Beijing, April 19 Monday

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We hired a car today and drove to the Ming tombs. There are 13 tombs here, spread around the valley, but we visited only two, the Yongle tomb, he who founded the Ming dynasty, and Ding Ling, the only one that has been archaeologically excavated.

There’s a museum here with some pretty interesting exhibits.

The soul tower is not particularly picturesque, but it was interesting to overhear one of the tour guides saying that it hadn’t originally been painted red, but was hastily re-painted during the cultural revolution to preserve it from the thugs of the day. (My words, not his.)

The Dingling tomb is in a beautiful, relaxing, pleasant park of cypresses (cedars). A sign says that ring-dating the trees proves that they are much older than the tomb, and were therefore transplanted here when the tomb was constructed in the 1500s.

The underground palace is a curiosity, but hardly beautiful. It’s really a series of arched tunnels, coffins in one chamber, and thrones for the emperor and empress.

Back in Beijing, we thought to go see the Olympic park, the bird’s nest and the water cube. But first, a quick stop for lunch. TGI Friday’s was close by. People asked me whether it was the same as the US version, and I had to admit I had never been into a US location.

We wandered around the bird’s nest for half an hour, but the water cube was closed. The most interesting thing, IMO, was the dozens of vendors hawking kites in the plaza outside.

Okay, time for a foot massage. If your feet weren’t sore when you came in, they would be when you left. Oh, does that hurt!

Silk street, where Kent bought a few things. I would have bought a bikie cap if I had seen any, but that’s too specialized for the venue.

And then out to Beihai lake, where Weining negotiated a pretty good price on some green laser pointers. We found a second storey restaurant overlooking the lake and had yet another really good meal.

Tomorrow we work.

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