Friday, January 21, 2011


March 18, 2007 BEIJING....Walking the Wall

Up before 6 we were at breakfast by 6:30 and out the door by 8 am. Dressed warmly as we’re headed for the mountains today and it’s overcast again. I have five layers of clothes to attempt to stay warm.

Our first stop was at the BinBin Cloisonne Factory where we saw how they create the vases and other works of art. Then we had an opportunity to “paint” a dish. Now we know how hard they are to do and at that point we visited the factory showrooms. Nearly everyone purchased at least one item. We found a very tiny duck that will be perfect for our Beijing memento.

Back on the bus for another hour of driving to the Great Wall of China. Our first stop was at a section that is located away from the area that most tourists go to called the Badaling Wild Wall. We transferred to small vans, and then we drove about a mile over a very rough dirt road; and then we had to hike up a rocky path to the actual wall and it was COLD…also it was SNOWING. But we hung in there and walked a section of the wall on wooden steps as the wall itself is original and has not been repaired other than building wooden steps over the top to walk on without breaking our necks! Jim and several of the other hardier ones continued on and walked for about an hour before returning to the group for our short ride back to our bus. The bus then drove us over to the Tourist Area for the wall that is shown in all of the photos of famous people known as the Badaling Great Wall. The hardiest of all of our group, Christa and Birgitte, walked all the way down to the bus in the parking lot.

Before walking that section we fortified ourselves with a Chinese lunch at the local restaurant. This wall was much easier to walk as the stones have been repaired. The weather was still cold but the snow had stopped and it was a bit warmer by the time we’d finished lunch. Dropped my new camera while walking this section of the wall; stopped to take off my glove and lost my grip. The battery compartment came open but nothing broke; just gave me a scare and a journal entry. Even in this weather the wall was very crowded and we were all glad that we had the morning experience to enjoy the "real wall" with no crowds.

On the two hour drive back to the hotel (and no we’d never left the city limits of Beijing) we passed by one of the new stadiums (named the bird nest because of the unusual style) that will be completed by July of this year for the 2008 Olympic Games next year.

We were on our own for dinner tonight so Jim and I walked down to the shopping area to enjoy a local restaurant that featured Won Ton Soup. We each had a bowl with a beer. Seems like we’re always having a small glass of beer with our meals; our choices of drinks are limited to Sprite, Coke, bottled water or beer. Of course we always have tea with every meal. Then we walked to the street vendors section that offer exotic foods every evening…lots of people eating but many doing what we were doing: taking photos of the unusual foods offered…bugs, snakes, seafood urchins, etc. Fun to look at but not to eat!

Jim walked me over to St. Joseph’s Cathedral; a beautiful Catholic Church right in the center of town. Jim plans to take a cab out to the big Cathedral before leaving on Tuesday. He actually stopped in this morning for five minutes of mass…he said it was very crowded…on his morning constitutional after breakfast.

Interesting side note: there are no vintage cars in China. When they are fifteen years old you are required to turn them in and they are destroyed. Also they now observe Arbor Day and encourage all people to plant a new tree every year. The hope is that it will help to solve some of the pollution problems. It is very expensive to own a car in China. The cost of the gas is not too high, only about $2.00 a gallon; but the income is so much less than in the USA it seems very high to the Chinese people. Maggie said that boys can either afford a girlfriend or a car but seldom both.

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