I can’t help but wonder how stunning the view would be without the air pollution obliterating the horizon.
Today is a jam packed touring day and we start by visiting a Jade Factory. If I have one criticism of this China tour, it’s visiting stores ( really that’s what they are) who provide demonstrations of how their goods are made and then spend lengthy periods looking around while the odd person buys something.
My daughter collects elephants and it was tempting to get one for her, but didn’t think it would fit into my suitcase, or if it did, would exceed the baggage weight limit. My decision not to buy one had nothing to do with the $8880 US cost / each.
Upon reviewing various tour packages for China, this is common and likely unavoidable, but it still seems a waste of time when there is so much else one could see and do. I do enjoy learning how things are made, but the demonstrations are done in minutes, and then we are given way too long to shop. We see beautiful jade artworks however Jade is plentiful in Canada, so I’m quite ready to move on before we actually do.
Joining the hoards to climb a portion of the Great Wall at Badaling
Our bus now heads out of town to the Badaling section of the wall. Unfortunately this section of the wall is where most tour companies stop and today it is crowded with visitors and vendors. Badaling is only an hour by car from Beijing and provides the “postcard” views many of us have of the Great Wall. The wall was constructed over hundreds of years, using a variety of materials. The Ming Dynasty period was one of restoration for much of the wall and this is what we see here at Badaling.
Starting up the slope which got steeper as you climbed
In many areas of China the wall is in disrepair, or being torn down to make way for construction, or just left for nature to reclaim. This area has had major restoration but the stone remains worn from the heavy traffic. In places, instead of stairs, the wall is sloped at a steep angle.
Jon & Dirk kept us laughing our entire trip. Lifetime friends, these two are so much fun to be with. Dirk (on the right) keeps telling us he is going to visit us in Coalhurst. He promises to stop in at the Coalhurst bakery and bring us their ” Vanilla Slice.” We’re still waiting! ( however we cheated and bought two pieces of vanilla slice the other day) and he was right, they are yummy, yummy, yummy!
It’s almost impossible to climb without hanging onto someone or the railing. We were told this section is impossible during a rain….it was almost impassable now with the worn shiny stones! Nevertheless it was thrilling to walk the wall and I managed the third tower before heading back. As I climbed up, I noticed a new staircase on the outside of the walk with a few people on it. It looks to me it might lead back to our starting point and was much less congested and a much easier decent than the slippery slopes and steep stairs.
You gotta wonder how much rice wine the fellow consumed before installing this framed piece!
I found a path to the stairs but was still unsure where these steps led to. There was a group of 8 boys ( around 13 yrs. old) sitting on a rock by the stairs so I asked if any of them spoke English. They shook their heads indicating no, so I thought I would proceed and hope for the best. About 50 feet past the boys, one of them shouted out “What?” I went back to them and using gestures and limited words, I asked if these stairs led back to the entrance. They nodded and said yes, so I hoped they understood me as I head down.
Looking back from the highest point I had climbed to. Peach blossoms are just starting to bloom at this height.
The descent was very easy so I walked slowly and took my time, enjoying the walk, the air and the scenery. I heard people coming up behind me so I stepped aside to let them pass. As they approached I noticed the lady was wearing a lovely embroidered jacket. Michael had taught us a few Chinese words and everyday he would ask if we enjoyed the previous day to which we would all answer “ Ding Ding How”
Oh how I wish I had obtained her name or given them one of my cards. Perhaps we could have been pen pals.
I think it means we liked it. Friends of our who had visited China years ago had mentioned if you get away from your group and approach someone, they are usually very friendly and eager to say hello ( and practice their English.) As the lady passed I smiled and gesturing my own jacket… pointed to her jacket and said “ ding ding how.” I am not sure exactly what that means but her face lit up like a Christmas tree. We exchanged hellos ( Knee How) and they walked passed. Quickly they stopped and the young man with the older couple came back and said in English…my mother would like to take her picture with you. I was thrilled and the two of us got our photos taken.
Looking back at the wall – taken from the outside pathwy
I was told the Chinese people are not touchy feely people, but she grabbed both my hands and held on until we parted. The son asked where I was from and what we were doing. We chatted for about 5 minute before moving on. This brief meeting made a lasting impression on me. No matter where we live, or what we do, what we believe in…we are all the same and crave human contact. I am so glad she made the effort!
