Qin Haung Dao-The Starting Point of the Great Wall

Trip Start Apr 06, 2007
Trip End Jul 23, 2007

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

5-16-07 Qin Haung Dao
Last night we decided to attempt (again) to purchase the train tickets for this morning to Qin Haung Dao on the coast. The line was much shorter (thank God), and so once I made it to the front, I tried in my best Chinese to say Qin Haung Dao and wrote it down on paper with the time and date we wanted to leave. It took a couple of different ticket counters before we finally were able to buy the tickets. I felt very accomplished at my Chinese communication skills by the end of it. So this morning, we woke up really early, packed up the bags, and headed across the street to the train station. We passed a so-called metal detector that was really funny. About three to five people try to fit through the detector at the same time, and half of them were still carrying luggage, bags, purses, whatever. I myself had a sprite, and Andrea had a bag of crackers and a water bottle - no worries despite any beeping sounds the guards heard. We felt safe.....right.
Anyways, once we got on the train, we learned that our seats were not next to each other. Ooops. The numbers were consecutive, but they were opposite each other facing different directions - both window seats. I decided to sit next to Andrea and wait for the person who had my current seat to show up to see if we could negotiate a swap. Luckily, swapping seemed to be the norm around here - someone took my seat minutes after we got there. As the train was leaving, the girl that had my seat showed up I pointed at my original seat (taken) and she spoke with them, and moved on to the next available empty seat. It was pretty hilarious. The elderly couple sitting across from us were very cute. They would argue, and the old man would storm off for a few minutes at a time. He would come back, and sit facing the aisle (away from her) and putting his back to her. Overall it was very entertaining to watch. I took several pictures along the train ride of the countryside. Once out of Beijing, we finally saw the sky, which was great. I took pics of tons of farmers with donkeys, horses, and all sorts of what I had thought were outdated methods. China is still a third world country after all, even though Beijing does not seem third world in any respect (except maybe the lines). The train stopped at a first stop which looked like a tiny little village and I started to worry because I did not see anything which resembled a coast.....I asked in my best Chinese the elderly couple in front of us if this was Qin Haung Dao....and they replied in their best Chinese..."NO". So we waited as the train continued on, and we finally arrived about a half hour later in Qin Haung Dao. It isn't a small town, but it is not a big city either. Its what I would consider a typical third world country city. As soon as we were out of the train station we were swarmed with taxi drivers, hotel offers, and all the like. I spotted an information booth that seemed pretty reputable and we headed that direction to pick up a map and hopefully some info.
The lady there was very nice although her English was extremely limited. In the end we bought a huge map, with only a tiny portion of it being Qin Haung Dao....and she offered the name of a hotel in the area for 150 RMB, and we accepted. Little did we know she was going to leave the Info booth to personally take us there in a little mini-van. Talk about personal service!!! When we arrived at the hotel, the lights were all off inside. It looked like it was closed..... But in fact, it was open and some girls came out of the back to help us check in at the reception. Thank God we had the information girl as a quasi-translator. I decided, since they had only charged us 5 RMB to get to the hotel, which was extremely cheap, I asked if it was possible to hire a driver for the rest of today to take us to the Great Wall - instead of hiring a taxi for each segment of the trip. Especially because the Wall seemed to be pretty far (about 25km) from the hotel location. The next part took about 25 minutes as she called a million people and everyone looked really confused. It seemed my question was out of the ordinary, but in the end we hired the driver. Little did we know we were actually hiring a taxi! The driver took us a few miles and then stopped on the side of the road where there was a taxi waiting for us. Our Info lady talked to the taxi driver for a few minutes, and then informed us to give him 50 RMB at the end of the day. So apparently she pocked the original 100 RMB we had given, and this poor guy was only get 50 for actually driving us. But whatever, it seemed to work for us. The driver also spoke no English whatsoever, but he seemed very nice, and at least he did not baulk at our map. He actually seemed to understand it, which was a first for us! He showed me postcards of different locations (tourist) around the city and he pointed at one that I thought was the site where the Wall goes into the Ocean.
It turns out he was taking us up into the mountains to a different Great Wall site. Andrea at this point looked a little uneasy and I kept asking her if something was wrong. She kept saying "no", but finally told me she was terrified. I understood since the roads we were driving on were not only dirt roads, but we seemed to be getting further and further away from civilization. In the end, he took us to a legitimate Great Wall tourist spot, although it was quite secluded and empty of tourists. But they were very happy to see us at the ticket office!!! It was quite a different experience that Beijing - everyone here seems much more willing to help and happy to see us. Our cab driver was overly helpful, he walked us to the ticket booth - try to explain (in Chinese) the ticket price, and then walk us to the entrance. It was kind of like having a personal baby-sitter. I was a little worried about leaving him alone as we went into the site, since it was quite a secluded area, and I thought (just for a moment) that he might take off. But then I relaxed and just started to enjoy the scenery. The Great Wall section here is legendary - apparently it is the only site in which the Great Wall was built over a river. Generally they did not build the Wall over Rivers or on top of mountains because armies would have such a hard time getting through them anyway, it would not be worth it. But for some reason, this section was important because it was the only valley that crossed the coast. So if you wanted to cross into Southern China from the coast this was the only option. The wall was magnificent - much better than the Badaling section we had seen. It was 10-15 feet wide and the steps were much more manageable. The actual "wall" was about 15 feet high - it really looked like a wall and not a staircase like Badaling. We climbed up several towers to the highest point and could see the actual end of the wall into the mountain. We also saw several sleeping quarters for the soldiers at each tower. We took billions of pictures (see attached) and from the top of the top tower we could see an aviary next to us. It was apparently included in our ticket price, but Andrea said "no way" because she didn't want to get the Bird Flu! It did not seem that big or impressive, so we headed back to luckily our awaiting taxi driver.
