We traveled all this way to see a Wall

Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
Trip End Jun 11, 2011

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

We received a wake up call for 6am today as we were departing for The Great Wall of China (GWC) at 7 in order to beat the crowds.  To the dismay of Kimberly, this was before the hote'ls breakfast opened, so how was she going to eat (since she won't venture more than a block away from the hotel without Robert). We enjoyed this dialogue during a 20 min bus ride the previous day.  Anyway, we were really lucky to wake up to sunny skies and mild temperatures as some weather in other places we visited in China (Shanghai for example) were rainy and cold. It was an absolutely perfect day.

From Beijing, there are 3 popular sections of the GWC that tourists visit.  The closest is very touristy, so our group ventured to the second closest, Mutianyu (1.5 hours from Beijing).  Mutianyu consists of 22 towers and is 2.25 km long.    For a week, Kimberly has been asking the group if it would be okay to stay at the wall for 30 minutes.  Enough time for her to take the chairlift to the top, take a picture, then head back to Beijing so she would have time to go to the zoo and see the Pandas (have I mentioned that she has bad knees).  We finally arrived at the gate to the GWC, and Robert asks the group how long we want to stay, and in unison, we agree to 4.5 hours.  The bus is parked at the bottom of the mountain.  You can either hike up to the wall or take one of two chairlifts (for a nominal fee) to the top.  Amy and I wanted to preserve our energy, so we took the chairlift up to Tower 6 (mostly so we can take the toboggan back down at the end).  Kimberly, out of money, unfortunately had to hike up to the top.

I have now been to 5 of the New 7 Wonders of the World and would place the GWC in the #2 spot.  Very impressive that this wall extends over 8000km (1.5 times the length of the U.S.). We enjoyed a brief gondola ride to the wall (similar to a ski lift without any snow). Once at Tower 6, Robert gives us some history and tells us that the best views are from Tower 1.  This was the closer end of the wall, so off we went to hike up and up.  I am not in the best shape of my life (that passed me by at the age of 13), so it was difficult to make it to Tower 1, but once I did it was well worth it.   Proud of my accomplishment, I did the unthinkable and wrote my name on the wall along with thousands others.  Still having 3.5 hours left, we decided to see how far we could make it in the other direction (knowing we had to be back to Tower 6 and down to the bus by 1pm).  We walked, and walked, and took break for pictures.  We finally made it to around Tower 18 when our time was running out.  This was also the tower where the vertical climb to #22 started.  We were all gassed at this point, so went back to 6.  We walked close to 4km, but it felt like 15km with the hundreds of steps.  Almost back to tower 6, Chris and I had a celebratory beer (what were you doing that day?).

Back at tower 6, it was time to ride the toboggan down.  This is best described as roller luging.  You sit in a sled with a stick in front of you between your legs.  Pull back to break, forward to accelerate.  You can only go as fast as the person in front of you, so we put our Herbie (the slowest person if you ever read the book "The Goal") in the back.  That Herbie just happened to be Amy (as she was questioning the safety since she first heard about it in the morning).  I was up front since I didn't plan on using the brake the whole way down the mountain.  What started out as a fun ride quickly turned boring as there was a lady 4 people in front of me riding the brake the whole time.  I decided to wait a few minutes in order to give her time to get down the mountain.  This caused quite a bottleneck behind me in which Amy was almost rear ended by the guy (a local trying to show off) behind her.  Now time to finish the ride, but once again I didn't get far as we caught up to the slow lady in front of me.  Figuring it was a lost cause, I rode slowly down to the bottom where there was a big backup now.  At this point I hear a scream behind me.  I quickly turn around to see that the f*ckknuckle (another aussie term) ended up crashing into Amy.  I jump out and run up the hill to make sure she is ok.  Luckily Amy was fine (with just a slight whiplash), but the guy behind her was rolling on the ground in pain holding his ankle.  I was very tempted to kick in his other ankle for being a dbag, but instead we walked away.  The guy finally got up, limping down the hill, but now holding his hamstring.  He must watch a lot of soccer because it seemed as if he was faking an injury.

