“Walking” the Great Wall and other things in Beijing
Simatai Travel Blog› entry 5 of 68 › view all entries
June 29th, 2009 – by: ronin2k
Once in the airport terminal, AGAIN there were people monitoring, this time they had infrared cameras that measured body temperature as you walked by.
Well luckily everywhere I went in Beijing didn’t have all this fear, I think its just at the main entry points for foreigners, people Beijing don’t like too much, but I’ll save my thoughts on that for another day. J
So what are the main things I saw in Beijing? Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City - day 1, Great Wall of China - Day 2, Summer Palace - Day 3 and Temple of Heaven - Day 4. Lots of stuff to do for sure and everything is very easy to get to on Beijing’s subway or bus routes. Funny how much I use public transit when travelling, I would probably use it more in Toronto IF the subway actually covered more then a small area. The subway here currently has 8 lines I believe, which they are expanding quickly to 15 or 16 in the next few years! And every trip costs only 2 RMB, or 33 cents Canadian! Great deal.
First stop, Tiananmen Square. Its huge! Surrounding the square are many monuments, with the most important being the Forbidden City. Note, when they say “city” it really is one! Its enormous, from the point I entered to the point I left was 1 km long. It is known as the “forbidden” city because for over 500 years no one but the Emperor, his consorts and eunuch were allowed inside. It is definitely a nice place, very expansive. If anyone’s seen the movie the “Last Emperor”, it looks exactly like it does in the movie, just more tourists J
Next stop, The Great Wall of China. The night before I booked a tour of a remote part of the Great Wall, from Jiangling to Simatai, described as “a nice 10km hike“. Let’s just say, Ruwan is not cut out to “hike”, especially when its up and down 50-70 degree flights of stairs! The wall itself is amazing, being about 120km from Beijing, there were really no other tourist other than my group of about 20 people. When you look out into the distance it does seem like the wall goes on and on, it basically snakes across the distance, or as the locals describe, its looks like a dragon’s tail, which I totally could picture.
So this “hike”, 10 km, up and down many flights of steps, through 32 watch towers, 1 wooden bridge and a zip lines back down to the entrance. Sound like fun? NO. After about 10 watchtowers, shin splints I’ve always had to deal with kicked in, and I barely could walked up the stairs. Going down or walking flat areas was fine, but not going up, hurt too much. To everyone there I looked fit, one Austrian, with his Arnold Swartzanegger accent, said but you look so fit. Haha, ya not so much in my legs. Anyways, at one point the tour guide said, you are going to take about 6 hours or more to finish (they give you 4) and we might have to leave you here. LEAVE ME HERE? I said, ok, lets just say you LEAVE ME HERE, how much will it cost me to get back to Beijing, he said people aren’t nice and will probably try to screw you (at least he was honest), said it would be about 400-500 RMB, that’s about 100 bucks Canadian.
So now I’m thinking WTF am I going to do, I can’t climb any further, my legs feel like they are about to snap. Luckily where I was at the 10th tower, there is a shortcut down through the valley and farmland. Also, lucky for me, the little lady that had been walking with me the WHOLE way trying to sell me t-shirts, decided to be my new guide and took me along the new path. At first I was a little disappointed I couldn’t complete the full hike, but in the end I realized I was taking a route tourists rarely, if ever, would take down through the valley and farmland. It was actually pretty nice, well except for the 40 degree heat and humidity that added to the misery! To put it in perspective how hot it was, I drank about 3 litres of water and never once went to the washroom, that’s right I sweated off everything. J
After about an hour of hiking through the valley we made it back to the wall, with about 8 watchtowers to go. So in the end, I skipped 14 towers and all the stairs that go with them, but I’m not the least bit disappointed! The final stretch was very hard, but I made it to the last tower where we had to cross over a wooden cable bridge. The wall at that point crosses over a ridge and isn’t connected. Once across the bridge and to the end, the final step down to the exit is either by zipline or walking down a steep path for another 40 minutes. All it cost to zipline was 40 RMB, which is totally fun to do, but as my luck would have it, because I had to pay off the little farmer lady to guide me through the valley, I was left with only 30 RMB. So I had to walk the final leg slowly down the path to the exit. Anyways, for all the pain, I can cross another wonder of the world to off the list!
Final two stops were the Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven. On the way to the palace I meet up with a Dutch guy named Ward, really nice guy. He’s just in the last month of his 8 month trek around Asia and this was his last stop in China before Mongolia. We walked around the immense property known as the Summer Palace, there is a big lake in the middle which is surrounded by temples, palaces and pagodas, very beautiful, well beautiful expect for the smog. At first I thought the smog in Beijing was a fog rolling in, boy was it not, it just hangs there, luckily for me I wasn‘t affected like most by the bad air. Although the smog was there once we got to the palace, the smog eventually cleared and the sun came out. Funny walking around with Ward was like walking around with a rockstar. Random people would come up and take pictures with him. Sometimes they would even come to me and take pictures, the people were friendly, but the people there were definitely not from Beijing, they themselves were tourists from other parts of China. Final stop, was the Temple of Heaven, its really nice. J
Next destination, overnight train to Xi’an and the Terra Cotta Warriors.
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