This morning, we woke up in time to catch the bus to the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs. We got to the ticket office around 9:15am and were put on a random coach bus, filled with random Chinese and European tourists (roughy 80% Chinese). Our guide was a small Chinese woman who took the microphone upon disembarkment from the station and spoke for nearly 45 minutes entirely in Chinese. She then came over to us and the random Europeans and told us that the trip was 8 hours, we'd be first eating lunch at the Ming Tombs, then exploring them, then getting on the bus to go to the Great Wall. This whole message took 2 minutes in English and 45 in Chinese! Confusing...

When we got to the Ming Tombs, we grabbed lunch at a cafeteria onsite. We sat down and were immediately surrounded by the other caucasions on the bus. The servers brought out a massive bowl of rice, then some random chinese dishes to consume with the rice. The food was shockingly not terrible. Here's a photo of the rice and our Spanish bus mates:

Well, after lunch we explored the Ming Tombs for roughly an hour. This could've been greatly interesting, but instead was an utterly aweful experience. The tomb is way underground, with just a handful of huge red boxes and some thrones. Not too exciting. Here's some photos:

Photo of the State Operated Souvenier Store

One of many poorly phrased signs at the Ming Tombs

After the Ming Tombs, we took a 30-45 minute ride to the Badaling section of the Great Wall. We were given 2 hours at the site, so Howard and I decided to take the "cable car" up the mountain, and walk to the highest points of the Wall from there. As it turns out, the "cable car" is actually just a simple one seater "bumper car"-like seat with a harness. The seat is taken on a track up the mountain, at pretty sharp angles. When you arrive at the top, you are roughly half way up the mountain, with a good walk to the top of the Great Wall:

Apparently getting off the ride while its at an 75 degree angle is dangerous (who knew?)

Finally, Howard and I got moving up the Great Wall. At points, the path is very steep, without stairs, making it difficult and somewhat slippery to walk on. Additionally, there were so many tourists, it was often difficult to maneuver. In about 45 minutes, we were able to reach the top of our section of the wall. What an amazing view:

We walked back, but could not find the path down the mountain. Alas, we ended up taking the "cable car" back down the mountain. On the way down, the ride is quite faster, and with the windy path of the cables, it could easily double as a roller coaster, with the right conductor. Unfortunately, our conductor followed the rules and rode the hand brake all the way down:

At the bottom, we found a bunch of bears in a mini-zoo, which is apparently an attraction by the Great Wall (yes, this is about as random as it comes, but I now finally understand what a "Bear Circus in Elmira" means). By each bear section there are plates of food to throw at the bears. This was a fun pastime for about 5 minutes. The result was a few good bear pics:

We then got on the bus and took the 2 hour ride back to Beijing, by Tiannamen square. Exhausted from a full day, Howard and I grabbed a quick dinner at a local tea house restaurant, with live entertainment, including a band for chinese folk music and shadowboxing. Here's some photos:

The next morning, we'd fly to Shenzhen...