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May 17th 2019
Published: January 19th 2020
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Breakfast was served in the hotel restaurant until 9 am, so I made my way there around 8:30. There were a few other tables taken, but it wasn't too busy. I was shown to a table and after a short wait my breakfast arrived. I was given a huge wooden box that was divided into 9 equal sized squares. Each one contained a small taster of a different dish. It was really beautifully and imaginatively presented. The box contained: corn and pumpkin, a beef, potato and carrot stew, a sausage and onion dish, onion and peppers, celery, lotus root, greens and peanuts, Chinese pickles with chilli paste, and watermelon. I was also given a bowl of millet porridge, a hard boiled egg, a mantou (Chinese steamed bread roll), and a meat filled baozi (bread dumpling). There was also plenty of hot tea. The breakfast was delicious and I loved the variety, it was nice to eat so many different dishes. The breakast filled me up nicely, and I didn't feel overly full.

After checking out, I headed to 'the First Pass Under Heaven', the main tourist attraction in town which was located right next to my hotel. The entrance fee was 40 RMB. There were a few tour groups around, but nothing too crazy. Since most people were heading to the main pass to look around, I decided to explore the grounds a little first. I headed over to what was the Subdivision of the Ministry of War. Shanhaiguan Pass is located at the strategic passage of Jieshi Ancient Road and it guards the Liaoxi Corridor. It was built early in the Ming Dynasty and the Subdivision of the Ministry of War was established there in 1434. The original buildings are gone, but the replicas I took a look around were built in 2004. I looked around the Main Hall, where administrative matters were handled. I loved looking at the calligraphy, not that I gave a clue what it says and I really liked the pictures in there. It was nice to wander around the small buildings and courtyards as it was really peaceful. Poem Corridor was a nice place, too. The walls of the corridor, which surrounds a courtyard, are covered with ten poems that praise the scenery of Shanhaiguan Pass.

I headed back over to the main part of the complex. I came to Zhendong Tower situated at the East Gate. This is the landmark building of the pass, which is probably why so many people were getting their photos taken in front of it. I walked through the gate and came to a small wooded area, that wasn't very interesting, so I kept walking. Next, I came to a small lake, which was rather pretty. There were quite a lot of fish in it and in one of the lakeside pavilions, there were people selling fish food. Quite a few people were buying it and this attracted most of the fish to the edge of the lake. The fish were really greedy, some of them were practically on the path trying to get food. It was fun to watch them. I decided to head to the other side of the lake and chill in one of the pavilions with my book for a while.

I eventually made my way up on to the pass. The path up was steep, but not too bad. I had a little walk around before going to Zhengdong Tower. It was built in 1381 and is a nine ridge gable and hip roof structure. The tower would have given great views over the surrounding area. I really wish that more than the ground floor of the tower was open to visitors as I would have loved to have climbed to a higher floor to get a peek out of one of the windows. Next, I headed along the pass in one direction. Here, there were some old base stones on display. There were also statues of soldiers lining the wall in different poses of attack. I liked looking over the edge of the wall and seeing the town of Shanhaiguan below. Here, all the building were old one storey brick structures. There were lots of gardens for growing vegetables. I came to Linlv Tower, which had been used to defend Shanhaiguan Pass during the Ming Dynasty. It was abandoned and turned into ruins during the Qing Dynasty, before being restored in the 1980s. Just past the tower, the wall was cordoned off, so I retraced my steps looking over the otherside of the wall. This side was much wilder, just trees and greenery. Also, the wall was pretty quite, most people don't venture this far along. I headed back to the central point and headed along the pass in the other direction. After a while, I came to Muying Tower, which I had a quick look around. From there, I continued on to Jingbian Tower. This tower seemed more ornate than the others. Just past the tower, there was another gate blocking further entry to the wall, so I headed back to the entrance/exit.

I decided to take a walk around the old town. I retraced my steps from the previous evening. You could visit the different gates, but they required an entrance ticket, so I didn't bother. It was nice to see the shops all open, even if they did all appear to be selling the same stuff. There were also some school kids (middle schoolers or high schoolers) on a field trip to the town. I wandered off the main street and came across a few places, such as a temple and another attraction (I'm not sure what it was), but they were closed. I suppose a lot of stuff only opens in high season. Since I was still pretty full from lunch, I ended up buying some of the sweet snacks that were on sale in pretty much all of the shops. There were so good that I ended up wolfing down one whole box. Maybe I was hungrier than I initially thought.

The train station was a short walk away from the old town. It only took about 15-20 minutes, however disaster struck as the North Entrance (the one I was at) was closed and undergoing rennovations. Bloody great! A taxi driver offered to drive me round to the South Entrance, but fearing that I would get ripped off I opted to walk. It took about another 15-20 minutes, as I had to head along the road beside the train tracks until I reached the underpass and the double back in myself on the opposite side of the tracks. The train station was pretty small and boring. I just sat reading while waiting for my train to be called. I really enjoyed visiting Laolongtou and Shanhaiguan, I doubt they are on many people's itineraries when visiting China, but their proximity to Beijing makes them a great day or overnight trip. I was also surprised at how quiet the attractions were. Maybe it was because there was a national holiday the week before, but I was rather happy at the lack of crowds.

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