The Wall

Sunday we set out to make it to The Great Wall, but only some of us accomplished this feat. About 10 of us wanted to go because most of us start work tomorrow and don’t know when we will have another day off.

We went to the front desk to find out the best way to get there and of course to get it written in Chinese. Well they told us to take a taxi to a bus stop where we could jump on a bus that would take us to the wall. The taxi took us to the bus stop, and we found the bus but we had no idea where to get off. We thought we’d just ride until we saw the wall, I’ve said it before, we just shouldn’t think for the rest of the trip. The bus eventually stopped and they told us we had to get off and that the wall wasn’t here. But then up popped a man off the street that said he’d take us to the wall. It was about a ten minute ride from the bus stop and for the three of us 100 RMB total, so about $4 each.

There are a few different portions of the wall you can go to in the Beijing area and we went to the one at Mutianyu. The site is absolutely unbelievable, nothing in this world compares to it. We walked a good portion of the wall, but there are so many steps and it’s very very steep. At some points each step is about 18 inches or so high.

It was very long and very hot and humid (as it is every day, the air quality is so poor it’s not even funny) so we didn’t spend a long time out there. We took a lot of pictures and I’ll try to send some with this entry (again I can’t post to wordpress from China the site is blocked).

There are vendors on the wall that sell water, beer, and postcards. Just like any good business it’s all about placement. Since we’re up on the Wall there just aren’t options or competition for these vendors so they sell water for three times what you can get it anywhere else in the country. When you get down from the Wall (maybe one of the coolest parts) there is a street with vendors on both sides yelling out to you to buy shirts, postcards, pictures, water, beer, bananas, whatever you can think of pretty much. They are very aggressive. One lady pulled my arm to get me to look at her and another hit me with a bottle of water.

I mentioned coming down was one of the coolest parts, it’s kind of sad that that is what I liked a lot but it’s just so cool. I said you take a ski lift up and you can also take it down, but you can also ride a speed chute down. You get on this little cart with a lever between your legs, to go faster you press the lever forward and to slow down you pull it back. The only rule: you go as fast as you want. The course winds it way back down the mountain and has some pretty sharp turns, but boy is it fun. It is very similar to the luge from the Winter Olympics except you sit up rather than back, but it has that same feel.

When we got all the way back down there were two men dressed in traditional Chinese Warrior uniforms with old style weapons that want you to take pictures with them, they also want you to pay. I figure it’s not often an old Chinese man is going to be dressed in a warrior uniform and offer to let me take a picture of them, so I jumped at the chance.

Getting back was not as tough of a task, thankfully. The man that drove us was waiting in the parking lot and drove us to the bus station where we hoped back on the 916. This time we knew where we were going and when to get off so that wasn’t as stressful.

The Wall is such a tremendous site; it is almost surreal to see it, to touch it, to walk it. I can’t believe I got to go. I hope I can get back to it at the end of the trip. Monday is my first day of work so we’ll see how that goes, don’t know exactly what we are doing but hopefully I’ll get to see inside the National Stadium and maybe walk around in it.

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