China - Great Wall Edition



Too busy and not much time, let's go.

Today we went to the Great Wall of China. Not actually today as in the date this is posted, because I'm a slow arse, but let's not get pedantic. 

Anyway, GREAT WALL OF CHINA. Which I suppose has always been on my bucket list, so tick that off.

There was quite a long bus trip our to the mountains, which started in my hotel room really, so here's the view from there. 

I suppose now's the time to let you in on not just a fun fact about Beijing, but probably the most fun of facts: the sun doesn't shine here. Quite literally. There is no sun. Or there would be, if there weren't a murky yellow cloud of polluted doom constantly descended over the entire city. 

I'm not sure if this is all the time, or just in the wretchedly humid, sticky and gross summer, or it's just a bad week, but have fun seeing anything more than 300m in front of you.

Or breathing.

Actually breathing is okay, but I wouldn't call the experience "fresh". 

With that in mind, here's the trip from city to mountains, complete with splendid non-views of grey murkiness. 

David and Tim.

The Bird's Nest, of the 2008 Olympics fame. 

These are everywhere. These are also some of the better maintained ones.

Bus buddies Jen and Mallory. They're masters students. Well then. 

I edited this photo and this is about as bright and happy as I could make it.


And suddenly, green! There are some quite nicely maintained green bits around the city, actually. I have yet to see a legit park, but there will often be a really nice bright green hedge on a nature strip or something.

Highway checkpoint.

Fun fact: they drive on the wrong side of the road here. I thought they'd be on the left, just to stick another one to the USA, but apparently not.

Went through a couple of villages, which were fascinating to see; made me feel like I was in some kind of cultural documentary.

Yes, there's a weird dot at the top of my lens. I try to crop it out, but here you can deal with it and pretend it's a thing.

Hello, pink lady.

Hello again.

Later, pink lady.

Let's not talk about how terrifyingly close we swerve around some objects. It's best not to look out the window most of the time. Our driver is lovely, who lights up whenever I say "ni hao" or "xie xie" to him, but I mainly leave him to concentrate on his obvious particular skill set of weaving a coach bus through peak hour Beijing cars, taxis, cyclists, mini vans, pedestrians, fruit carts, trucks and took tooks somehow without killing everyone.

Traffic leading up to the parking for the Wall.

Time to get out and walk now - I wasn't sure if we were hiking all the way to the top or what, but turns out there's a chair lift. 

That's Kim.

More American things. I wonder what they think about this. I think even quite a few Australians roll their eyes a bit at the Americanisation of everything, it'd be interesting what the Chinese think of it all.

Maps and histories. It all went a bit quickly, so I have very little educational knowledge to share with you. Except that the wall is about 600 years old. 
 There's a big touristy market leading up to the chairlift.

Nina and Chester, who is also our resident photographer and IT expert. 

Toilet break: uh oh.

Fruit stall. Middle of Summer. It looked good.

Organising a group photo. Which I may put up later.

Jo + Mallory.

Seems legit.

From a vague left to right: Isabella, Jen, Mallory, another Jen, Steph, Jo, Yi, Sam, Nina. 

Mr Sass.

Here we go.

Ticket. Which I'm sure says a lot of interesting things.

A nice bloke helped you into the chair which more or less slammed into your thighs.
Chair buddy: Jo.

Okay, so here is both the best and worst thing that happened.

Fact: there is a gorram sled down the side of the Great Wall of China mountain. As in, the idea is you go up the chair lift, and go down on the sled.

Worst thing that has ever happened to me: the stupid cloud over the stupid mountain started to drizzle and descend even further onto my face to they closed it before it was time for me to go back.

I'm not even kidding, this is one of the worst things that has ever happened to me. I try not to think about it, the fact that I DIDN'T GET TO SLED DOWN THE MOUNTAIN FROM THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA.


 This was still pretty damn good though. 

Up this way I think it more actual rainforest humidity, as opposed to the humidity created by air literally being unable to move to escape due to yellow cloud of polluted doom.

I said hi to nearly everyone who rode past. In every language I knew, so surely one would fit.


At the top.

Refreshments! Every 100m or so along the wall, including beer.

Now I wasn't actually expecting to see anything, considering how horrific it was in the city, but polluted cloud of doom or just plain old water cloud, I STILL CAN'T SEE A DAMN THING.

I've decided that all my photos of the Great Wall of China are thus "atmospheric". 

Kim + I. Very atmospheric.

Every now and then was a rest stop, a little castle-like structure. 

Over the edge.

Bec head.

