Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Great Wall

A few pics

I have been extremely responsible with my vitamin intake since arriving in Beijing and apparently housekeeping has noticed and decided to reward me for it. Yesterday I returned home to find a bottle of water along with a tall drinking glass next my perfectly arranged vitamin collection on my bed stand.

I soon put that tall drinking glass to excellent use.

I went to the Great Wall today on a private tour with about 11 other people. Our tour guide was "Catherine" Lu - and true to her name, she was a bit of a Chatty Cathy. With good reason, I mean, she's a tour guide and all. But on the ride over to the Wall, we were mostly interested in looking out the window and taking in the sights. Instead we got an extended and intense history lesson and it would have been rude to totally ignore her - even though I definitely tried at times. Did you know that the Ming Dynasty was the longest? And that so many people died during the making of the Great Wall that it's considered the worlds largest cemetery? Um, creepy.

It was about a 90 minute drive out of Beijing to the portion of the Wall that we visited. It was not commercial at all, but it was definitely geared towards tourists - we got besieged by fan and dragon sellers on the way out. Not the way up for some reason - but on the way out, two of us (the girls, of course) decided to sneak a peek at the goods on sale. Well, that broke the seal. The sellers were after us the minute we made eye contact with a jeweled chopstick. I actually got barricaded by a woman who would not let me leave until I bought something. She had a great opening line though - "Oh, I remember you! You come back!" I mean, how could I not love that? Such a blatant lie - I had to appreciate her moxie and buy a couple of things.

This is the portion of the wall we went to

Once we got to the Wall, it was unbelievable. It was a gorgeous day, very hot and humid, but far less humid than it has been. But holy crap - that is one steep wall! I was imagining a leisurely stroll along the top of the wall but no way dude! I was wearing entirely inappropriate footwear. Unfortunately, my saying over here has become "I'm not very smart in China."

It had some stunning views and I exhausted my camera taking pics. I have a pretty sturdy battery but it threw it's hands up in surrender after I went click happy walking along the wall.

The absolute BEST part of the tour, though, was the trip down from the wall. Before we left, one of the researchers asked me if I was going to take the toboggan down. I laughed thinking, oh those clever research monkeys... too smart for their own good. Ok, no - he was dead serious. The way you got down from the wall was via plastic sled shooting down a metal slide. We went up on a ski lift and I think we could have gotten down that way, but come on, who's going to be the wuss that doesn't take the toboggan down? It was SO FUN! And long! And way, way faster than I thought I would ever careen down a mountain in China. I was right behind the tour guide and she was just flying down the hill so I'm thinking, oh well heck, I can do that too. Stacey, she does this every day. She's a tour guide. The good news is that I totally hung in there and didn't fall off the mountain so, yay me!

I read an article before I left that talked about China putting up giant walls in front of "unsightly" neighborhoods or stores so I was curious to see if I would actually notice them. It wasn't too hard! China has worked incredibly hard at covering up the rough spots of their country. There was a long stretch of cleanly painted grey stone walls. Well, if you looked down the alley ways, about 2 buildings down you'd see what those buildings probably looked like a month ago. Just normal brown stones, but somewhat dirty and uneven. The freshly painted grey walls were smoothed out and spotless. It's almost amusing to see how they've tried to clean up their country. It's like - oh, they won't notice something slightly down the road. It reminds me of a kid cleaning up their room by shoving everything haphazardly into the closet.

All in all - pretty amazing day!!

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