Beijing
                                   September 2 - 5                     More Beijing


Landing in Beijing international airport in the midst of a thunderstorm was fun, (oh yeah) but we really enjoyed running from the plane to the bus and from the bus to the terminal in torrential downpour.  Also, bags can apparently not be unloaded from planes while it is raining, so we had to wait an hour or so to get our soaking wet luggage.  The only upside was that we were on an empty 747, an experience that I can not imagine having on a US flight.
Chris and Yong
When we arrived at the hotel, we got a call from a business associate of Beth's father, Min, and scheduled to meet with him in the morning, for a ride out to the Great Wall.  Min had to fly to Shanghai, so he sent us off with his protégé, Yong, who took us on a great tour of the Great Wall.  We are departing from our regular format, and are just showing pictures of the Great Wall today.  This is because the Wall made such an impression upon us.  It might also be because we don't have any other pictures yet.

Great WallYong took us out to Muntianyu, a section of the Great Wall which was recently restored, and is supposed to be more scenic than the usual tourist section at Badaling.  Scenic is not the right word.  Dramatic, awe inspiring, terrifying are all much better words.  The best word might be high.  When we arrived at the Great Wall, our hearts leapt when we saw the tell-tale towers of a gondola lift, (sorry not in the photo, although neither is the alpine slide) to take tourists up the mountain to the Wall, but since it was low season, and there were few tourists, it was closed.  We had to walk.  Now for perspective, the wall is 2500 miles long, about 20 feet high in most places, and runs along the top of mountain ridges as an additional barrier to protect the ancient border of China.  As we struggled up the 1000 steps up the mountain to the Wall, the thought occurred that perhaps the mountains were barrier enough?

Chris after his trip to the TopThis is a view north from the top of the Wall.  In addition to serving as a barrier, the Wall was a road, allowing much faster communications in Northern China. Sort of an early telephone. Basically, behind Chris, the Wall extends a few hundred miles to the ocean, and in front of him, the wall extends another 2000 miles.  It follows the ridges and mountain tops for most of the way, which must have made it tough to get a good dinner for the soldiers posted there.  Not many restaurants.  I bet they had great t.v. reception though.  All of the wall in this photo is restored.  Even the restoration must have been a massive task, hauling bricks, mortar, stone, and timbers all the way up the mountain.  We had a tough time hauling our camera and water bottle up.
 
Beth and a Friend All along the wall are women selling water and soda "Cold water, Cold water, Hello, Cold water, very cheap".  Also, there are men who will pose with you for a buck.  This fellow was particularly persuasive so we sprung for it.  (The photo is from the middle of the negotiation, when Chris suggested that maybe a dollar was too much?)  There were also some women wandering around saying "Lady wanna braid?"  Oh wait, that was the Bahamas, sorry.
 
 Construction began sometime in the 5th century, and continued piecemeal until the 16th century when the Ming emperors made a concerted effort to strengthen and unify the wall.  The final result was 2500 miles long, and cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Chinese.  The Chinese emperors lived in the Chris atop the Great WallForbidden City, a walled city that they very rarely left so it must have seemed natural to them to want to wall in their country.  They tried to protect their familiar society from the uncivilized nomadic tribes of Manchuria and Mongolia which, of course did not work.  In fact the last Imperial dynasty, the Qing, were Manchurians who swept down over the wall and overwhelmed an ingrown and weak Ming dynasty.

After a thoroughly exhausting morning at the Wall, we went back to the hotel, and prepared for some shopping in "Silk Valley", a little alley near our hotel lined with about a hundred little booths selling everything from scarves and kimonos, to "Timberland" jackets, and more.  Also, approximately every 15 feet, someone would approach us and offer us CD's and CD-ROM's.  Not having a CD player, or time to listen, we declined, but it took some effort.  We were a little disappointed that we did not encounter any Black Sabbath influences, or t-shirts, but we will soldier on.
 
By the end of the day, Beth was getting tired, and I knew it was time to get her back to the hotel when she started humming "Kung Fu Fighting" in the restaurant as we were finishing dinner.  Our only disagreement so far came when we disagreed over who sang it.  So we decided that would be the next TRIVIA QUESTION.  Submit responses to email@bethandchris.com.
 

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