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Published: November 10th 2009
I was very excited about a trip to see the Great Wall of China and we had heard only good things about the organised trip that could be booked through our hostel so we secured a place each, Maria and I, and we set our alarm clocks for 5am so that we could brave the freezing cold morning. 5:55 our transport arrived and two Germans, a Scot and I joined a bus with a couple of other people and off we headed for the three hour journey to Simatai for a 10km “hike” along the wall.
To say that the wall was breath taking and absolutely gob smacking would be an understatement it is truly truly one of the most amazing places I have ever experienced. We spent ages dawdling on rout taking in the vastness of the wall and its sheer beauty against the clear blue sky day. While many were panting and huffing and puffing I do suspect we started a little way down from the steepest part of the wall and I found the “hike” rather enjoyable and not nearly as steep as I had expected (although I will admit there were times when the gradient was
On Rout to The Wall
6:15am and on the road
astounding). I have no idea how on earth that wall was constructed it is an absolute mean feat and I’m so grateful I have had the opportunity to visit it!
Some 3 odd hours and 400 photos later we reached the end of the walk at the bridge over the river at Jinshanling and once we crossed over the bridge we took the very fun zip line down to the boat across the river where we were met by a driver who picked us up and took us to the dining hall where we indulged in a little Chinese buffet lunch. What a truly magical day in China!
It took us a good three hours to get back into the city and while we were all a little bushed we decided that we couldn’t just end the day at 5pm so we all headed in our own directions for an hour or so and then the Germans, Maria, Myself and out newly acquainted Canadian Celebrity friend met up again and went on a re-pursuit of the Silk Road Market which Maria and I had not been able to find the previous evening. Luckily this time we found the
Market pretty easily and spent some time being hounded by 100’s of vendors trying to part with their knock off brand T-s and the like. Our German mate Hendrik was an absolute pro at bargaining so we had a good laugh watching him beat the vendor’s prices to a 1/5 of what they were originally asking.
We were due to go for Peking duck together but the German boys had a train to catch and Maria, Kevin and I were having second thoughts about having to wait for an hour to get some food so we opted for a regular dinner and a glass of wine and then called it an early night, a great end to a great day, and I can’t wait to go back!
Before I left South Korea I thought I was being smart purchasing my ticket from Xian to Gaungzhau but it was turning out to be a bit of a mission. I was only allowed to change the ticket date once, which I did and now that the date was drawing near I had no alternative but to book my train ticket from Beijing to Xian for the following night. I wasn’t really
keen to spend the fair bit extra for a soft sleeper ticket and all the hard sleeper tickets on the 9:30pm train were already sold out so I had my trusty hostel host book me a hard sleeper ticket for 6:30pm so that I could make it to Xian, spend some time there before catching my flight to Gaungzhou ultimately destined for Hong Kong.
With my ticket booked it now meant I only a day left to explore Beijing. I was feeling as though I hadn’t had a proper opportunity to do what I do best and just wonder around and get lost in the neighbourhood so I spent a nice leisurely morning walking amongst the people and getting a better sense of my surrounds which was really nice. I’m continually struck by the vast contrast between China and South Korea and how, while China is an emerging Power, things are still done in a very traditional fashion. What I particularly appreciated was the simple way the people go about day to day things and watching the construction workers down tools around 12:30 and just lie down for an afternoon siesta anywhere they can find a fairly level space
was also entertaining.
Once I’d had my fill of people watching I went back to the hostel to pack my bags and then headed to the Forbidden City for the remainder of the afternoon. The Forbidden city was really lovely and while the mammoth size of the buildings and the area that the Forbidden city covers is very very impressive and has some people captivated for hours I had had my fill after about 2 hours and it was time to head back to Xisi to collect my bags and get to the train station to catch my train.
While Beijing was interesting and the Great Wall amazing, I found myself sitting in the traffic on rout to the station reflection on my three days in Beijing and for whatever reason, maybe it was due to the epic pollution or perhaps due to time constraints, I found myself rather jaded with the experience. This being said I do think that experiencing Beijing in a whirlwind is not the way to do it so I am happy to give Beijing the benefit of the doubt and I will hopefully be back in the near future to reassess its offerings.
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