Mystical and mighty... and to myself only??? No doubt about one thing... It certainly is the Great One!

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June 8th 2013
Published: July 16th 2013
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When we were leaving Datong in the morning things were looking pretty good – the weather was beautiful, sunny with blue skies (until now we haven’t been that successful with the weather, so were more than positively surprised!) and my stomach seemed to have settled for a moment (small bug it would seem, still decided to skip some meals just in case though – long journey ahead!). So full of optimism we headed to Jinshanling... Somewhere along the way we seemed to have run out of luck though as once we got to Jinshanling it was all misty and looked like it was going to rain any moment now… And it just happened so suddenly??? One moment clear blue skies, we drive into a tunnel, get out of it shortly after and it’s all grey and raining all around! Some weird weather they have around here. It’s as if we suddenly entered another weather zone… Looked like it was going to be an interesting night at the hotel as well – I say the place have seen better days as everything was squeaking and falling apart in the rooms… And what was up with the plastic covers under the sheets? Just in case somebody got overexcited from seeing the Great Wall? Hmmm... Only in China? 😉

Mist or no mist, rain or no rain, we only had that evening and a few hours next morning to see the wall so there was no time to loose but try to see at least a part of it before it got dark… Jinshanling part is apparently one of the best preserved stretches of the Great Wall. It goes for a bit over than 10km and has 67 watch towers. Well… Good to know at least as we surely couldn’t see any of that…. It was so misty that we couldn’t see further than 100 or max 200 metres actually… As disappointing as it was at first, it sure added a bit of atmosphere to our rendez-vous with the wall though… It looked quite mystical all around with the towers slowly coming out of the mist as we were getting closer to them… Also we were the only people on the wall, which obviously made the experience even more eerie! At one of the towers we had a chance to see some photographs of the beautiful panoramas around with the towers stretching miles away – sadly we couldn’t see them with our own eyes that day… We were hoping in the morning we would have a chance to see bigger part of the wall though… After a meal (a bowl of rice with a few drops of soya sauce for me, that’s right!) we called it an early night…

The plan was to head to the wall at 5.30am (we were supposed to leave Jinshaling at 10 so there definitely wasn’t much time to explore in the morning). Once I saw how miserable it looked like outside I gave up on that idea though and decided to go a bit later – there wouldn’t be much walking in the rain anyway, so had plenty of time (I was surprised to find out later that three girls actually went ahead with the plan!). We had a quick and another tasteless breakfast and headed to the cable cars – since they were running from 8.30 and it was only 8.00 some of us (including me) decided to walk up to the wall, while the others waited for the cable cars. It was drizzling a bit and was quite humid, so once I got to the wall I was all soaked! From inside as well actually as my raincoat is nowhere close to being breathable unfortunately… But then it didn’t really matter as I was suddenly struck with the views around, simply couldn’t believe my eyes! Despite the crappy weather, the visibility was perfect! The mist from the previous day had cleared and we could see the mighty wall stretching far, far away in the distance… Absolutely amazing view! And once again we were the only people on the wall! At some point I stayed behind my group so it really felt as if I had the whole wall to myself only! Great feeling! While some parts of the walls were in a very good state, the others were quite damaged or even in ruin I could say… I was wondering then how other parts of the wall looked like as this was supposed to be the better preserved one… Well… One day I will try to see some other parts as well – if only to compare the experiences… The visit to the wall was definitely one of the highlights of this trip and it surely didn’t disappoint… Actually the
our crazy local guide, Yenour crazy local guide, Yenour crazy local guide, Yen

...for some strange reason she was unable to walk anywhere... run, run, run all the time! ;)
fact that on the first day it was all misty added even more to the whole China Wall experience… I went down from the wall with a cable car (quite a few cars were full so it looked like it was a good time to head back anyway…) and treated myself to some expensive latte (40 yuan!!! A total rip off actually!), well deserved though as first of all I was totally soaked and besides I haven’t had a coffee in ages! So hard to get coffee in China!

Next stop on our itinerary was Chengde. They surely like to have everything the greatest, biggest and best in China as on the way to our hotel we stopped at Puning Temple to see the tallest Buddhist statue in the world. It is over 22m tall, and even though it is said to have thousand eyes and arms, it has 42 arms (only!) and each hand is holding an instrument, a lotus flower or some other Buddhist device. Well…Even if it wasn’t the tallest in the world, it would still look quite impressive…

The whole next day we had free time to explore the royal summer resort – Bishu Shanzhuang. First you walk into Main Palace through a series of courtyards and halls where you can see the old furniture, porcelain and some traditional clothing… We went through this place quite fast as the amount of Chinese tourists was simply overwhelming and nobody was in the mood to deal with that after still having in mind the tranquillity and peace from the Great Wall the previous day… And then we got to the gardens – wide stretches of grass, ponds and lakes all around, a few pavilions here and there, quite a pretty place for sure… I certainly wasn’t expecting the place would be so huge and so crowded! It appeared that we chose to come here on a bank holiday… Ah well… We walked around the gardens for a while and decided to go to Putuo Zongchengzhi Temple (imitation of Potala Palace in Lhasa??? I thought that even speaking about Tibet in China was taboo…???). We thought we would go there through the North Gate but once we got there, they just wouldn’t let us go through it… What??? After all this walking??? Apparently the gate has been closed for many years and tourists just weren’t allowed to go through there to the Palace – well it should be mentioned on the map then maybe??? It looked like we definitely wouldn’t be able to convince the ‘guards’ to open the gate for us, so just headed back through the park to another gate. I decided to call it a day… Enough walking for me that day, besides I would much prefer to see the real Potala Palace someday rather than its Chinese imitation so guess I haven’t lost much – saw the ‘fake one’ from a distance anyway and was more than happy with that… I have to say that the two nights in Chengde were totally unnecessary – I would rather have more time in Beijing instead… Ah well… If Chengde wasn’t included on Dragoman’s itinerary, I surely would never have come here (maybe wouldn’t even hear about it?)… At least I saw the tallest Buddha in the world right? The wooden one that is… As I’ve seen the tallest one in Leshan already… Hmmm… How many tallest Buddhas are there in China as getting a bit confused here? 😉 I was more than ready to head to my last destination in China – as they say save the best for last? We would see I guess… Last stop in China: Beijing!

Additional photos below
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16th July 2013
in Chengde

Putuozongcheng Zhi Miao
Magnificent photo of this mini Potala at Chengde. Looks great with greenery. Magic up close and inside as well.

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