The Great Wall and Great Acrobats

Trip Start Jan 31, 2011
Trip End Dec 15, 2011

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

08:00 Woke to snow today, apparently this is only the 3rd time it has snowed this winter! We must have brought it with us I suppose.

Were off to the great wall today using the bus. We started on the number 60 bus which went as far as the drum and bell tower, then got on the number 5 to this other place before walking round a corner to find the local bus. However, they were refusing to go because they didn't reckon on getting enough tourists so were now trying to coax people into using taxis for their own gain!
We all got cross and frustrated by their attitude and after negotiating with several taxi drivers we got a deal of 650 Yuan (that's about 65) to the Great Wall, and back stopping at the Birds Nest Olympic Stadium.
Right, ok, so once again, 4 squashed in the back for an hour! off to the Great Wall in the snow.
I dozed off a bit in my partially restricted airflow state, and will not add commentary of the journey at this point.

What I have noticed though, as a general observation of this city is that, yes there are apparently 9 million bicycles in Beijing (According to that lovely song by Katie Melua), but probably about 100 in winter. There are great roads with great cycle lanes, and there are quite a lot of people on bicycles, but also on a form of electric bicycle, and electric scooters. They all sneak up on you as you carelessly wander into the bike lane (normally because there are so many cars parked on the pavement - which also involves driving on them!)
The other thing is that everyone stares at me. This is ok, I know that there must be something on my face. Or it could be my blazing hair and my 'you've never been in the sun' whiter than white skin. 
Bless them, there have been a couple people who wanted their picture taken with us. This is quite comical, but they're usually from the provinces and have barely seen any different faces, so to get some white people and Indian people was quite a bonus I think. There was one girl in a restaurant who was so excited she came running over with rice before we even had any food with a huge excited grin on her face (well she and 3 other members of staff had come to join the charade act that was ordering from the menu - so a gathering of 4 people to watch us order!) so we had to send her back to bring it when we actually had something to eat with it! She was only young, and very sweet.
The other thing I've noticed is how friendly everyone is. If you smile at them they smile back, if you say hi, they say hi back and may even ask where you're from. They're really lovely. And EVERYONE seems to like doing the V sign in photo's! Houses everywhere are probably full of people with 2 fingers up!

So we finally arrived at the Great Wall at Badaling.  Our guide reckons that this is a good spot. We spent several hours walking there up to the highest point, which was quite hard work, despite all the walking and hill climbing I have been doing I still get puffed and heat beating far too fast. I suppose I must be getting fitter, but I'm still not as fit as the others. But like I've said, I couldn't walk properly for at least 6 months last year, so it's not like I've done any exercise and I'm bloody lucky I can do this at all! Men and women emerged from little coves selling postcards and fridge magnets. Well I try to collect fridge magnets from places I've been. This started with my ex, but I'm happy to carry on, I asked how much the fridge magnet was, 60Y she said. I'm thinking 6? No way! so I said "10".. she said "50", "10", "40", "10", "ok ok, 20", "Nope 10 is fair" as I kept walking, "ok ok 10". "good". My first haggle went quite well. I'm happy with the price and I have a magnet I will attempt to send home at my next post office event.

The views were amazing, and unlike all the typical sunny pictures we had an icing sugar topping to our views. All these winter trips are a great excuse to return to these same places in future n the summer for a different outlook. I think everything should be seen under snow and in the sun to get the full appreciation.

