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Published: June 24th 2011
So here i was, all Shaolin-ed out and ready to move on to another country, so i thought i'd stop over a northern city of the country where apparently they know how to build walls and stuff...
Beijing is all you read in the guide books and more. A busy city like a capital should be, with a rich heritage right in the centre. After mopping over the fact i will not break any more bricks for some time, i took a walk around the centre. My hostel was located near everything so sights where abundand. Ten minuites from where I stayed lies Tienamen Square, boasting to be the largest of its kind in the world. It is the ancient gate to the city and more recently, the area where the "happless democratic revolution attempt took place"...
Around the four corners lie government buildings, Mao's Mausoleum, the People's Museum and several monuments to honour the people's revolution that took place post-war. In the neighborhoods around the square you can find everything. Little markets where you can buy a Rolex, or a Faulex, food streets where they sell you dumplings stuffed with, what i can assume after a
lot of gesturing of index fingers sticking out of the man's forehead and the sound of a cow, would be beef, and even more exotic foods. I'll leave the last one to the reader's imagination...
On my second day in the city I visited the Forbidden Palace / City. In the four hours I spent there i couldn't help but picture men dressed in exotic armours, women in colourful clothes and thousands of people milling about the vast courtyards and beautiful palaces, trying to see whoever the emperor was at the time, doing business and conducting intrigue. It is a city within a city and a wonder how it survived so many invasions and wars. My explanation is that, any conqueror, mongolian or otherwise was left astounded by the magnificance that they would not dare destroy it, less they risk losing control of the empire. There are countless palaces and gorgeous gardens, which are now places of respite for the traveller, and exhibition halls where the treasures that were found are shown.
I took a tour using a clever electronic guide, which using a GPS signal whould tell me the history of each location within the walls as i
arrived.... That is, in theory at least. In practice what happened was that the satellite signal must have been off by a few meters, enabling the lady in my earpiece to start talking about the history of the interior of a specific building while i was still standing in the middle of a square surounded by at least four buildings! So a treasure hunt of the kind that Indiana Jones would commend would ensue, with me looking around frantically as if I saw ghosts everywhere and running in all directions until I found the correct location. But hey, where's one's sense of adventure hey?
On my last full day in Beijing I booked a tour to that famous Great Wall of theirs. On the way we visited the Ming Tombs, or a ming tomb open to the public and saw their ancient burial grounds in the mountains. As is the theme of my travels so far i saw more similarities than differences to other civilisations. They used very large coffins for their rulers, their wives would be buried with them, and loads of treasures would be placed along side them, in a location that would remain secret once the
tombs where closed. A specific ritual stands out, where the burial procession would go around a gate to the tomb, avoiding going through it, as this would signify the official entry to the underworld. After the burial would take place however, the procession would go through that gate, signifying that they are leaving the underworld and all the spirits behind them, and re-enter the world of the living. Our tour actually observed the same tradition, amidst a lot of "I dare you to go through the gate", naturally with no one actuall doing it... You never know...whooooo!
Right before our arrival to the wall, we visited a Jade workshop and exhibition, where we were shown how Jade is sculpted and how, when worn as jewellery, the changing of its colour from intense green to pale green almost white, signifies good health. It was explaned that it's the toxins and oils on the skin of the wearer that react with the stone thus changing it's colour. Naturaly, at the shop section of the workshop, we were encouraged to "look around and feel free to purchase items"
After a quick meal, came the wall. Yup! They certainly knew how to
build them! Apparently the Wall started in various forms and many sections about 5000 years ago, obtaining the more unified and modern structure in the last 2000. It was primarily built to deflect attacs from all the various races that comprise modern day China, as well as the more recent famous Mongolian invasion (them mongorians...always trying to bring down my chity warr...everytime china man buirds a warr...)
It is literally awesome! The scenery around it is breath taking! We chose the ski lift to go up and spend 2 hours on the wall taking pictures and admiring the view, and a lot of my group catching their breath! (never the Shaolin-trained traveller mind...) After much imagining of battles and sieges came the most fun you can have on the Great Wall, which was the Tobboganing on the way down!!! Yup! You can slide your way down to the base of mountain!!! Naturaly there was the soundtract of "More than a feeling" and a healthy dose of whooping that came with it....and i'm not ashamed of it!
What a last day in China! Next day bright and early, i took a ride in the very efficient Beijing Tube to the
airport and made my way to my next destination...
So long China! I am glad to say I loved every minute of you!
Bring on the 'Nam....
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