Day 46 - Amazed - the Great Wall

Trip Start Sep 30, 2012
Trip End Jan 09, 2013

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Flag of China  , Beijing,
Thursday, November 15, 2012

Today was the big day - a visit to the Great Wall of China. We were picked up from our hostel at 7 and taken to the bus. The bus stopped to pick up others for the tour and we set off to our destination - Muitanyu. It's the recommended spot to go to see the Wall.
The drive was about an hour and a half and was very interesting. The kamikaze bus driver kept us giggling out of terror during the drive and we saw more of the outskirts of Beijing. It is a huge city and very flat but we saw mountains appearing as we headed towards the Wall. Our guide was a great guy. He gave us some interesting facts about the Wall before leading us towards the entrance. The Wall is 6000 km long and the section we were at was about 23 km in total. It was originally built by 2 million Chinese people around 2000 years ago which at that time was around 20 percent of the population. Around 1 million people died building the Wall and were buried on it which is why the Wall became known as the longest cemetery in the world. Really interesting. Renovations on parts of the Wall were started around 700 years ago by the same emperor who built the Forbidden City. The section we were visiting is in fact one of the most well preserved and renovated sections.
Excitingly there were ski lifts taking people to the Wall which is at the top of a steep hill. You can walk the hill but it takes around 30 minutes to get there and then the Wall climb begins so we opted for the ski lift. It was amazing getting hoisted up and over the valleys to the base of the Wall. Then we climbed up and wow - we were on The Great Wall of China.
It is almost an unreal feeling standing on the Wall and knowing you are in China and seeing with your own eyes this remarkable man made feat. The Wall snakes up the ridge of the mountain range and you just can't even imagine what it must have been like to build it. We decided to do the easier part of the Wall and were glad that we did because it was actually quite tough. The top of the Wall is made up of stairs going up and coming down as it curves up and down. Only some parts are flat without stairs. Anyway we tackled the stairs and paused every so often to enjoy the view and catch our breathe. We passed through around five watchtowers which is where the guards used to live while they were on duty keeping an eye out for enemies. They had a simple system of using fires and smoke to send messages to other watchtowers warning them of possible danger etc.
At the end of the walkable part of the Wall there is a small trail on the Wall that leads to the end where the parts of the original ruins of the Wall still stand. We walked down the trail and had the most amazing view of the Wall. It was a real highlight and we sat at the end looking at the view and trying to take it all in and get our brains to believe where we were. Very special moments.
We were given around three hours to walk the Wall and then met our group at a restaurant nearby. We were served a delicious traditional Chinese meal with lots of plates with steaming veggies and chicken done in several interesting ways. We shared our meal with around 10 others and thoroughly enjoyed our lunch conversation. A few of them were foreigners teaching English in China and we were intrigued to hear about their thoughts on living in China. We also sat with a Malaysian family and a Spaniard. Moments like these are what makes travelling so appealing. We lap it up whenever we can.
With tummies full we climbed back onto the bus for our journey back to the hostel. Once again it was a wild ride and we can't get over how mad the driving is here. A bus can squeeze into a gap just big enough for a Mini. It's incredible and terrifying. In between the crazy cars and buses are people on bicycles, mopeds, motorbikes and some very funny kinds of mini cars. They weave, overtake and drive the wrong way up the street and yet it all seems to flow and work. And then there's the pedestrians that just walk into the traffic mayhem and survive! The streets are very clean and the lanes are wide with a dedicated bicycle lane so these things possible help.
Anyway we made it back to the hostel and agreed that we'd had a great experience at the Wall. Chinese legend says that anyone who goes to the Wall returns a hero so we get to feel like heroes for today. Fun! It looks like dumplings may be on the cards for dinner tonight but who knows. In China, meals can often be a surprise as pointing at pictures on the menu and playing charades with the waiter doesn't always get the desired results. We'll see...
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Chana on

Wow! How interesting, it sounds absolutely amazing.

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