We got to a bit where it was the last push up to the 8th watch tower which was the highest point.  I was knackered and a bit worried about my heel, and saw a cable car. For some reason I thought this would take us up the last steep bit so said I was going on it.  (I don't know why I'm telling you this because I'm confessing to being a complete idiot.) I left the others thinking I'd see them at the top and bought myself a single for 60Y and got on. To my horror and realisation of what I'd done, we set off down the hill. BUGGER!! YOU THICKO! So off I went downhill (I'll point out that the cable car was not actually from the side we arrived at - and on the other side of the hill which is why I had no idea where it went) I got to the bottom and tried to stay on but was asked to leave by the guard.  I tried to explain my mistake - they didn't understand. I had to go out and to the ticket office again, and said I'll pay an extra 20Y to make my ticket a return. Nope, they didn't speak English, so after several frustrated minutes of not getting across what had happened, I stepped away to consider my options. Ok, I was at the bottom, but where was I? Hmm, I'm actually on the wrong side of the hill. Is there a way over? doesn't look like it actually. 5 mins later. "RIGHT, I'LL PAY YOU BLOODY 60 AGAIN TO GO BACK UP! ARGH!" So I went up again. I saw the others walking down from the top which would converge on where I was, and I managed to meet them. They were confused, I was pissed off, and then we all walked back down the wall together and had a laugh. We had spent all morning there - till 2pm in fact and then set off back to the city in our taxi which had stayed! hurrah! 

Next stop the Olympic Stadium - the Birds Nest. This was a very interesting design, and also what is interesting is that Beijing has a central axis which runs right through the forbidden city and along Tianamen Square and just goes for miles as a central road. And I recall that on the opening ceremony a load of fireworks followed the straight route up to the stadium. We had a look around, also at the water cube which is the swimming pool.  Before taking a very very long walk home. During that walk home we passed lots of art work and there was a bit with glass on the ground as part of a piece. I stepped on it and my feet just went and I fell very hard landing on my right elbow as I was holding my camera which jarred my right shoulder quite badly and twisted my back.  I was ok, I could still walk, but I knew I'd ache later.
We returned to the hostel, where I'm staying my last night in the twin room I have as I will be swapping the 300 (30) a night twin room to 80 (8) a night 4 person bunk room.
At 6.30 we went out to see some Chinese Acrobats who were brilliant. They did that ring rolling thing where they stand in a big metal ring and spin. There were jugglers, contortionists, a really strong man who balanced on chairs, and the finale was a metal ball with a motorbike riding around in it. Not only 1....they got 6 in there! I videoed the whole thing and will certainly be showing that off at some point!
21:21 Went down the hutons - the small backstreet alleys where people live and there are little shops. I saw a bag shop and wanted to get a really small day bag, and went in and looked at a few. One I wanted started at 180Y, Chan Jon Ji also came in was having quite a heated discussion with this lady at the same time. She then lowered the price to 120. I said 100, she said no, Chan said "Lets go" and then as we set off she said ok, brought it down and pretty much threw it at me - all the time having an angry looking discussion with Chan, she didn't look happy (but then she didn't HAVE to say yes did she) I left feeling a bit verbally beaten up as she just wasn't a happy camper! Mind you, I have a pretty decent little bag now!
We ate out in the Hutons where the menu wasn't english or even a bad attempt at it. It was a good meal, and we had a waiter who also wanted his picture with us.
We took a bus to some bars which were very quiet where I had a couple of cocktails, Mai Tais and then walked home, I had a little cry on the way home.
I've had a fantastic 3 weeks, I really have, and everyday I have a lot of fun, I still carry my head with me, and my troubles and in the evenings my brain still gets revenge. I still can't listen to music, it's been 8 quiet months with no music. I have been deeply wounded by the betrayal and heartbreak I felt by certain people I have known, maybe even more than I thought. And the drink and the end of our trip together, and my exhaustion, just all got to me. 
I got back, went to bed, had a little skype chat with my lovely little sis, and went to sleep about 3am. This is why I don't drink anymore I suppose.

Best thing today: the acrobats

Worst thing: falling over

Most beautiful: a 360 degree view of icing sugar topped hills and a wall that went on forever.
Current pain list: Achilles tendinitis, achy shoulder from falling on it, ongoing back pain and possible conjunctivitis??? This body is no temple, it's a season of Casualty all on its own.
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Mummers on

Baby, please stop falling over!!!

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