Published: November 5th 2010November 3rd 2010
The highlight so far and one of my lifelong ambitions came true today - we went to the Great Wall of China (as Ding our guide said - built to keep the rabbits out. It was actually funny trying to explain to the English and South Africans what we found so funny). We set of bright and early to the Juyongguan Pass which is apparently less touristy (it has no cable car to take you to the top like some of the other parts do) and is one of the steeper parts as it is built into the mountain side. The part where we went consisted of 4 towers (divided by an uncountable number of steps). My goal was to reach the second tower in the time that we had. The steps were horrendous. It would have been much easier if they were all the same size but some were extremely tall and others were really short. I hugged the railing and didn't look down as the incline was quite steep and the drop was amazing. Once I made it to the top it was amazing -such a great view. Most of the group were satisfied with this part of the
climb - some went on a bit more while some didn't attempt the climb. As you reflected on the view you couldn't help but think about the poor souls who died building the wall - apparently over 1 million people constructed the wall in inhumane conditions, many of whom died in the process. It is an amazing wonder! Once the reflecting and photo opportunities ceased is was time to come down. By this time the tourists had come flocking in so it was actually quite crowded. I was fine coming down as long as I grabbed hold of the railing and watched where I was walking. It was funny when we stopped climbing the stairs and walked on the stone ramp - all of our legs felt really funny like we were still trying to walk down stairs. An utterly amazing expereince and one that I won't forget in a hurry.
We left the full carpark and the busloads of tourists and headed of to the jade factory for a bit of shopping and a lovely lunch (we are quite spoilt actually - lunch and dinner are both chinese banquets with a heap of food to choose from). I
bought a couple of jade pieces but because they take so long to carve and only a few people are skilled enough to carve them, they are actually really expensive. I couldn't resist the Budda (for knowledge, happiness and long life - depending where you rubbed) and the money dragon (although if anyone else rubs the money dragon they will take money from you rather than you gaining wealth). What is amazing is that each piece is different, with no piece of jade or carving the same.
We then went to the 15th century Temple of Heaven. This is where the emperor prayed to heaven and prayed for a good harvest. All of the other buildings built during this time were rectangle as this signified buildings on earth. The Temple of Heaven is round as it signifies the link to heaven and the Gods. Again another amazing piece of architecture but by this stage we had had enough, especially of climbing steps.
After dinner we had an amazing experience. We went to the Legend of KungFu at the Red Theatre. It was constant action for one and a half hours with no gaps inbetween. It told the story
of how a young boy grew up practicing Kung Fu with the master and after many trials and tribulations he reached the goal of enlightenment. The entire show (except for the female lead) was performed by monks trained in Kung Fu - not the Hollywood Kung Fu but the real art. Apparently they have toured around the world and if you ever get the chance, it is one that you shouldn't miss as you were spellbound for the entire performance. The monks were amazing athletes, and the young children in the show, who were probably only about 8 or 9 had been training since they were about 3 years old. It gave you a new appreciation of the culture of this amazing country.
Tomorrow is our last full day in Beijing and we have an action packed day with a tour of the Summer Palace, shopping in the silk markets were you can by genuine fakes, a rickshaw ride and an acrobatics show.
There are more photos below