Great Wall, Great Ending

Trip Start Jan 15, 2010
Trip End Nov 09, 2010

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Flag of China  ,
Sunday, September 19, 2010

We had a lot of rain and clouds in Beijing.  We tried to organize an overnight trip to the Great Wall, but they wouldn't take us if it was wet, said it was too dangerous (which, I must admit was surprising--most places didn't  care about safety if there was a buck to be made, but this company had Western owners which probably had something to do with it!).  So, we planned to take the day trip on Sunday to the Mutianyu section of the Wall.  We had alot of advice on which section to take- everyone said Badaling was a crowded tourist hell and some of the other trips boasted "dangerous, steep, not for the softies"...and given that there was a risk of rain (okay, and at this point of the journey we had lost the desire to overly exert ourselves...) we decided on Mutianyu.  We took a two hour drive, then a 1 hour hike up some stairs to the top of the Wall, then 3 hours on the Wall itself.  Nothing can prepare you for the grandeur of the Great Wall.  It truly is a World Wonder and another thing that you must see with your own eyes to believe- pictures will never do it justice.  I cannot imagine what it took to build it--it was massive!  According to Wikipedia, "the most comprehensive archaeological survey, using advanced technologies, has recently concluded that the entire Great Wall, with all of its branches, stretches for 8,851.8 km (5,500.3 mi). This is made up of 6,259.6 km (3,889.5 mi) sections of actual wall, 359.7 km (223.5 mi) of trenches and 2,232.5 km (1,387.2 mi) of natural defensive barriers such as hills and rivers."  We ended up with spectacular weather so we could see the Wall wind over and around the hills for miles.  In my opinion, this was the highlight of China (the noodles were a close second).

The rest of Beijing, well, we saw some but not all of the main attractions.  We saw the flag ceremony at sunset at Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Lama Temple, Confucius Temple and the night market selling weird bugs and food.  Forbidden City was disappointing-- almost none of the rooms to the side were open to the public, but the sheer size and number of halls was mind boggling.  This was best appreciated after we left the Forbidden City and climbed Coal Hill at the north end.  The aerial view would have more impressive, however, had the smog not been so thick that we couldn't see all the way to the other side!  I don't know what kind of clean up they did for the Olympics, but it was not evident while we were there.  There was heavy smog and pollution which made us feel physically sick for a couple of days.  Ugh!  Lama Temple was worth seeing- it was a beautiful, quiet temple in an old neighborhood.  Next door was Confucius Temple, which wasn't as impressive but it was right next door :)  The peacefulness was broken by the Chinese tour leaders blaring their speeches through microphones trained on megaphones.  Too loud and when you got several competing the noise was deafening.   

Several nights in a row we went to the night market to eat dinner.  Here they were selling everything you could skewer along with delicious things like dumplings and noodles.  The skewers had scorpions, centipedes, snakes, sheep penises (huh??), sea horses, silkworms and crickets. We didn't actually see any locals eating these things, and a main rule of travel is don't eat what the locals aren't eating!! We stuck to the dumplings and noodles.  One night I also tried something I saw everyone eating- fruit on a skewer with some kind of candied sugar coating.  It was a little too sweet, and would have been better had the fruit been fresher, but I wanted to try it since I saw all the locals eating it.

The Great Wall was the last thing we saw on our RTW journey.  We decided to come home early and save Australia for a future adventure.  We were travel weary and my cousin getting married gave us a nice date to shoot for to come home.  We surprised the heck out of everyone which was great fun!!  So, we are currently living in Bedias, TX, 100 miles from Houston in our little weekend house.  We'll stay here until we figure out what we are going to do when our Houston house tenants move out. We are trying to get all the admistrative crap figured out that is just part of being gone for almost a year!  And then we are going to breathe in, breathe out, and try to take life one step at a time :) 
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Cynthia on

Welcome home!!

Lois on

OMG - you're home! for some reason I'd come to the conclusion you'd never seen TX again, after such a journey. Your blog has been simple amazing; can't thank you enough for sharing with us all. Know you're swamped getting reacclimated; I'm traveling back-to-back for many weeks now til year end so we'll reconnect some point in future. Welcome home!

Carrie on

I loved your blog! Came across it looking for older backpacking adventurers. I'm a 57 year old woman, dreaming of long term travel, trying to convince my husband. :-) I read straight through all your posts and will read your husband's posts next. I could imagine being in each place from your descriptions. Thank you! Have to satisfy my travel yearnings through blog reading until I can convince him or be brave enough to head out on my own.
Could you share your travel budget?

bakpaknbizclass on

Carrie, I responded back to you via email - did you receive it? Just checking...

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