We all got back on the bus, found out Kimberly made the hike up to the wall, walked to Tower 7 or maybe 8, then back down.  She was back at the bus after a 1.5 hours, but did manage to buy a "I climbed the Great Wall of China" tshirt (the gift shop took mastercard since Kimberly's bank account reads zero).  Everyone was exhausted so the 1.5 hour trip back to Beijing was a quiet one.

Once back we stopped at a 5 level market selling all kinds of clothes, electronics, jewelry, etc.  The top floor is a food court, so we grabbed lunch before doing some shopping.  After lunch, I went to the 4th floor (electronics).  I walked around trying to find an external dvd drive for the computer in order to watch the dvd's we bought in Shanghai.  Lots of portable dvd players, but no drives.  Finally when I was ready to give up, I found a place selling what I was looking for.  Lots of negotiating back and forth.  The conversation went something like this:

Me: I am looking for a external dvd drive for the computer.
Seller: Like this?
Me:  Yes!!! How much?
Seller:  900 yuan
Me:  LOL, seriously, how much?
Seller: This is real, not copy dvd player.
Me:  Do you have a copy dvd player?
Seller: No, how about 850
Me:  How about 100
Seller: What is your max?
Me:  150
Seller:  How about 800
Me:  150
Seller: 750
Me:  150
Seller: 700
Me: (Pretend to walk away)
Seller:  Fine my lowest price, cause I like you 500
Me: (Walking away for real)
Seller: 300
Me: (Going down the escalator to the 3rd floor)
Seller: 200
Me: (Coming back up the escalator)  Fine, 200.

I am now the proud owner of a DVD drive for $30 USD (goes for $50 on ebay, so guess I got a deal).

Next we went to another market, the Pearl Market.  Once again, a huge building selling everything you could imagine.  The following story is completely fictional, in no way is it real as we would never want to do anything illegal.  We find out that we are in the area where you can get some replica handbags.  The factories receive more material than are used to manufacture handbags, so they use the extra material to make more to sell on the black market.   We have to wait 15 minutes then meet a local in a dark alley and keep our distance as he takes us to the store.  This immediately gets the attention of Amy, so we do some light shopping before going to the dark alley.  Unfortunately we never find the local, so we head back in.  Amy is devastated, so she doesn't want to buy anything until we stumble upon the jeans store.  We were running out of time, but each tried on a few pairs of jeans.  We were down to 3 minutes before we had to leave, which as explained above is not enough time to negotiate with these peeps.  So we overpaid a bit, but I managed to secure a pair of Diesel and a pair of 7s while Amy got a pair of True Religion and a pair of 7s.  All for around $18 each.  It is going to cost us triple to ship home and get tailored.  Oh, well at least it cost me less than Amy's potential handbag.

We tried to look for a taxi back to the hotel, but once again it is an ordeal to get a cab in Beijing, so we took the subway 3 stops and walked the 15 mins to our hotel.  Short on time we quickly showered up from the hike for our final group dinner.  All 11 of us (Kimberly didn't have any money left) went to a peking duck dinner.  This is turning into the greatest day ever.  We ordered 3 whole ducks along with 10 other dishes (we built up quite the appetite).  The food was great, we all shared our favorite moments of the tour, along with email addresses, and the tour officially came to an end (but not before a few late night drinks back at the hotel).
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Steve on

So the Great Wall (which cannot be seen from outerspace by the naked eye) is #2 IYHO, which one do you rate as #1? IMHO, the order is: Taj Mahal, Petra, Great Wall, Machu Picchu, Roman Colosseum, Chichen Itza and fnally Christ the Redeemer.

mom on

food looks "delectable"

dc314 on

Yeah, I guess I should have listed the order. Based on the sites I have seen, I would rank them Macchu Pichu, Great Wall, Petra, Colliseum, Chitchen Itza. I am assuming Taj Mahal (and the pyramids) will be in the top 3 and Christ the Redeemer will be in the bottom 2, but I will hold those opinions till I actually see them.

Also, for those grammar police out there, I should have put a (sic) after delictable. Silly inside joke. The food certainly is delectable.

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