For every passenger onboard, this is the highlight . . . Tianjin . . . the gateway to Beijing, formerly known as Peking. Ming and Quing Dynasty architecture, contrast sharply with ultra-modern 21st century housing and commercial buildings.  Over 800 guests elected to remain off-ship and took a 3-day/2-night excursion, which also included the Terra Cotta Warriors ancient site.

This part of the world has had the most political turmoil since Peking existed in China in 221 BC. Beijing is the capital of The Peoples’ Republic of China with a population of 21 Million, part of the 1.2 Billion populace in China.

After and early 05:45 start, we boarded the buses for a 3 hour drive to Beijing. From the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing strictly enforces the number of cars and trucks allowed to drive into the city, making the next 3 days pristine blue skies, hot temperatures of 29-31 degrees and an air quality index of only 150; the air is bad when it reaches an AQI of 500. In order to counter the pollution problem, the government continues to plant over 1 million trees and shrubs annually. This practice also has taken out the “starkness” out of Beijing and given it a new aura, deserving of a world class city.  While enroute to Beijing, we saw the Olympic “Bird’s Nest” stadium. We also saw several “ghost communities”; these are sub-divisions of up to 20 very high apartment towers, modernity built, but un-occupied. These projects were make work endeavours for the population.

Our first stop . . . the Great Wall of China.  It’s construction is made of stone, brick, clay and wood and runs east to west along the North China border, which protected the Empire from nomadic groups, built as early as the 7th century BC. The area of wall which we stood on was built between 220 and 206 BC by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, followed by the Ming Dynasty.  The steps from the base of The Great Wall, to certain elevations have walking stones as high as 18″ with other risers only being 3″. We learned this practice prohibits invading troops of horses to sabotage goods that were transported along the Silk Road. The entire wall and its branches measures 13,100 miles, the only site clearly seen from outer space. We experienced some very breath-taking views and we share some with you in these pictures.

After an enjoyable Chinese lunch near the Great Wall, we visited the Temple of Heaven, a complex of Taoist buildings in urban Beijing. This temple was built for emperors Ming and Qing to conduct annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest.

Our last stop was to the 13 Ming tombs, the Changling Tomb, chosen by the 3rd Ming Dynasty emperor Yongle, reigning from 1402 to 1424. He was instrumental in moving the capital of China from Nanjing to the present location of Beijing. This tomb is the largest one among all that remote to the public.

Afterwards, we proceeded through heavy traffic jams and took us about 3-1/2 hours to return to our ship, followed by a late evening dinner.


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