Monday, May 11, 2009

Beijing Post 3: Day 2, The Great Wall of China and the Ming Tombs

As soon as we arrived in Beijing, we made plans to go to the Great Wall on Sunday. We informed the woman at the receptionist desk that we wanted to go to Badaling, which is the portion of the wall closest to Beijing (only an hour and a half away). Badaling tends to be the most popular place to view the wall, since, not only is it so close to the city, but it has also been restored.

To our request, the woman at the receptionist desk said.. why would you go there? You can go to another one further away from Beijing, enjoy a nice hike, and stay away from the crowds. We didn't even think about it for a minute. The program she wanted us to sign up for was a 4 hour trip there, and 4 hours back, plus an 8k hike up to the wall. A. We're not trekkers, and B. we only had 4 days to see Beijing. We didn't want to spend it in a van. So, seeing as how we had such a huge group of people (9 people when we were all together) we asked if we could hire a taxi, and if the cost would be reasonable. Well, as it turned out, the receptionist was able to book us our own private van for only 135 yuan per person (about $20.00 USD) to take us to, not only the wall, but also to the Ming Tombs. This was a great deal for us, since the regular tour with a bunch of people we didn't know would have cost us about the same, and we got our own private chauffeur.

One catch. The receptionist insisted that we leave at 5:30 am to beat the crowds, which she said, would be unbearable. Judging from our experience eat the Forbidden City the day before, this advice seemed to make sense. So, as much as we begrudged it, we decided that we'd get up at 5 and take the taxi at 5:30.

We made it to the wall at exactly 7:00, it took exactly 1.5 hours to get there. As we walked up to the wall we realized that we could either walk on the wall going up to the left, or going up to the right. Now, either there's something we don't know.. or we're just too free thinking... I'm not sure which, but we looked at the two sides and saw that one side was virtually empty of people, and the other side was starting to get crowded, even at 7:00 AM. For us, it was a no-brainer to go up the side with no people.

Crowded side

Our side...

I was thinking about the fact that people always say that they climbed the great wall, and not walked on the great wall. It makes so much more sense now... Just look at these stairs... here we were going down, but we had to climb these stairs to get up to the top of the highest peak. That was the best workout I've had in a while. I don't know what was harder. The stairs, or the steep incline of the wall when there were no stairs....

On nearly every brick on the wall there was graffiti. Since I can't really read Chinese, I like the look of it, actually. But, of course, who knows what it really says...

Here's the ridiculous hats that were super popular with the Chinese tourists.

At 9:00 am we got back in our van and headed over to the Ming Tombs, which were about an hour away (though, I think our taxi driver got lost). Honestly, this wasn't the most exciting part of the trip, but if you have the time, if for no other reason, it's just nice to see the scenery.

Entrance gate to the Ming Tombs

Inside the underground tombs

A nice walk around the perimeter

At noon we met our driver again, and headed back to Beijing. It was hard to believe that it was only noon, since we had been going since 5:00 am.

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