Trip Start Mar 16, 2004
64Trip End Apr 02, 2005
That evening, I had another interesting experience trying to see Nora Jones in concert at the Workers' Gymnasium in Beijing. Kim and a colleague of hers had VIP tickets (don't ask me how...it's good to be connected). Her flatmate Shirin, Shirin's friend Christian, and I, not wanting to pay the $100 ticket price, decided to buy tickets from a scalper. Note: not the brightest idea in a country where treatment of criminals is sketchy at best. But when we met a man that was offering to sell three tickets to us as $30 apiece, reason went to the wind. We paid the man and instead of handing us the tickets, he pushed us past the ticket takers without letting them rip the tickets. That they didn't stop him was a miracle. I think he must have been connected to them somehow. Once inside the arena, I asked the man to give us the tickets and he pretended he didn't understand. Instead, he pointed to three seats and told us to sit down. I asked him again for the tickets and he barked, "No tickets!" and disappeared into the crowd. So there the three of us were, inside the arena, in seats that we didn't have tickets for. With nothing to show the ushers, we couldn't go to the bathroom or get up to get snacks or anything
Aside from the Nora Jones misadventure (the concert ended up being great, by the way), the rest of my Beijing trip was smooth sailing. On Tuesday, I flew solo to the Great Wall of China and had a wonderful adventure trekking up and down the steep terrain. The Great Wall was built from 1368-1644 by the Ming Dynasty to keep the Qing Dynasty out. While it ultimately failed in its purpose, the Great Wall is a magnificent construction that impressively conforms to the steep peaks and valleys of northern Beijing like a dragon slithering along the countryside. Standing atop the highest guard tower on the section of the Wall called Juyonguan, I felt like I was the king of the world. The Great Wall of China definitely deserves its place among the Ancient Wonders of the World. Despite what some people and guidebooks will boldly claim, however, I do not believe that the Great Wall of China is visible from outer space.
Overall, this trip to Mainland China has been one of the highlights of my time in Asia. China is an intriguing place with a fascinating history, a thriving market economy, a culture all its own, and some of the best food I've ever tasted in all of my travels. Still, I'm looking forward to setting my feet down in the free world again. The overwhelming military and police presence in China is enough to make anyone uneasy, even a law-abiding, na'er do wrong, model citizen like myself.