Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Great Wall!

We spent approximately two weeks in Beijing, China. So, I'm going to try to sum up our adventure in this next post. On the 30th, Saturday, we took the metro, then the bus to the "Dirt Market." Here people are selling everything from beautiful beads to giant stone Buddhas. The market has rows and rows of vendors attempting to sell you Chinese goods. We walked down each row looking for special gifts for our family and friends back home. I can't give you details, because it would ruin the surprise.
The next day we went back to the dirt market to finalize the sale. We had numerous cups of tea and discussed our travels. The fascinating thing is the people who we were talking to did not speak any English. This was a wonderful experience! After numerous hours at the dirt market, we went to the Sanlitun Yashou Market. This market had 5 floors of all the clothing one may need. We shopped around, but all the salespeople were extremely pushy. Every time you would walk away from a negotiation, the person would attempt to leach onto you.
Later that evening, we went to a local restaurant not far from our hostel for dinner. The table and chairs sat outside in the middle of the road. This place was really enticing as the waitresses worked really hard to reel you in. This meal was amazing and authentic too! As we walked passed a barber shop, Jay decided to get a buzz cut. The barber did not speak English, but Jay was able to get the message across.
The following day we strolled through Tiananmen Square. This vast stone public square lies at the heart of Beijing. Kites fluttered through the sky, as people attempted to sell them to you. In the middle of this square lies the symbolic center of the Chinese universe. The rectangular arrangement echoes the layout of the Forbidden City. Once you pass this rectangular monument, you have to walk under the subway to actually get to the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is the largest and best preserved cluster of ancient buildings in China. It was home to two dynasties of emperors, the Ming and Qing. This place was massively huge in every way from the door ways to the gardens. We were extremely impressed with the architecture. However, we did not find the museum and audio guide helpful in understanding the ruling of the dynasty.
After spending a half day exploring the city, we made our way to the Jingshan Park. Here we climbed the rocky path through the beautiful garden for a magnificent panorama view of the capital and an overview of the russet roofing of the Forbidden City.
Later that evening, we had a wonderful dinner at our hostel. Yummy sweet and sour chicken with stir-fried vegetables!
The next day, we ventured out to the long distance bus station. We had all intentions of going to the Great Wall. Here we met Nils, Ally, Breda, and Ralph. After long negotiation with the driver, actually Jay got the price down to 420y by playing rock, paper, and scissors, we were on our way. Approximately five minutes later, our driver gets pulled over by the police. Two police officers get into our van and being driving to the police station. Here a police officer questioned us about our driver and the rate we were charged to go the Great Wall. Apparently, our driver did not pay his taxes on his van and therefore was arrested. During more questioning, Jay and I went to the restroom. When we returned everyone was out of the van. Nils explained that the driver pulled out a vegetable knife and ran towards the van. The police officers had to tackle him to the ground. Therefore, Nils thought it would be a good idea to get out of the van. The police officer attempted to find us another driver, but he had no luck. As a group, we decided that today must have not been the right day to explore the Great Wall.
So, we went with Nils and Ally to the Lama Temple and the Temple of Heaven Park. The Lama Temple is the most renomwed Tibetian Buddhist temple outside of Tibet. This is Beijing's most colorful temple: beautiful rooftops, stunning frescoes, magnificent decorative arches, and incredible architecture. The temple's Most prized possession is its 55 foot high sandalwood statue of the Maitreya Buddha. We couldn't believe that it was all one piece of wood. Next, we took a taxi to the Temple of Heaven Park. This is the most prime example of Ming architecture. We walked around this park, but did not have any desire to enter any of the temples. It was just too expensive and we were exhausted from the day. Later that night, we attempted to meet up with Nils and Ally, but we were too slow in getting dressed and missed them by the skins of our teeth. However, we met a guy named Lee, from England, who came with us the next day to the Great Wall.
Once again, we ventured out to the long distance bus station. This time we had an extra commrade, Lee. There we found Nils, Ally, Ralph, and Breda ready for the Great Wall. Once we arrived to the Great Wall at Jinshnaling, we set out for the 10 km hike to Simatai. Here we climbed through parts of the Great Wall where it was steep and stony. Many parts of the wall collapsed and and much was in a state of ruin. We actually passed a couple of workers re-constructing the wall. The view was absolutely amazing as you could see the Great Wall winding before your eyes. To the left and right of the Great Wall, you could see perfectly landscaped tress and bright green grassland. The view was absolutely breathtaking. Numerous times, we had difficulties realizing that we were actually climbing on one of the seven wonders of the world.
After the long journey to Simatai, the driver picked us up and drove us back to the long distance bus station. We were absolutely beat from the days hike and went immediately to bed.
The next couple of days consisted of relaxing. We met Nils and Ally for lunch and hung out with them until departure for their train to Xian, China. We had awesome conversation...they are two very cool people. Also, we hung out with Ralph and Breda a couple of times before we parted ways. One evening, we decided to go out on Sanitlun Road, which happens to be "Bar Street." The clubs that we went too were more like laser light shows with males dancing with one another. However, we were denied entrance into the "World of Suzie Wong." According to the description in the Lonely Planet book, this place is for "beautiful people" to be. As we approach this place, everyone is dressed very glamorous. We are wearing flip flops, tanks tops, and shorts. Basically, we were not dressed "beautiful"enough. Therefore, we came to a conclusion: "You know you are a real backpacker when you are denied admittance into the World of Suzie Wong." Two days later, we took a 13 hour train ride to Xian, China.


Anonymous said...

"The world of Suzie Wong" is a novel published in 1957 about a "mysterious Chinese prostitute with a heart of gold." It was adapted into a hit film in 1960. I am not making this up.

Happy Birthday on Sunday Kacee!

Anonymous said...

you guys are soooooooo cooooool....thanks for keeping up the post!!! is hard because when i catch up i read from the top down...yeah, just a lil backwards...but, arent we all!!!?)