Should be called the Steep wall of China
Yup, thats the big wall itself. And our most distinct memory of the place was not awe and wonder at the amazing construction feat, or amazement at how well it was preserved, but rather how painful our feet were and how my lungs hurt so much from panting and how we thought we were going to die.
These were apparently the words of Ronald Regan - a man of immense depth as described by his insightful statement. Yes, today we went to see the most famous sight in China, the famous Great Wall.
Unfortunately, we booked ourselves onto a non-English speaking, all Chinese speaking tour. However, how much commentary does one really need regarding a big wall - right? Wrong. About 20 minutes into the bus trip, the chinese tour dragon lady walked up to us and asked for 40 Yuan extra. We had both been looking out the window before, so we hadn't noticed that she had asked many others for the extra cash and had been told to go take a big flying leap out the back window. So when she demanded the extra cash for us, I tried to make her tell us what the money was for, but after 5 minutes of frustrated pointing and gesture making from her, decided it was easier to just have her shut up by giving her the money.
I discovered 5 minute later that the only other foreigner on board had decided not to pay either, and had managed to extract from her that the 40
Almost at the top, or so we thought
We took this picture to celebrate the fact that we were almost at the top. Note the distinct lack of people because not many people actually make it this far. But alas, as we climbed over the next hump, we discovered the wall went on for ages, and at an even steeper grade.
Yuan was for some extra sight we were going to see - what this was he no clue. So knowing our luck, we had just paid a bit more money to see the local toilet.
Anyway, we finally got the Great Wall, and all the traumas on the bus were forgotten. Yup, it was big, and extremely steep. The particular segment that we had come to run up the side up a mountain at a pretty steep angle - 45 degrees the majority of the way. We good see a steady line of people walking up and down the mountain along the wall, except the density of people seemed to reduce the further up the mountain we looked. It obviously was going to be another day of tired walking.
We followed our tour group first into a little group of temples. After looking bored for about 10 minutes while the chinese tour leader explained fervently the meanings of every single statue in the temple, we were told be another tour guy that we could go walking up the wall and could simply meet the group back at the bus later. The other foreigner on the bus, a German
I thought I'd let Melenie feel like she was in a position of power for the day - but we all know who really runs the show around here, don't we (hope she doesn't read this or I'll be in trouble)
guy named Claus, decided to join us, and we proceeded to climb the steep wall.
It was pretty spectacular. The further up the mountain you went, the more you could see snaking up the side of the moutain. It was like - "does this wall ever end - will we ever reach the top". And as we got further up the moutain, the crowds started to thin out, allowing us to have some great views over the valley, and to simply sit and enjoy the serene environs of the wall. Unfortunately, we had little breath left for enjoyment, because after 20 minutes of solid ascent, we were puffed and stuffed. Nevertheless, we pressed on, and were rewarded 20 minutes later with reaching the top and having a full 360 degree view around the valley and the wall.
Sadly, it was a bit of a foggy day, so the view didn't go for miles. But we got the picture. Its a long wall, that goes on apparently for 5000km (although it isn't continuous for all of this distance). It's pretty tall as wall, and snakes up and down a number of mountains. The poor sods who built this thing
The first (and last) black emperor of China
Ruler of all that he surveys with his trusty consort by his side. All tremble at the sight of his imperial yellow robes. Hail to King Kitty!
must have been really fit, because the wall didn't take the easy way up the mountains either - just the quickest, shortest and steepest path that lead right to the top.
Running down the wall was even more fun. We'd lost track of the time, and suddenly realised that we had less than 20 minutes to reach the bottom before our tour bus left. So we had to run all the way down, trying not to trip over the crumbling stairs and the numerous old ladies lying dead on the floor (they obviously tried to go too high).
We thought that we'd get to go back to Beijing after the great wall, but the tour bus had other ideas. We were next taken to a jade shop and forced to browse through the numerous items for sale. They were pretty and I had to stop Melenie from pulling out her credit cards numerous times. Next stop on the tour was the highlight of every tour - a stop at the local supermarket. Why, we asked ourselves, were we stopping here. It was only upon entering the place that we found that this was a 'taste and buy' supermarket selling all kinds of preserved fruits and related items. So we wandered through the aisles taste all kinds of weird and tasty dried stuff before sucumbing to buying half a kilo of jelly that we discovered later tasted like rancid seaweed.
We were then promised lunch, and were pretty excited when the tour bus stopped outside a little chinese restaurant. But we weren't the only excited ones. All the local chinese people CHARGED off the bus - it was a first come first serve basis for grabbing the best seat at the table, so there was pushing and shoving all around. We finally managed to find a seat and were given a tasty meal of steamed fish, fried pork, and an assortment of different chinese vegetables. The food was pretty tasty, however it was a bit gross because everybody served themselves from the plates in the centre using the same chopsticks that they shoved inside their dirty mouths. I'm sure its normal etiquitte to only touch the food that your taking when eating in this fashion, but these tour group people obvioulsy didn't believe in etiquette. One woman took extreme pleasure in touching every single piece of pork on the plate before grabbing one and then sucking on the chopstick before shoving it back in the communal plate and digging around for another piece of meat. Talk about an easy way to catch diseases!! No wonder SARS spread so quickly around here.
We were then taken to the tomb of the Ming Emperors. This looked pretty much like the Forbidden City. A series of big red buildings, with the occassional white building thrown in for a bit of variety. All in all, the tombs were pretty disappointing, although we did get the wander through a museum and see all those exciting things you see in a museum such as a gold cup, and gold spoon and even a gold fork!!
By now, we both just wanted to get off this dumb tour bus and get back to Beijing. But alas, there was still another stop. This stop actually turned out to be pretty good - a chinese wax museum reinacting many of the scenes from Chinese history. Not only was an educational and an interesting recreation of chinese culture, but there was one part in the museum where we got to dress up as Chinese emperors and empresses and take pictures. How cool is that!! Okay, I know it sounds daggy, but it really was very fun!
Finally, the tour bus decided to head back to Beijing, but they had one final surprise in store for us - a movie - alas it was in Chinese!! Thankfully, Chinese movies are more than enjoyable regardless of the language you speak because they're full of fighting. This movie was actually very funny, and we didn't even notice the 2 hours that it took to get back to Beijing.
So we finally arrived back in Beijing vowing never to go on another Chinese tour. Yet in retrospect, it actually was a rather fun day. Yes, apart from the Great Wall and the Wax museum, the rest of the attractions were terrible, but we did get to hang around with a chinese tour group, and share food with them communally, and observe how chinese tourists eat, sleep, talk and even burp (yes burping is more than acceptable here and was frequent part of the verbal repertoire of the guy behind me).
Tot: 0.08s; Tpl: 0.045s; cc: 6; qc: 24; dbt: 0.0129s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.2mb