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Published: July 26th 2011
The Great Wall
Jinshanling to Simatai
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall (before you say it I know this song wasn’t written about the great wall, but it was the only song that sprung to mind containing a reference to a wall.)
After my last blog it might have seemed as if Beijing was getting the better of me, well thankfully I’m pleased to say that was not the case. Don’t get me wrong the spitting and general lack of personal space is something I may never get use to but whilst in China I really have no choice but to accept it. It’s my last day in Beijing before I fly to Pingyao, well somewhere within two hours of it on bus because that was the closest I could fly to.
My final few days in Beijing have been very different to the first 5, they started by meeting up with a friend who I met in South Korea called Valerie (see I told you that I would mention you.) Just to set the scene Valerie has been studying Chinese over here for 4 months and kindly invited me to join a Tai-chi session and attend one of her Chinese
The Great Wall
Me in my team colours
lessons. I was very happy to go along because it gave me the chance to see another side to Beijing and Chinese life. The Tai-chi was really cool, even though I had no idea what I was doing I was made to feel very welcome by the somewhat older generation of locals who were at the early morning class. After failing miserably at the general tai-chi movements and routines I then proceeded to attempt the racket and ball element of the class, there is a proper name for this but it has escaped my memory for the time being. I have to say I was gutted they didn’t trust me with the sword, maybe I can try that next week. Armed with my second weapon of choice I thought I would be pretty good at balancing a ball on a racket and doing various routines because I’m normally pretty good at racket sports but I was soon put in my place by an old guy who never once dropped the ball whilst I was running all over the place to pick mine up! I have since got my own racket and ball and I’m determined I will perfect this art
whilst waiting for trains and buses along my journey.
Tai-chi was great fun and then it was off to my first Chinese lesson, well it’s fair to say I had no clue what was going on, not a word of English was spoken and I just sat there bemused, after the first break I have to confess I resorted to playing on my iPhone, I felt like a naughty school kid. Having said that it was an awesome day and a chance to experience so many new things away from the tourist hotspots.
The following day it was time to get out of the heart of Beijing and head to the great wall. Of course there are the organised tours that take care of everything for you but there is also the option of creating your own tour. I’m guessing you already know which one I opted for. After meeting up with Valerie and Flo we set off towards Jinshaling by a combination of local buses and taxi’s which was fairly straight forward (especially when one of your group speaks Chinese) apart from the endless bartering for prices every time you take a step towards a new destination,
it does become very tiring but we all hate being ripped off so you have to do it. On the final leg of our journey the taxi driver dropped us off at a hostel very close to the great wall where we spent the night before getting up at 5am to get to the wall before to many tourists arrived. The final bit of our transport to the wall was priceless, it was a combination of a motorbike and a Toyota Hi-Lux, the only drawback was it was falling apart and because there was only space for two people on the luxury carpet seat I had to sit on a small stool and hold on for my life around every corner, it was a ride I will never forget. The great wall was incredible, this is clearly an obvious thing to say but the enormity of the wall is mind blowing, it truly is astonishing! Sadly we had quite a lot of fog on the day of our visit but after 6 hours trekking across the wall in the most hot and humid conditions we managed to get some pretty good photos without to many tourists in them, so it
I can't wait to see this on the top gear track
was well worth it! After a tiring day I was pleased to be back at my hostel, get showered and relax.
On my final day in Beijing I met up with Valerie again for more randomness and firsts for us both. We went to the zoo to see the Panda’s which are incredibly cute but I’m still unsure if the animals should be the ones in the cages or the locals??? The animals seem to spit less than the Chinese! Other than the Panda’s the zoo was a bit of an anti-climax, it was not particularly well looked after and the animals had so little room within their enclosures it was a bit depressing especially when there was so much space in the grounds of the zoo. After seeing the Panda’s we called it a day because we had seen enough.
For the final part of our day we decided it was time for a Chinese massage, we opted for the 1 hour full body massage, it was a very strange experience because I don’t think the masseuse had received proper training but they were giving it a dam good go and at certain points it was rather
Our transport to the wall
Im just giving it the once over, it has brakes and a light so that's a pass!
painful. Some parts of the massage were exactly what I was expecting but to have the inside of my ears massaged with her fingers and also my eye balls massaged did take me by surprise!!! But for the grand sum of £6 for the hour I don’t think I can really complain.
So my time in Beijing has come to an end, I have very mixed feelings about the city, there is so much to see and do that it is impossible to get bored and many of the sights are world renowned and truly incredible. But the overriding element that sticks in my mind is just how busy it is. I have never been anywhere so intense and crowded and the nonstop noise of the traffic, the people and the shops after a while grinds you down to the point where you just want to get out to somewhere with a little bit of peace and quiet. I’m very pleased I came and enjoyed my time in Beijing but it’s fair to say it’s not the place for me because I like to be able to see the sky without a layer of smog blocking the sun and
Jinshanling to Simatai
Me being a complete tourist!
I would prefer to be able to get on the subway without having to fight for a space that is actually smaller than I am. But the people I’ve met and shared all these incredible experiences with far outweigh these downsides and have made my time in Beijing really special.
Fair well Beijing and hello to the comfort of an internal flight to Taiyuan and a short bus ride to Pingyao to take in the historic side of china away from the madness.
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