Wednesday, March 16, 2011

China Day 3 - The Great Wall

Today my friend and I had booked a private tour to the Great Wall. I
woke up early, too early, and went to hang out in the lobby. I come back to wake up Ingrid, and as soon as we know it, our English speaking guide Sophia showed up to pick us up. It is a two hour drive to the wall – Mutianyu section. We have Sophia, who barely speaks, and our driver, who speaks no English. The ride is interesting (many interesting things to see!) and uneventful. The drive actually reminds me of the drive I once took from the Montego Bay airport in Jamaica to our resort in Falmouth - dirty and dirtier.

We arrive at the wall early enough to use the squat toilets and ride a ski lift to the top.

The ski lift is a quicker ride than expected, and we reach the Wall in no time at all. We are at tower 6, and can walk to tower 1 – so that we may venture back to meet our guides. One thing that I never expected, or even thought of, was that the wall is one giant staircase, and the stairs are very steep!

The hike is very tiring and pretty strenuous – but the view is priceless.

We venture past Tower 1, to a non-visitor area of ruins.

It’s a great hike and makes for beautiful photographs. To end the hike on the wall, we exit via a toboggan run. You cannot go very fast, and of course Ingrid’s need for speed leads to a run-in with an Old Russian lady’s toboggan. It was a very cool way to end the tour.

On the way back to Beijing, the driver takes us on a few stops. First is a cloissne factory. This is an art form of glazing pots covered in copper wire. The factory is very strange, first offering us lunch – where we are the only customers with 5 girls and one older lady waiting on us. As we eat they sit at the opposite table and play video games. When we finish – they all scurry to clean up our table. The factory tour consists of 5 rooms, each representing a different step in the process. In each room there is no activity, except for some old ladies playing cards, and some random vases strewn about. However at the end of the tour lays an entire showroom full of millions of pieces. Ingrid explains that these are made at the sweat factory down the street. It is striking how each place we visit has so many staff members, yet so little customers. I wonder how they all get paid.

Next we stop at a silk museum, which was an eye-opening experience. I had heard of silk worms before but never actually assumed that they did anything. Silk as actually made from the cocoon of the worm, and the cocoon is boiled and the worm removed. The cacoon is then stretched over several different things, until it finally is the length of a full size bed. They act out each stage of the process, and even have dead worms. I doubt I’ll ever use/wear/enjoy silk again. The final stop is a very American-friendly (read: buy-crazy) corporate tea house. They are very irritated when we don’t buy anything.

Back at the hotel, I believe I need a nap, but instead choose to go drink beer in the bar and catch up on email. We stay for about 3 hours just drinking and laughing, then venture out to the same noodle place as the first night. There is old roasted pig parts on the table, and the smell nearly ruins our experience - but the noodles are too good to be ruined by any rancid meat smell. We both head to bed early ready for a new day.

No comments:

Post a Comment