We boarded the bus for our tour around 8:30, heading toward the “local market.” This was a terrifying experience!! We get dropped off and are given 40 minutes to “explore.” We were thinking that might not be enough time. The “front” of the market is all clothing stores. Think indoor flea market style. Then you work your way in to the center of the market. It starts out innocently enough with nuts and seeds and fruit. Then enters the smell of death. The trash. The overall funk. It’s freaking terrifying. You see the “meat stores” where freshly (or currently being?) slaughtered animals are still on bones. There are feral animals (and children) just wandering around. This is not the place for us. There are mopeds and bikes and yes, even vehicles crowded a very narrow street. Claustrophic, we escape. It’s been maybe 10 minutes. We think that walking the main street out front might not be as bad. We end up at something that appears to be a landfill and quickly turn around. The Starbucks we had been hoping for was nonexistent. We walked through one of the indoor flea markets and then finally just headed to the bus. Bleh.
After the market we had a much more interesting stop. We drove to the Qing Tombs. We have an English speaking guide that was telling us the history of the tombs and the emperors, but she didn’t talk very loud and we were in the back of the bus so we didn’t really learn anything. Kinda wish we had been given a pamphlet or something. We arrive at the tombs and the bus can’t stop at most of the places because the drive is under construction. We are able to get out briefly at a few sections to take pictures, and then we arrive at the finest tombs. It is pretty impressive. We walk around outside and then head in to look at the tombs. It is a few levels underground and the tomb area is all engraved marble. The tombs themselves are above ground and encased in glass. The carvings on the walls and ceilings were amazing.
We were given a few more minutes to walk around the grounds of the tombs, then headed to a restaurant where we were treated to a Chinese style lunch. Meaning when we first sat down, there was only a few things on the table. Some sort of vegetable and then rice. The food just kept coming and coming. I was pretty adventurous in the food that I tried, which was risky with the race being in less than 24 hours. But it was so good! All in all, probably 14 different types of food. I had a small cup of beer with the food. The best part of the lunch was getting a chance to talk with the people at our table. We were randomly sitting with some pretty incredible people! There was a couple from South Africa that had run Comrades, a couple from New York that had just returned from Paris, there was a man that has actually run the Antarctica marathon. It’s always fun to just talk with other people who actually make you feel normal…
After lunch it was back on the bus and then back to the hotel. We had nothing else on the agenda until the pasta dinner, so first I tried to get the basic things ready for race day. I never like to leave things until the last minute, too much chance to forget things. We still had a few hours to kill so we decided to walk around the area. Also terrifying. It’s hard to explain what it’s even like, but the first street we walked was a main street with basic shops. Turn down the next street to head to what we think is a downtown area and we see it all. Meat on a stick. Men playing some sort of games on the sidewalk. Homeless people. It’s crazy. And scary. But we keep going and then we end up at a T shaped intersection. I think maybe I can find some souvenirs finally. It’s super busy and we can’t really get across the street, but we just meander up and down the street in both directions. This area isn’t quite as bad. But it’s LOUD. I obviously have lived in the city my entire life, and I know it’s not as crazy busy and loud as China. There are tons of horns honking ALL THE TIME. The shops have megaphones that blare their specials and speakers playing every type of music you can possibly imagine at insane volumes.
It’s starting to get dark so we head back. We still have a little time before dinner, and I start analyzing my gear. We heard that there were going to be a ton of aid stations (28 for the marathon), so I was rethinking my fuel belt. Also, the race bib was ginormous and didn’t have holes punched. I opted to skip the belt, but then I needed to program a race mix of music onto my iPhone/camera because I wouldn’t have room for both that and my regular iPod. This took until the pasta dinner.
|Sunset over Jixian|