Sunday, 14-12-2014. Day 116.
A Walk Along the Great Wall
Once again, our day started with an early breakfast at the Dongfang Hotel. It seems our novelty was wearing off as we didn't get as many stares from hotel staff this morning.
We met Jack (you know, our tour guide) in the lobby and set off on the 90-minute van ride to the Mutianyu section of the the Great Wall of China. But before we could get there, our preordained itinerary had us stopping off at the Cloisonne Factory.
Almost before we could even get out of the van at the entrance to the factory, we were greeted by a young woman who would guide us through the place and show us all the steps that go into making a piece of cloisonne.
As our handler led us through the complex, we saw all the steps in action—the bending and soldering of cooper wire to create the cloisons where the enamel will be added; the painstaking work of adding colored, powdered enamels to the cloisons; glazing the finished, enameled pieces; and the final firing of the pieces. The room with the firing chamber was really warm, and we got to see one of the pieces being removed from the kiln, glowing red hot.
After the quick tour was over, we were led into the very large showroom. We were told that this store, like the pearl center yesterday, is operated by the government, so we could be assured of the quality of anything we would buy.
The stuff on display here was relatively expensive. The cheapest items, small jewelry pieces, were around $20 U.S. and there were larger pots and urns that went for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Great Wall at Mutianyu
Then it was off to the Great Wall, which is, of course, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is one of the best preserved sections and has 22 watchtowers along its almost 2.5-kilometers length.
And even though you can't see the Great Wall from space (one of those common misconceptions, which we heard repeated in line for tickets), you can see it from the reception area, which is still pretty far from the wall proper.
Once got our tickets, we walked through the standard collection of vendors hawking their wares (t-shirts, panda hats, fans, and all sorts of other trinkets) and restaurants (including the Burger King at the Great Wall) before we climbed onto a bus and took a short jaunt up to the cable car entrance. Then we rode a cable car up to tower 14 and hiked to tower 21, one of the highest points on the wall, and back. The climb from tower 20 to 21 was pretty steep, but the gals powered through.
We have so many photos of this adventure we couldn't pick a representative few. So here's a gallery with 50.
Great Wall of China Photo Gallery
One of the things that we couldn't do (because it was winter) was toboggan down the wall. Basically, you take the cable car up, hike for a bit, then slide down the biggest slide you've ever slid on to get to the bottom. It looked amazingly fun, so if you ever get the chance to visit the Great Wall, consider doing it in the warm season. Instead, we took the cable car back down. We rode in car #10, which was the same car that Bill Clinton sat in when he visited the wall in 1998.
We stopped for a somewhat unremarkable lunch at Xin Shuang Quan, a restaurant near the wall, then started back to Beijing. As we rode back to town, I noticed that all the trees we were passing were painted white at the bottom. I asked Jack why and he responded with, "Ants." I nodded and looked back out across the passing fields and saw thousands of trees with the bottom third or so of their trunks painted white. Seems like a lot of work to stop some ants.
It was starting to get dark by the time we got back to Beijing, but we had time for one quick stop at the Beijing Olympic Park where we saw the Water Cube, the National Stadium (referred to as the Bird's Nest by many a sportscaster during the 2008 Olympics), and the dragon-shaped, opulent Hotel Pangu.
That night we had a choice of evening entertainment—the opera, an acrobatics show, or a kung fu show. Because Jackie is into karate, she really wanted to see the Kung Fu Show, So we went to the Red Theatre.
We couldn't take any pictures of the show, but the Red Theatre was pretty red. The show itself was okay. We all thought it would be a demonstration of Kung Fu, and there was a little of that, but it was really a theatrical show with a very thin story (and we were surprised the narration was in English). But Jackie really enjoyed it, especially seeing the young kids performing kung fu.
And then it was back to the hotel. It had been a jam-packed two days in Beijing, and the next day we'd be leaving on an overnight train to Xi'an. But the train didn't depart until late in the evening, so we had a whole day to ourselves. We planned on sleeping in (a little), then going to the Beijing Zoo to see some pandas.
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites visited: 1 (13 cumulative)
- Penis drawing seen on the Great Wall: 1
- Kilometers walked on the Great Wall: 3
- Child monks performing Kung Fu: 4
- Hours in a van: 4