We then attempted again to explain which portion of Wall we really wanted to see. And we did a good job - he figured it out. On the way there, we passed a herd of goats on the road...that was interesting! Some sections of the mountains seemed quite treacherous but our taxi driver did seem pretty competent. He would beep at each corner just to make sure everyone and anyone knew he was coming. When we finally go to the ocean that is when we had a difficult time understanding our Taxi driver. I understood he wanted to go or that he was leaving and so he was giving me his card (with his telephone on it) and a phone card to call him when we were done, but I did not understand because he kept pointing in different locations as if he was trying to tell us where to meet him since this was a very big complex. I thought for sure we'd never see him again since A: I don't speak Chinese so even if I did call him what would I say and how would he find me??? B: I didn't see any phones around and I didn't know how to use his phone card. In the end I gave up trying to understand him and decided I would figure out how to find him later. We bought our tickets and entered and were quite surprised when all of a sudden our taxi driver was behind us following us and then asked for our tickets. He pointed at a boat in the water and headed that way trying to get us on it. Andrea and I did not feel like getting a boat ride but that was difficult to explain to our taxi driver that kept egging us on. With my phrase book (best idea EVER) in hand I explained by pointing to the words I was trying to tell him "LATER" He finally got the picture and then all of a sudden he was gone again...really Strange!!! We headed to a temple that was in the middle of the ocean which was really cool and I got some really nice pictures. It was a temple dedicated to the God of the Sea. The let us ring the bell that sounded awesome and super loud. I got a picture of Andrea doing it. We then stopped in at a shop that had most things for 2 yuan which is the equivalent of about 33 cents. The had all sorts of sculptures, fake pearl necklaces, and little kick knacks. So I obviously bought several of them and then realized the error in judgment because my pack became 3 times as heavy and we were headed on our way to the wall.
It took us about 5 min walking on the beach to get to the wall. It was amazing!!! It stretches into the ocean a few hundred feet. It is massive!!! At least 12 or 15 meters high, the tallest wall to date. It was also the widest. It was about 25 or 30 feet wide in certain areas and much wider at the base. To get a good idea of the size please check out our pictures. My back was killing me going up, then down, then up the stairs again. We found a very cool museum type exhibits in the city next to the wall. We found a French cannon that was apparently left from a treaty in 1901. Does anyone know about this because I have no idea...They say America also invaded??? Anyways, we saw officers quarters, then the barracks and then all sorts of interesting weapons they used to use. Some were very fierce and deadly. One of which was log filled with spikes that they would roll down a mountain or wall that had wheels at either end to gather speed. Pretty intense stuff. We ended up having a great time and really enjoyed the peacefulness of this place. The water hitting the wall made a great sound and that combined with the smell of the ocean and this incredible piece of history made it almost spiritual. This trip was well worth the struggle even if no one speaks English. I feel we were starting to get a real idea of what the average Chinese person was like. It's very similar to home. Busy cities are mean and rural areas are incredibly nice. Only Japan can boast the extremely big city with extremely nice people. Anyways, we left the wall and the compound and then needed to figure out how to call our driver and explain that we were at the west gate...There are 3 main gates to exit from that are no where near each other. I found a phone that worked after finding a couple that didn't, which really scared me...then as I was dialing as if by ESP he appeared out of nowhere diving down the road. It was incredible. I figured he must have been a Ninja in a past life or something. I then explained with the book of coarse that we wanted to go back to the hotel. It took a little while to get that across but once we did we were set. We arrived at the hotel in one piece and extremely exhausted. I could barely walk from the weight of my pack. I ended up giving our taxi driver a good tip since he was amazing and quite helpful. We then ended up in our room and fell asleep for a while. It was amazingly peaceful, we could hear in the background soft and slow Asian music coming from somewhere outside our window. It was really great, kind of like a lullaby.
When we finally arose we were pretty hungry so we headed off in search of food. We found a small restaurant and of course no picture menus only Chinese so we were on our own. I ended up pointing at some food at another table that looked good and then I thought she was showing me the price of the food and what I was ordering on the menu but she was in fact asking me if I wanted anything else so of coarse I kept saying yes so we ended up with a ton of food. Including pig's feet which I thought were mushrooms originally. They tasted OK but Andrea got queasy from just looking at them. They also brought a garlic clam (or at least it kind of looked like clam) and seaweed dish. It was delicious. The last dish they brought was disgusting. I tried it but the meat had such a horribly strong taste I decided to leave it. Andrea thinks it could have been rabbit again but it didn't taste anything like the rabbit I had previously. In the end we were charged way to much because the waitress picked out the most expensive things in the menu. I didn't care because it was only $11US after everything.
After dinner we went to the local supermarket to pick up dessert. Andrea got some cookies and candy and I got a bag of pistachios. We decided to call it an early night since we had so much to write and also since the town is pretty small and scary at night. So now we have been writing for about 3 hours and I am exhausted. Andrea has been drinking the last bottle of wine we picked up in Australia and she is enjoying it. We both have upset stomachs from the dinner tonight but OHH well that's what you get when you have no idea what you're ordering and then still have no idea even though it is right in front of you. It was all worth it though!!! Goodnight!!!
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draupnir on

Wow you guys are brave. The questionable 'meat' you ate is actually large intestine of pigs. I never dared to try it even though I am a Chinese. BTW: It's really fun to read your blog.

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