I opened up the curtains in my hotel room and had to remind myself that I was actually in Beijing. In China. Hong Kong was different — it is its own world, really. But here I was in Mainland China. Seriously?
The view from my window was of office buildings and a corner lot that was being readied for construction. But that wasn’t what interested me: I watched the people. And for some reason, the crowds didn’t match what I thought would be in a big city, especially in the highly populated China.
This looked like a regular downtown….but I couldn’t speculate long. I had to get downstairs for the tour I’d been waiting for (the one item my 17-year old has said she was jealous of): The tour of the Great Wall.
I don’t know what it is about men…I really had the mentality that they’d always be the first ones ready, and I certainly didn’t want any of them to say that the only female on the trip was the cause of us being late for anything, so I made it a point to always be early. So I waited in the lobby and soon our gang was ready. We met Apple, our tour guide, who aptly entertained us on the ride to the Great Wall. It was interesting to look out the window and watch the scenery change from the city and a “typical” highway view to the more stark countryside. As we neared the Great Wall, the road began to wind a bit more — there were areas that seemed to be deteriorating towns and parkways that had once been grand, but now were overgrown. And there were areas alongside the road that were similar to what you’d see in America — just pull-offs with a market or a roadside vendor.
We saw lots of vendors with strawberries, and Apple explained to us that strawberry fields were often irrigated with milk, which made the strawberries sweeter. As was the norm of this trip, as I’d learn, we simply did not have time to stop and taste the strawberries!
Our bus steadily climbed the now-rocky terrain and came to a parking lot and high above us, we could see the Great Wall. Apple told us that we would see a lot of vendors there and she recommended we not purchase anything, which was fine, because none of us had had the opportunity to exchange our American dollars!
Before we headed up to the Great Wall, Apple suggested we use the restroom and this was my first experience with a Chinese bathroom. So, of course I had to take a photo:
We took a ski lift up to the Wall, two by two, and the view was immediately spectacular.
And we walked up to the Wall and Apple shared with us tidbits that simply added to our amazement. Two things amazed me: This Wall, made by hand by different peoples of different clans, was incredibly uniform. The stones were the same size, the proportions were perfect, the uniformity between the turrets was precise. And secondly, I was stunned that the Wall was built to be wide enough for horses. Horses!
Apple explained to us that if there was a threat of an enemy, the guards at their stations would send up a white smoke and to accomplish that, they had to use wolf dung. Thousands of years ago, the people had the presence of mind to figure out the best way to send up the “right” kind of smoke…simply incredible.
I’ll let my pictures explain more….