opportunities. About half way up, I was exhausted, and Kasen was ready to turn around. No way, not after all of this. So up we went. Roasting hot, jet lagged and out of breath, we made it to our intended summit. Content to cool off, rest, take in the views and get wonderful photos of our family in one of the most famous places in the world, I was not impressed when Kasen asked when we were leaving. Evidently she was not impressed. I really believe she was, and will appreciate it even more as she tells her friends and family about the experience.

After the long hike back down, we returned to the city and to our hotel for a few minutes before heading to a Chinese Acrobatic Show. It was impressive, with all the standard flying aerial feats, contortionist bending, and displays of human strength. Our worn out bodies were ready for a sack full of KFC, which is extremely popular in China. We are already getting kinda tired of Chinese food, with 14 more days left to go.

We are packing for a 9am flight to Guangzhou in the morning. It will be our last day as a family of three, as we get Karis on Monday morning. By the way, we noticed today that the hotel we have been staying at is on Xinyuan Street. Our new daughters name is Karis Xinyuan Holt. Hmmmmm!

A big thanks to Jared, Gwen, Jerry, Melissa and Michelle Davis and Ben Parker for taking care of our four legged babies. We really miss them, but feel blessed to have such wonderful friends taking such good care of them.

Keep the guestbook messages coming. Talk to you later from tropical Guangzhou.