The Greatest Wall

Trip Start Jul 27, 2008
Trip End Aug 27, 2008

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

No Badaling is not the exotic dance club from the Soprano's TV series. It's the closest location of the great wall to Beijing, about an hour Northwest of the city. I decided to go on Monday with Richard, the youngest co-worker since he also had the day off. We startied out in the Electronics City area, an collection of hi-tech shopping malls near the University. They are interesting stores, high rise towers where each office is a store, they have you sit down, and you start haggling. This is the National Sport of China, not Soccer (Football). You tell them the price and start the negotiations. I wanted to buy an inexpensive HD handycam to shoot video to share but no luck. Better prices in NY and newer models.
Anyway, we walked from the Electronic area to a Olympic Sports venue close by to see if we can find a bus or something to the Great Wall. We were helped by one of the millions of English speaking volunteers all over the city. We decided to take a taxi up and a bus back. It worked out great - the entrance was free (my credentials) and the bus ride home was free.

Just to get some idea,this wall is quite a monster. We arrived in Badaling - which I believe is Mandarin for "Tourist Trap" - and worked our way over to the entrance. All I saw was a climb up a hill and I thought 'there must be steps or ramps or something' well not so fast. This is not the trip to take your Octagenarian family members on or anyone in a wheelchair, or with sore feet or weak heart, when they say CLIMB THE GREAT WALL, they mean it. I kept looking for signs for stretchers or medi-vac landing pads for those who couldn't make it. We went about 2/3 of a mile if that. That was enough, saw some wonderful scenery and time to get the hell out of there.
The steps that were in some sections were steep, but the rest was a brick paved sidewalk at a 45 degree angle, and worn out so you had to make sure you stepped carefully. Beautiful, awe inspiring and heart attack producing.
After haggling over the price of a souvenier TShirt, we headed down.
It was only then that I realized how steep the last part had been. Really, a 45 degree angle is 100% grade, but this was more like 60deg. We tried to keep from rolling down the wall back to the start, and it was almost as much effort going down to keep from slipping.

We waited for the bus back, which was free and took a short walk to the subway. Hey, this was a great subway. The signs were in English as well, even on the scrolling displays on the train. Very simple and organized. We headed for the Olympic Green where we could get a free ride back to the Hotel. Met Shu Bai, Frank and Rose for a home cooked meal (she's a great cook) and went to the local big grocery store to look around. I have this thing about grocery store shopping locally wherever I am out of town to see what's the local tastes are etc. This has been fun in Mexico and I have a good time. I bought a few different kinds of flavored sour milk - imagine a milkier liquid yogurt, beef jerkey, beer, top ramen like bowl noodles, chocolate, and some other treats. The store had sporting goods, appliances and other household items very handy. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
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