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  • Day28

    We hit the Wall

    September 22, 2019 in China ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    It’s Saturday and our last day of sightseeing as we have left the final full day of our journey, tomorrow, absolutely free.

    Ben and Yang were ready for us at 8am and our first port of call was the Olympic Park and an outside view of two adjoining Stadia constructed for Beijing 2008. Firstly we saw the Bird’s Nest, a very recognisable and impressive stadium which accommodated the track and field events. Then we saw the adjoining Water Cube which looks like it is covered in bubble wrap. This housed the swimming and diving. The Chinese are very proud of holding International events and nationals still travel from all over the country to see landmarks such as these, in fact there is an average of 80,000 people per day who visit the Olympic Park (you have to pay to even see the stadia from the outside and even more to go inside).

    From here we had to travel 70 kilometres to The Great Wall of China. Our Tour Company does not visit the closest section to Beijing City due to over crowding and for this we are thankful. There was some interesting scenery on the way as we travel through hillsides famous for large scale production of all kinds of fruits and nuts.

    Now we arrive at the location known as Mutianyu and enter a world of a well oiled Chinese machine. Our first view of the Wall is a very long way above us and you can just pick out the line of the wall and a couple of turrets. The first stage is an efficient shuttle bus that transports us 5 minutes up the hill to a drop off point. From there you have an option of walking an hour up steep steps to the Wall or taking the cable car. Fortunately our Tour already included tickets for the latter. Well organised queues are of course the order of the day.

    We have been to several ‘Wonders of The World’ and iconic sights and one consistent theme is that we have been prepared to be disappointed but never have been. The Taj Mahal and Macchu Picchu spring to mind. The Great Wall is no exception. When we dismounted the cable car we got our first proper view and it was breathtaking in it’s scale and construction.

    Ben walked with us for a while and then left us to trek off on our own for an hour. The walk along the Wall is particularly interesting because the gradient and surface varies all the time. Sometimes it is a slope, sometimes steps (shallow, steep, narrow, wide) with gentle and sharp gradients. There were towers of varying sizes every couple of hundred yards apart as the Wall stretched ahead and behind us out of view. You have to keep remembering that this wall is many centuries old and runs for around 5,000 miles.

    There were quite a lot of people there but it was not overcrowded. The only problem was the heat and it was certainly hard work walking in around 28C between noon and 1pm. The shade of the towers was always welcome. We used our full time there and then descended back to base at the bottom where we enjoyed a nice lunch with Ben and Yang. As we have witnessed before on this tour, any opportunities guides and drivers have for a free meal is taken with relish. As it was an ‘as much as you can eat’ buffet our two helpers attacked the buffet as if they hadn’t eaten for several months. Now Yang is a big lad and decided not to eat at the same table as us, however we were able to see him devouring huge quantities of Chinese food at high speed and thought it would have been useful to wire up his chopsticks to the Chinese National Grid to give it a boost! To be fair I suspect all of our guides and drivers are not on brilliant money and we don’t blame them at all for enjoying plentiful good quality food when they have the chance.

    Then it was 70km back to Beijing which took about 2 hours. Now Ben had about four platefuls at the buffet and that took it’s toll as he slept for almost all the journey back. Fortunately Yang managed to stay awake and got us back to the hotel by about 4pm. We’d really enjoyed our last days sightseeing but were pleased to now have no more organised footslogging.

    We had not booked anything for the evening and took a short stroll from our hotel and fortunately found a precinct about 2 minutes walk away with a number of restaurants as well as, and we certainly found this hard to believe, a bar! So we sat outside this stylish bar with live music being played inside, Janet had a couple of G&T’s and John two cans of Guinness, as we weighed up our dinner options. When we asked for the bill the waiter came and shook his head when John pulled out a credit card. He quickly got his iPhone translator out and showed us the words ‘Cash only’. ‘No problem’ John intimated to the waiter with hand signals ‘but how much?’. The waiter got his calculator and punched in 220 (about £27). Mucking about John took the calculator off him and in the manner of market bartering changed this to 180. The waiter laughed and made gestures that a drinks bill is not negotiable. John took the calculator again and for a joke punched in 200 at which point the waiter said OK and the deal was done. We have never been able to negotiate a bar tab before! He got a good tip.

    After a big Chinese lunch we settled for dinner at the nearby Italian, named Annie’s, for pizza which we enjoyed with a bottle of red. The music selection swung between the Love Theme from The Godfather, Al Martino and Opera in a random rotation which is probably designed to make the locals feel that they are actually in Italy. It caused us some amusement after we’d heard The Godfather theme tune for the 5th time! By the way we were the last people to leave the restaurant....again!
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    John East

    Don’t you just eight your choice of shirt ?!

    9/22/19Reply