The Great Wall, so Great I saw it Twice
Trip Start Jan 31, 2011
297Trip End Dec 15, 2011
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09:45 It was a very early start today, my earliest yet. The alarm went off at 630 and I had to really crowbar myself out of bed as I was so knackered and i don't do getting up before 9, 8.30 at the very earliest, and i was really considering not going back to the great wall again, as my challenging late night walk to the hostel was enough to be going on with and I wanted to sleep more. However, as it was the first day out, and I missed the previous nights dinner, I thought I should really go along if only to be social and meet everyone
I met a couple of others over breakfast before getting on the bus at 730 to head off to the Great Wall at the Mutianyu site. Breakfast is a funny one, (I cant remember if i mentioned it before, but its highly likely that through the year I may repeat myself, so please forgive me!) there is toast and jam, buns, fruit, cereal, tea and coffee. All very normal. There is also noodles, a salad bar, hard boiled eggs, fried rice, and other very savoury items which aren't your ordinary European choice for breakfast. When we got on the bus I had to do an introduction, you know the sort of thing - "hi, my name's Zoe and I live in Manchester, I'm 32 and spending this year travelling..". Everyone else introduced themselves briefly by name and I tried to remember them all! The group is about 12 strong with 9 women of varying ages, and most of us lone travellers. Everyone is English apart from one Danish girl and an American guy, oh and an English girl of Cantonese heritage who doesn't speak any Chinese and only a smattering of Cantonese. (people keep speaking to her and she hasn't a clue what's being said, on the plus side, no one has been accosting her with souvenirs!
This part of the wall was 2 hours away through quite a lot of countryside, scary driving, near miss accidents (seriously- people driving here pay no attention to traffic lights, don't bother looking at junctions, zebra crossings mean nothing, especially when combined with ignoring traffic lights
When we walked up from the car park we walked past a lot of Market stalls all selling souvenirs and shouting to us as I think we were the first tourists of the day. A lot of them also said they'd remember us when we can back, they weren't lying.
Having walked up the wall the first time I came, me and 3 others decided to take a cable car up before exploring further. As it happened, the car we got in was the same one used by John Major in 1991 when he was Prime Minister, see the exciting accompanying picture. We then walked to the tower called the 23rd tower, which was very high up on a hill. The walk there was up and down a bit, before the final ascent of 470 steps up before the final 20 steps which were so steep we had to go up on all fours. It was exhausting, was quite the burn on the calves, but the view was amazing. A 360 degree view of the huge mountains of china. I'm not sure if the picture can show just how steep a climb we came up on the final stretch but it was enough to make your head spin and fear overbalancing, I tried to take it on the horizontal so you can see.
After we had cooled off a bit, taken some pictures and caught our breath we went back towards, and beyond the cable car. Going uphill is certainly tiring but going downhill uses a whole other set of muscles which left Jennys legs visibly shaking every time we paused for a breath and view break, and us all feeling slightly jelly legged
Going back through the markets I made the mistake of looking at something for more than a nano second before entering into a haggling war over a present I am planning to buy someone. She came at me, item in hand shouting
Seller: "you lie? You lie! How mach you pay?"
Zoe: "how much is it?"
S: "no, how mach you pay?!"
Z: "ok, how much is it?"
S: "I give you good price!" she then wrote down 380 on a piece of paper
Z: "I'm not paying that! Far too expensive!"
S: "ok, how mach you pay? You say price!"
S: "no, no, ok, I give you this price" she wrote down 350.
After haggling for several minutes and examining the item, I decided I didn't want to buy it right now as I didn't want to rush. So I started telling her I didn't want to buy it right now and then she actually got to the price, thrust it in my hands and went for a plastic bag, all whilst I'm telling her in don't want it! It was a difficult thing to wriggle out of, as I'd said a price an she matched it, especially since it is impossible to actually look at anything without being harassed and pursued to buy it which is so off-putting.
I managed to escape and met everyone else in Subway. yep, the great wall has a subway at the bottom, wouldn't you know. I got myself a sandwich for lunch and soon we were all back on the bus for the journey back to the hotel.
13:55 The group consists of:
fiona - scottish, works in Dumfries as a middle school teacher of history, my room mate, 36,
Ellie and Emma, pretty young i think, came on trip together, from leeds
Janet - retired, taking late gap year (I guess mine isn't really that late then!),
Jenny - late 30's i think, has a new camera and has been seeking advice from me
suzy- quite young again I think, of Chinese descent and knows the odd word in cantonese, and works in a job centre in Lincoln
Harriet and Sarah - came together on the trip,
Rebecca & David - a young couple from london
Katrina - Danish ,
James - been travelling a while
Ed - American, quiet, maybe in his 40s, doesn't like Asian food,
And finally Jade, our guide from Xi-An who's been doing these tours for 2 years now and wants to be an English teacher
Obviously I will find out a lot more about these folks as I go on.
A friend of Ellie and Emma flew out to china to join them on this tour and has tonsilitis. It's our first proper day today and she's flying home tonight. Her dad paid for her trip so she clearly doesnt care that's she's wasted over £1500. Nor is she adult or brave enough to just get some meds and come on the tour. It seems pretty pathetic really. There's at least 14 other people here who'd look after her including 2 friends from home, and she can't cope. Relies on her parents too much I think, and hasn't learnt independence. Just shows I must be braver than I think given all the people saying to me before I left, when they knew i was going on my own - oh you're brave! I actually can't see how any of what I have done is brave, because nothing has been scary. Ok, so my first night getting dropped off in the middle of Russia wasn't great, and getting ill in japan on my own was a little miserable and frustrating. Even being a bit lost last night, late and in an unpopulated alley wasn't fantastic and only because i was tired. But at no point on my trip, despite some tricky situations, have I been scared or felt brave, so I guess that peoples fear levels really differ.
19:20 We went out for dinner to a Chinese and Jade picked us a good selection of different foods, so we had a good feast before coming to the red theatre to watch the legend of Kung Fu. This was a performance by Shaolin monks who did forward flips using their heads instead of hands, broke metal bars on their heads, lay on spears, had concrete blocks smashed on their chests whilst lying on a bed of nails, and so on. We weren't allowed to take pictures or video I'm afraid so nothing to see.
When we got back I called my bank, as my internet banking refused to let me on. After the annoyance of having my card blocked in Russia for an over zealous fraud system, I wasn't best pleased about this new incident just weeks later. The last thing you want to be sorting out on your trip is the bank, Hong Kong Shanghai Bank as well, refusing to play ball. I called them, they said something had happened that security didnt like and therefore I couldn't use the Internet banking. They said they'd post me a form I'd have to send back as they couldn't help me over the phone! I told them this was impossible due to being in china! Not only that, but it's ridiculous that I can't sort it over the phone. My last resort is to go into a branch and try and have them sort it out. So once in shanghai, I shall be going to the bank an having words. I'm really fed up with it now, they make travelling absolutely bloody impossible and I've only been away 5 weeks.
Best thing- meeting a new group and being in a new mental chapter
Worst thing- HSBC!!
Most beautiful- a 360 view from the highest tower on the great wall.