Wednesday, October 03, 2012

2012 Asian Adventure - Beijing (Part Two)

Day Fourteen

The last day of the China portion of our trip.  It was going to start off with a big one - The Great Wall.  A couple days earlier, during our Peking Duck dinner, our guide made a suggestion.  Normally the tour would take you to Badaling.  Badaling is the most visited portion of the wall and, if you've seen a picture of the wall, it was probably taken there.  She suggested that we instead go to a place she called the Badaling Remnant (The ticket of the place referred to it as "The Ancient of the Badaling Great Wall.").  Our first reaction was of uncertainty.  When we showed pictures to our friends and family back home we wanted them to recognize it.  We didn't just want to see a pile of old bricks.  We decided to trust our guide when the Wife pointed out that Malinda had not steered us wrong yet.

We left Beijing and along the way we passed Badaling.  It was early morning and you could see that the wall was already packed with people and there were several buses parked in the parking lot.  Like our guide had suggested, at Badaling all our pictures would be of backs, butts, and umbrellas.  Less than ten minutes later our bus left the main highway and drove up a dirt road.  The dirt road turned into a well maintained, and fairly new, paved road.  We passed through a gate and passed a visitor's center that was still under construction.  We left the bus, used the facilities (I saw this sign over one of the urinals), and went the rest of the way on foot.

The Great Wall of China.
What we saw next was amazing.  It was the Great Wall in all its glory.  Not only that but we practically had it all to ourselves.  There were maybe a dozen other people there besides us.  This portion of the wall was restored by the Japanese and was definitely not a pile of rubble.  This is interesting as the Chinese and Japanese notoriously do not get along (As I write this there is tension between the two countries over disputed islands).

Lots of stairs on the Great Wall.
The youngest of our group, with me following close behind, went on ahead of the group.  It was insane and very cool.  The wall is not flat but climbs up and down mountains.  I couldn't keep up with KK and he ended up walking a longer section than I did (he was nearly thirty-one years my junior).  It was cloudy this morning so a lot of my pictures came out sub-par but in person it lived up to what I'd expected to see.  We all thanked our guide as we returned to the bus.

The Wall all to ourselves - the youngest went the farthest.
Next stop was a Jade factory where we saw them carving jade and were given a little tour before taking us into their large showroom - yep ... another shopping opportunity.  Before we went shopping though we went to a restaurant attached to the factory and had lunch.

After lunch we shopped a bit but the Wife and I ended up buying only magnets ... and ice cream.

Ming Tombs.
Next on our itinerary were the Ming Tombs.  After the wall this felt like the power down phase of our China trip.  We toured the tombs and the surrounding  park and farm land then took a short bus ride to a long tree lined walkway.  The walkway was lined with pairs of statues of men, animals, and mythical beasts.  The most memorable happening here occurred in a bathroom.  I walked in with a member of our group (JE) who was very tall (kept hitting his head on low doorways).  Another Chinese tour guide was in there as well.  The first urinal was a handicap/child urinal and was low to the ground.  JE looked at the low urinal and said it wasn't for him.  The Chinese guide than said "That one is for the Japanese.  When they go to Europe they need a step stool."   Heh.

Long walkway at the Ming Tombs.
By the time we were at the end of the long walkway it was starting to drizzle.  We got back on the bus and headed back to Beijing with one last shopping stop.  This was more at the request of our group.  We wanted to stop at the knockoff market to buy some genuine fake stuff.  The wife had her sights set on a bag.  We found booth that sold what we wanted.  The girls asked us to follow her and she proceeded to take us into the stairwell (The place was five stories if I recall).  She produced a couple stools and a helper started bring up almost perfect copies of the bag the Wife was interested in.  She even used the genuine bag catalog to pick out what she wanted.  I have to admit that I was paranoid the entire time we were in that stairwell.  I was just waiting for some big thug to come up those stairs and mug us.  The Wife got her bag and we went back into the market proper and I was able to calm down a bit.

That night we went out for our goodbye dinner at a Sichuan restaurant.  Sichuan food tends to be a bit spicy hot.  This meal was toned down a bit but there were a few dishes that set my mouth a flame.

China was almost over.  The group, whom had become very close, was on the verge of  returning to their real lives ... except us.  We still had two weeks to go.

Pictures from day fourteen (07/06/2012) can be found in my 2012-06 China Google Photos album.

Our 2012 Asian Adventure continues ...

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