Sunday, April 5, 2009

Day 4-Beijing, PRC

Day 4-Beijing, PRC
I was very excited, albeit a little nervous for the climb itself, to finally go to The Great Wall. Its one of the wonders of the world! It is basically a compilation of stone walls created between the 5th century and the 16th century. It covers over 4,000 miles from Shanhaiguan to Lop Nur. Over 2 million people died during its creation and at one time it was guarded by over one million men.

We went to the Mutianyu section, which houses a toboggan that we took down. The climb was pretty intense and we were all out of breath by the time we made it to the top, Brittany and I stopped half way through to take pictures by a lovely red pagoda. Jordan had his long lens, so I popped it on my camera and shot some spectacular shots of the wall from afar (I decided against bringing mine due to the weight and the long climb).

We spent the next hour or so exploring the wall itself. Constantly stopping to take pictures, the day crisp and sunny (what luck!). The wall itself was pretty amazing. Made of stone and seemingly going on forever I tried to picture the Mongols on one side with the Chinese forces holding them back on top of this massive peak. I felt so lucky to have been able to see such a magnificent sight (Thanks Mom and Dad!). After taking pictures from every angle we possibly could we headed down to the toboggan station. I took my time, while Brittany whizzed right off. The view was spectacular, despite my nerves as I looked out to see what would happen if I flipped it, lol.

The bottom of the mountain was full of vendors. One woman held out a “I Climbed the Great Wall” and pronounced that it was only 1 USD. When we followed her to her stall she quickly rebuked on the offer and even pinched Brittany as we walked away, it was quite shocking. Once we realized just how aggressive the vendors were we decided to divide and conquer. Brittany got a chop made (I got a case and ink for mine for only 10 Yuan), while I bargained one of those shirts down to 10 Yuan (I was/am out of cloths due to the slow laundry, but they say we’ll get it back before Japan, so we’ll see). We got back on the bus a little late (along with some other people) and promptly took our seats.

The tour guide pulled quite a trick on us, telling us that since we had been so late that we would have to go to McDonalds rather than a pizza buffet. Many people on the bus were extremely angry, while I was disappointed, I didn’t see any sense in getting worked up so I put on my ipod and looked out the window. We eventually pulled up to a “Big Pizza” and figured out that Jeff had pulled a prank on us. Many didn’t think it was funny, but I sure did. The buffet was very yummy and it was nice to have a change from Chinese food (though who could really complain about authentic Chinese food?).

From our Pizza filled feast we headed to the Silk Market. My goal was to get my chop carved for under 20 Yuan (bringing the sum total to around 8 dollars), while Brittany wanted to get pearls. After quite some searching, I found a shop that would do it (the stone I bought was very strong and they needed a special electronic carver), so I left it with them after having them literally promise their lives away if it wasn’t completed. While Brittany was hard at work buying like 10 sets of pearls, I found a small family owned calligraphy shop.

Having not made real art in TOO long, I was so excited when they offered me a lesson (albeit to get me to buy the supplies, but still). I really enjoyed doing it (their English wasn’t so good, so it was a little hard) and since I had overestimated the amount of cash I should have taken out the first day, I haggled for a quality brush, a box for the brush, black ink and a practice book (the coolest thing ever, it dries after you paint on it with water) all for under 10 dollars. The women took pity on me after a while as she was pretty adamant about selling it for more than twice that. It will really come in handy over the long stretches of sea time coming up. I was also able to get a bendy tripod for under 8 dollars (I already used it to take pictures of the Shanghai skyline at night). At the last minute Brittany ended up getting another LeSportSac.

We all piled back on the bus comparing our finds. It was very interesting to see what other people had bought. Many bought a ton of fake clothes, bags and even shoes! I was happy with my art related purchase.

We headed back to the hotel for dinner with the Chinese students. We ended up sitting with two Chinese students who had been dating for two years. They were really friendly and the boy kept refusing to eat until we had all eaten, which meant that I kept putting food on his plate. It was quite funny in person. After another lazy susan filled dinner, Brittany and I excused ourselves to go get her a phone card (I still had time left on mine).

On our way back we bumped into Faye and her boyfriend (our Chinese friends) and we asked them if there was a grocery store around. They walked us through some very dark streets and we ended up at a multistory department store complete with a bathroom. Brittany looked for a belt for her mom and cloths for her, although she didn’t end up buying any cloths because they weren’t very high quality despite the large price tags (weird since everything was, you guessed it, made in china). I got some cup-of-noodles (but a Chinese version) and Brittany got moisturizer.

On our way back to the hotel we got some street vendor popcorn (it was yummy and cheap, I’m still surprised about the lack of street food in china though, I guess the government is strict about it). I talked to the male student about politics and he seemed very pro-American, stating that he wants to continue his studies in the USA.

By the time we got back to the hotel we were very tired, but excited for the coming day!


  1. What an adventure you are on. The Great Wall sounds so very interesting. It all does and i so enjoy your stories of all the adventures. I hope you post something stamp related when you get back to the US, can't wait to see the stone with the carving in it. Stamping is my passion. I had rather buy stamps and etc. than eat. (not really) :) I have watched your copic tutorial and now i am buying copics.
    Have fun and can't wait to read your adventures again.

  2. I feel like I am walking with you as I read your entries! Such a breathtaking trip! Glad you got to have some "Pizza", although I think I would have rather had real Chinese food!