We figured these holes were used for archery, or pouring hot oil over unfortunate Mongol folk.

A bit of a cardio workout, to put it lightly.

600 year old stones can also be a bit treacherous. 

At the top. Well, as far as we'd go anyway. We climbed a lot, and that next bit went down, which technically constitutes the top. 

A bit of Saturday Night Fever added. 

Great Wall: f yeah.

The thing about the Great Wall is that once you go a certain way, have had your fill and wish to get back down, the only thing to do is to go back the exact way you just came. Despite Kim's worrying that we were going in the wrong direction, there really literally is direction. Ugh, set myself up for that one didn't I. Anyway.

You could go down the long with with the steps, but even after having been given the dreadful news about the sled, I had hoped that maybe by the time we got back there it might be open again. But, no. 

Atmosphere, dammit.

An exit.

Saying hi to random strangers again.

Actually, let's talk about the strangers! Because of course it's everyone's Summer holidays in the northern hemisphere, so there were Americans, Germans, Canadians, Finish, Swedish, Serbians, Middle Easterners, Indians, everyone. Very awesome to see.

Fun with rest stops.

Going back now.

Dragon urrrrn.

Tropical flowers.

Mallory, Sam and Steph: cheesy tourists the Panda hat people.

Was slightly hungry and the fruit looked so good, so I bought me a nectarine. I slightly tried my hand at haggling, which I think I'm somewhat allergic to, due to my intense avoidance of anything slightly confrontational or frictional with other people. 

It didn't go so well. 

Me: -holds out one nectarine-

Her: 8.

Me: ....6?

Her: No.

Me: -hands over 8 Yuan-

Also, I asked her for 5Y worth of cherries and she literally put 3 cherries in a bag and weighed it for me. That's when I said no. See! I can say no too! HA!

For the record: it was really nice.

There was a bloody Baskin Robbins of all things, where, unsurprisingly, I found Whitney, who has a thing for ice cream.

I've decided to start a theme for this China trip where I take pictures of off English translations and post them here, tagged #Engrish

This can be the first one. There will be many.


I realise this is an extraordinarily long post, and I was going to post the second half another time, but it was an extraordinarily long day, and my slight Virgo OCD won't let me cut it up like that.

So, onwards: lunch at a very traditional restaurant just a short trip from the bottom of the mountain. There were a lot of them around, all very similar, and with a very interesting...activity.

Basically: you catch your own meal.

Which consists mainly of - 

the catching...

...the killing...

...and the weighing...

of your lunch.

Not sure what's happening here.
 Nina and Jen caught one each, the rest of us stood there ridiculously with long sticks in our hands.

With translator Yi. 


Entrée - donkey. Which was covered in garlic, so not too bad. 

Pork and melon. 

Our fish!

After, we went back to the city, and had some free time in a much fancier bit than we had previously seen.

Big shopping centres with the Apple store being centre stage, like everywhere else in the world.



That is the absolute extent of the sunshine in Beijing. When you look up the weather online, it has the temperature and says there'll be "mist".  Mist does not make the sun that colour, poppet.

There's a surprising amount of English in all the signage around.

More lovely flora things.

Whitney wanted to go to Häagen-Dazs. See, ice cream thing. But the rest of us did too. But this was a sit down place where for about AUD$12 you got one of these:


Sorry not sorry.

Then it was a bit shopping strip with your Zara, H&M etc, which, let me assure you, despite being maybe a little more colourful, are exactly the same as wherever you're reading this from in the world.

We decided to take the subway back to the hotel. For experience sake.

Wai Sin + Sam

Fresh melon.

Down down.

Subway map; thank God for Chester and Yi.

We had to make two train transfers. It was a bit of a marathon. Think of how busy the busiest train is at the busiest time of the day - it's like that in Beijing, but at any time.

2Y for one way, about 40c. Pick up your game, Myki.



Slight mishap with Yi putting his hotel card into the machine instead of the ticket.

Asking for directions; they can speak Mandarin, but they're not locals.

Beijing twilight.

It was at this point that our gentlemen guides, the only two with working Google maps, realised we'd been walking in the wrong direction for the last half hour. We took a taxi (near death experience) and worked out that if we had gone in the right direction, the hotel is about a block away.

And they say women can't read maps.

Doesn't cost much to nearly die, though.

Had some KFC for dinner (ehhh) because not much around. 

Then some hotel room tea before bed.


And all that happened in one day. As I was adding the photos I was confused because I was thinking back through the last couple of days thinking that surely not all of this was the same day. But, alas. Until next time.

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