"" Writer's Wanderings: China--The Great Wall

Thursday, October 01, 2009

China--The Great Wall

On the bus, Maggie shows us a map of China. The country is shaped like a rooster, she says, with Beijing as the heart. And there should be two feet. Haikou is one foot and if they can get Taiwan back, it would be the other foot.

On our way to lunch, we pass a deserted amusement park that had been intended as a Disney park but the company building it went bankrupt.

Our lunch stop is at a cloisonné factory. We eat from a choice of Chinese dishes and their version of chicken fingers and French fries. We are hurried through the “factory” and marvel at how the workers could possibly see to make such intricate designs in the poorly lit work area provided them. We purchase some Christmas ornaments during our “shopping opportunity.”

We move on toward the Great Wall. The visibility is good on this “shiny” day. Fall colors add to the beauty and ahead of us, us we climb into the mountains, we get the first glimpse of the wall sitting along the top of a couple of mountain peaks. It is amazing.
At the tourist stop, we exit the bus and hurriedly buy a hat and scarf (each for “one dollah”—mine has a cashmere label, hmmm). While the sun is bright, the air and the wind are crisp and cold.

We enter the “easy” climb side of the wall and make it as far as the first tower before I am completely winded and feeling light-headed. I sit on a ledge and catch my breath, hoping I haven’t pushed myself beyond my limits. When the gray haze before my eyes disappears, I stand and look around at the view. We can see the continuation of the wall and some brave souls climbing even higher.
After the pictures are taken, we make our way down again which seems treacherous because of the angle. Bob appears to be at a 45 degrees angle to the path beneath his feet. I’m sure it isn’t that much but the backs of my legs feel the burn. We walk a little ways up the “hard side” just to say we were there. It is much less crowded and we get some wonderful pictures.

After a little coffee and a rest, we return to the bus and begin to make our way back down the mountains all the while catching new views of sections of the wall. Seeing the terrain, it is mind-boggling to consider the construction feat. Apparently there were parts of the wall built in 221 B.C. by the Qin Dynasty. Emperor Qin was instrumental in uniting China. Much of the wall we see today however was built by the Ming Dynasty in the 1300s to 1600s.

We arrive back in Beijing with just enough light left to see the 2008 Olympic stadium, “The Bird Nest.” Indeed it does look like a giant bird nest. It is said to have 100,000 seats and the opening ceremonies and track and field events will be held there.

This evening is our dinner banquet for all the Princess Cruise passengers. We join others who have been staying at the Beijing Hotel for two or three night pre-cruise tours. The banquet hall at the Beijing is quite fancy—fresh flowers on the tables—but there is still the usual lazy susan and the same type of food. We’re all ready for a good old-fashioned hamburger.

The cultural show mostly features children—perhaps from dance classes? They are delightful and come into the audience to shake our hands when they are done with their routines. I am happy for the opportunity to get a small taste of Chinese opera as well. The costuming is exquisite but the sound is too screechy for my ears. Still, I feel privileged to experience this little piece of culture.

Upon our return to the hotel, Bob tries to coax me into another walk down the street to the food stands we found the first night. I’m too tired to put up with crowds and just want a few minutes to myself. He goes alone and I pray he stays out of trouble. He’s not gone long and reports that he found scorpions, starfish, silk worms and snakes on a stick. My stomach rebels at the thought. I wish he hadn’t planted the picture in my mind before going to sleep.
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