9 June 2007

Belated Postcards - Great Wall of China

In October last year I did what every self-respecting Chinese must do: I climbed the great wall of China!!! It so happens that the Chinese part of me ( 1/16th or thereabouts) was simply thrilled to make this hyper-elating journey. Yes, my ancestors, I have not failed you!

So how did the day go again?
Ah, yes.

Oct 2006. After stuffing ourselves with pastries from the Novotel's breakfast buffet, we cought a taxi to Tiannamen Square. Across from Tiannamen Square, just beside the Qianmen metro stop, is the Qianmen Tour Bus station. We didn't want to do the Ming tombs, so we bought a tour ticket to Badaling only. Then we sat in a waiting room for an available bus. It was amusing seeing the mounting confusion in that room. We sat there among other clueless domestic tourists until the number corresponding to our tour number was called. (Hint: sign the number with your fingers for confirmation if you prefer...just don't get on the wrong bus!)

Now listen carefully: Do WHATEVER you can to get on that bus. Before the 11th of the month, that is, 'voluntarily wait in line' day was inaugurated in Beijing, there was a lack of a queue etiquette. Things should be much improved by 2008. LOL. If not, don't be intimidated and don't take things personally. You simply have to push in...gently. Just be assertive. Hopefully, if you mind your manners and stick to your spot you'll get on that bus without having to wait for another one to arrive. But they are scheduled frequently anyway so it wouldn't be the end of the world.

After about 1.5 hours drive in a comfy air-con bus, we stopped at the scenic spot of Badaling where visitors have two choices for climbing the wall:
1. They can walk up past each tower to a remarkable scenic spot, the eighth tower I think, to admire sweeping views of the restored wall snaking across beautiful ondulating hills OR
2. They can choose to catch the cable car directly up to the eighth tower.

The second option is highly recommended if you have opted to do the sensible thing and are wearing high heels on your visit to the Great Wall. WHAT THE?? Although, come to think of it, I did spot a couple of tourists braving the steps in their killer heels. I admired their composure. It was all done very stylishly.

Beware, it is a physically exhausting climb, bring water! However, if you are fit, you shouldn't listen to those clever tour operators who assure you that you MUST take the cable car. We were almost conned into it. We bought the tickets thinking we had no choice and found that we could simply walk from the bottom up. Later, we went to the ticket office to get a refund for the unused cable car tickets. All in sign language, since I don't know enough Mandarin (yet) but we managed to be understood and it was all in good spirit. The tour operator didn't make a deal of it but I think she was a little sheepish afterwards. Overall though, skip the cable car, make sure you have plenty of Getorade or salty chips or whatever, to keep your legs from cramping due to the non-stop stepping, and off you go!!!! You little trooper!

Jason the little trooper.

Badaling is really an easy climb compared to some more 'authentic' parts of the Great Wall. You know, those other 'real' parts of the Great Wall, that I have not experienced since I'm just a loser compared to all those intrepid and experienced travellers out there. LOL! :)
Here's a thought in case you are considering a visit. In 221 BC, Qin dynasty, there existed only a little part of the great wall. I guess it is the Qin wall that could be called the 'authentic' bit. Following that, during the Han, Jin and Ming dynasties, further sections of the wall were built and/or renovated. Following that, some sections of the wall continue to be maintained and restored...right up till now. Kind of makes authenticity very relative. Can you imagine someone telling emperor Zhu Di, back in the Ming dynasty, that his wall is not the 'real' wall???? That it's not authentic??? Whatever. They'd be automatically emprisoned by the embroidered uniform guards. Or worse. So get over it, it's the real thing!!!!

Here it is then, for your enjoyment. It's the Great Wall of China and it spans kilometers and centuries:

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