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The Adventurer’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 06 May 2006

Location: Beijing, China

MapWhat a day! I woke up at 6 am, tired from the night before but ready to go and finally set foot on the Great Wall. Brian was gracious enough to take me to the bus station to see that I got away ok. Before I go on, I should mention here that we had planned to camp on the Wall, but this plan fell through (which is ok since it gave me more time to do other things). It would indeed be an adventure just to get out to the Wall. A taxi driver tried negotiating with us to take me there and back. His price was actually pretty good because I ended up paying about the same anyway, but I turned him down and decided to take a bus. It was not your typical big tour bus. It was a small, mini-bus, but old, cramped and crowded. For 8 Yuan (about .80 cents CDN), what did I expect? For the next 3 hours, I would be on this little thing, and it was a bumpy ride. Managed to have a cat nap. You can see as you leave Beijing how much poorer China is as you see a lot of farmers living a simple life with not much by Western standards.

My bus took me to a town called Myun. Here I would transfer to another bus. I met another couple who were also headed out to the Great Wall, but they were going to a different part. We were accosted by taxi drivers once we stepped off the bus. It's funny because one taxi driver will come to you and then a swarm of people will gather around to watch the negotiating process (which was NOT in English). I think they get a real kick out of it. The guy was asking about $25 Cdn for a return trip. This was too expensive, so we turned it down because the bus is much cheaper. Luckily, we found a tourist information center. This is all new in this area. These things are being setup in preparation for the Olympics. The lady's English wasn't too great, but enough to help. She could not give us a bus number because there wasn't one, but instead wrote down the Chinese characters that I had to watch for. So back to the street I went and the couple I met went in a different direction. As I waited, taxi drivers were constantly trying to offer me a ride to the Wall, even saying "No Bus! No Bus!" Of course, I knew they were lying. Finally, my bus came and it matched the Chinese characters that the lady wrote down for me. I had to transfer one more time, but it was quick and easy.

As we got into the mountains, my eyes were on the lookout for the Wall. You don't see it as soon as you see the mountains. I even had another cat nap. And then, shortly after I woke up, there it was in all its glory. It was now noon. It had taken me 4.5 hours to get here. I of course had to just sit and stare for awhile when I stepped off the bus. I grabbed some noodles for a quick bit to eat and bought my entrance ticket. Previously, there was no entrance fee to this part of the Wall, but because of the Olympics, this is all changing. This part of the Wall is also being restored. I was running short on time, so I decided to take a chairlift that goes a little more than halfway up to the Wall (wasn't doing this to be lazy, but to save time). I had to just sit and take in the view; it was spectacular--here I was looking at this structure made by thousands of people so many years ago, and that is one of the seven wonders of the world, and can be seen from outer space!

I stepped off the chair lift and made my way up the stairs. I was warned about the ladies who follow you all the way up the wall to try and sell you stuff. She kept talking to me and trying to sell stuff to me, and I just wanted to be left alone to enjoy. Finally, I was able to get rid of her with a firm "Bye-bye." I think the look on my face said it all because she left me alone for the time being. Just before I stepped on to the Wall, my batteries in my camera died, and I didn't have spare ones. So I'm thinking "Oh great. I'm about to step onto one of the 7 wonders of the world, and I'm not going to have any pictures. There is no way I'll find batteries here." I was wrong. A little tourist stand was setup by the Wall and they were selling batteries. Of course, they were not willing to bargain as they knew I needed them and I was willing to pay. They cost me about $6 Cdn--ok not expensive by Canadian standards, but in Beijing you can get them for less than $1.00 Cdn.

So I got my batteries and to the Wall I went. The lady who tried selling me stuff was back and hassling me again. I ignored her as I took in the feeling of being on the Great Wall of China, and the view. The view was absolutely breathtaking. You could see that the Wall went on for miles and miles--both ways. I went to the top of a lookout tower and happened to meet some Canadians up there--3 of them! They helped me get rid of the lady. We went to lookout tower number 12 together (all the lookout towers are numbered for reference). You could not go any further as it was blocked off and there were two guards, but clearly this part of the wall was untouched by restoration. It was a little disappointing not being allowed to go any further considering that you can get to the unrestored parts in other areas, but anyway, nothing we could do. I'm amazed that I saw what I did. Words cannot express the way that I felt. Strange to think that a great Mongolian ruler by the name of Genghis Kahn bribed his way past this Wall, so in all its grandeur, it was not able to keep out the enemy completely (I read this somewhere).

I told the other Canadians to go ahead without me as I wanted to sit and take in the feeling some more. I took some photos. The clouds were formed in such a way that made the view so beautiful with the silhouette of the mountains, the layers of cloud and the Wall--I hope I was able to capture some of this well enough on the photos.

Again, I was running short of time, so I made my way back to the chair lift and took it to the bottom. I managed to swing a taxi ride for 80 Yuan (about $5-6 Cdn) and it was only a 3 hour ride. I got back to the apartment and Brian and I went for dinner and then strolled the streets a bit more. We went to the apartment and watched a movie and called it a night. Next on the agenda: the Hutongs of Beijing.