The Great Wall of China
Trip Start Mar 16, 2012
8Trip End Mar 24, 2012
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What I did
Great Wall of China
- Stephen King
I spent today roaming around one of the Seven Wonders of the World: The Great Wall of China. And great it was. This was the one thing I knew I wanted to see while here, a staple Bucket List item for anyone.
The day started with a grim PM2.5 reading of 386 (China claimed an 81), considered hazardous
The Great Wall of China stretches from east to west, up to the edge of Inner Mongolia and is the world's largest and longest manmade structure, stretching over 4,000 miles. It was first built in 220–206 BC by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huan, and since then reconstructed during the Ming Dynasty through the 1600s. It was built to protect the Chinese Empire against invasions from nomadic tribes, and at its peak, was guarded by over one million men, while double that died during its construction.
It's one of those sites that you have butterflies for, and revert to an eight-year old with excitement, searching for your first look at it. The drive up took us through what seemed like a Chinese Poconos, with family resorts in the woods, small lakes, corny amusement parks and endless picnic tables. Sadly, the "fog" was winning that day and Hilary was explaining that we were actually surrounded by another taller layer of mountains that we couldn't even see. My first look at the wall would not come from the road below.
As usual, QS drove us straight to the ticket office where we were surrounded by vendors hawking postcards, t-shirts and just about anything with the wall emblazed upon it. You begin up a steep walk towards a double ski lift that looks like the FIS lift on Ajax
Jump off the lift and off you go, up steep stone steps, to surface on the top to a wide stone road. Everywhere you look, the wall snakes up and down over hills, with lookout towers at the peaks. Again, the visibility was a huge drag, but it actually had an incredible quiet and again, mystical feel. And best yet, there were no crowds. There were times when it was just Hilary and me at a section. I'd take a private wall visit with poor visibility over clear skies and Disney crowds any day.
(And even though there were very few people with us, there's always those people who insist on wearing bright red, orange, and blue jackets, ruining a perfectly good photo op. Fineable in my opinion, neutrals should be mandated on the wall. Thank God for Photoshop.)
We walked up and down the wall, taking endless photos (challenging), visiting with the few other tourists from all over the world, stopping occasionally to drink it all in. And, like in India, were often asked to stop and pose with Chinese families, celebrity-style, for photos.
The steep hills and uneven steps (supposedly intentionally designed to trip up invaders), does a number of your legs and lungs - a work-out
The wall just kept going, so we just kept going, and wondered where and when it would ever stop. We finally got to one section where the wall climbed so steeply and so high, that we lost it in the cloud. We then decided to turn back. We headed back towards the chair lift, but that's not how we chose to descend. Nope, we're tobogganing down, of course.
A silver toboggan course takes tourists whipping and winding down the mountain over valleys and under the chair lift. A huge poster encourages you that tobogganing is so simple, plus rules reminding you to not make calls or take photos while on the ride. Whoops. The line was backed-up because a woman held the brake the whole time and got stuck. Once rescued and off the course, it was our turn. It's hilarious and at parts you really haul. There are signs along the way telling you to lean into the curves, slow down, and do not stop, while bored men stationed about, completely uninterested in your safety, look at their cell phones. It was awesome.
Once safely at the bottom, we headed through the vendors, head down, to QS
Hilary pulled a fast one and bought me a perfect gift of a glass turtle, that I have been told is one of my power animals. The turtle represents a model of settled, universal order, who moves slowly, traveling its own path, in its own time.
In the Far East, the shell is a symbol of heaven, the square underside a symbol of earth. The turtle's magic can help unite heaven and earth within your own life, a symbol of an invitation for the blessings of both heaven and earth.
What a - Bucket List - day.
Pics from Dongcheng District: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150751691575715.457799.633950714&type=1&l=3699ce6a4c