As it turns out Brian and one of our Pats also had a memorable experience. Neither of them felt up to the climb to they toured around the entrance before departing to return to our meeting place. The entrance is accessible from two directions so one must remember which way they entered from as both roads leading to the entrance, look the same. As it turns out they took a wrong turn and went for a long walk anyway. They eventually figured out they had taken the wrong turn and head back to the meeting place. I think I was the last of our group off the wall and while I made the correct turn I forgot where we were meeting. I couldn’t see one person from our group and ended up going into the coffee shop purely by accident and there was our group. Talk about relief! Before we got to the bus I spied a tee shirt “ I walked the wall” which I absolutely had to have. Michael saw me veer off and stayed with me and quickly translated and negotiated the price. Good thing…I’d have lost the group and would never have found our bus among the 100s waiting.
The ” Bird’s Nest” Used for the opening and closing ceremonies for the Beijing 200 summer Olympics and now sits largely unused.
Next stop – Beijing Olympic Park where we got a brief stop to take photos of the “ Bird’s Nest” ( stadium) and the water cube ( home of the aquatic events.) The air is thick and despite being two city blocks away, the photos taken show a deep haze.
The ” Water Cube” used for aquatic events during the Olympics. Now seen as a costly place using valuable resources ( water and electricity) which the people of Beijing are not eager to support.
It was quite a distance to walk and was a real quick step to get back to the bus on time. Our local guide tells us the stadium has been used for concerts and other major events but upon doing some research it appears most of the event structures are under used and left to decay.
Olympic Mall – extends for miles. Much of old Beijing was destroyed and many people lost their private homes, during the construction. They were never properly compensated for their loss and now live in sterile high rise buildings.
The local people are concerned the money spent to up keep the “water cube” and “bird’s nest” would be better spent on needed infrastructure. It seems no lasting sporting legacy for Beijing.
Our bus takes us to a Cloisonne Factory/ store for more shopping. Cloisonné is an ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects. The decoration
Applying the metal wires to form the “Cloisonné”
is formed by first adding compartments (cloisons
in French) to the metal object by soldering or adhering silver or gold wires or thin strips placed on their edges. These remain visible in the finished piece, separating the different compartments of the enamel or inlays, which are often of several colors.
Before – metal wires have been attached to form the pattern
Cloisonné enamel objects are worked on with enamel powder made into a paste, which then needs to be fired in a kiln. We tour the “factory” and watch people shaping the metal pots, adding the wires in a decorative pattern and layering the enamel paint. I am not convinced these folks spend all day doing this. As soon as we passed, the men “hammering” the copper pots stopped and went outside for a smoke and all their tools were gone.
After – the layers of enamel paint have been built up to fill the spaces, then fired in a kiln to finish.
Pretty sure this is just a demonstration leading us to the “shopping” areas. Again we spent a long time looking around before heading out to have some fun.
Our bus takes us to an older part of the city for a “Hutong” tour. Hutong means “ narrow alley. We are in for a treat as we are not going to tour the area on foot, but rather by bicycle rickshaw.
Starting out on our Rickshaw ride. Ended up being more fun than anticipated.
Each carriage holds two people and off we go. There are long lines of bikes waiting for the tourists and these guys ride the bikes with as much abandon as a little kid, squeaking their way between cards, making hair raising hair pin turns and occasionally coming to a stop by hitting the carriage in front of them. We pass private homes, shops, café, bars, parks and on coming traffic.
We tour a private residence – a rare thing now with high density housing. This room rented for guests attending the Beijing Olympics. I’m not sure we ever discovered the bathroom.
We do stop to tour a local private home, which incidentally rented out it’s bedrooms to Olympic visitors. If you booked in here, you were in for a treat….perhaps. First of all if you could find the place…you’d be lucky..or not…depending on your point of view.
Here we are setting off on our rickshaw experience
After a very fun ride it was back to the bus and off for dinner, then to the hotel for a well deserved rest.
We passed by this quiet spot while touring by Rickshaw