Public transport is becoming more and more easy to handle as each journey passes. Back home I dread having to catch a 40 minute train to Bristol or travelling 3 hours in a car to Cornwall, whereas now if I know we’re travelling 8 hours I instinctly reassure myself that the journey will fly by. On this occasion our journey from Zhengzhou train station to Beijing was 8 hours, we departed at 22:14 and arrived just after 6am, this journey was somewhat uneventful due to it being late as us pretty much going straight to sleep. I much prefer the late journeys where you arrive in the morning. I have learnt that this is the best way to travel, especially for when we arrive in South East Asia where we will mainly be taking long bus journeys from place to place, some people have mentioned how they didn’t take this into consideration whilst planning their bus route and ended up getting into a town at 3am and having to wait for check in at 12pm, there is nothing worse than that.
By 7am we had met our new tour leader, Luna. She is currently majoring in History and works part time, she is a really funny and laughs at everything, a really nice person who makes you feel welcome and comfortable. When me and Georgia were previously in Beijing we stayed in Dongcheng, this time around we stayed in Qianmen in the Xuanwu District which is about 1km south of Tianamen Square. However tonight we were not staying at the hostel we had just arrived at, after a couple of hours of showering and getting ready we headed to the Great Wall of China.
On the way to the Great Wall, after about 40 minutes in our van we stopped off at the Olympic Park. Since the 2008 Olympics which cost the government an extortionate amount of money to area where the Olympic Park is situated has become something of a ghost town. As we wandered around it felt like an abandoned theme park. There were people about, even a bloke selling fake Olympic 2008 gold medals, which I found incredibly sad but originally the plan was to turn this area into a bustling residential area after the games had finished but it had not worked. Something in this post that we will be reoccurring is that there are some things I want to say but cannot publish on the Internet whilst still in China, so when I get back to Hong Kong i can give a little more information about the feelings and some knowledge on how locals felt about the Olympic Games. Other than seeing the famous Birds Nest stadium which was quite cool there wasn’t much else to do there, I wouldn’t recommend going if you’re in Beijing for a week or under.
After a further 2 hour trip we were in Yanqing County North of Beijing. We had arrived at the Great Wall at Badaling. This being the closest part of the wall to Beijing means that it is the most touristy. However because Luna is such a good local guide we went to a completely untouristy part where in about 3-4 hours we saw only 1 Chinese family whereas in the other part where most tourists go to you cannot take a picture without a stranger also being in the photograph. We hiked voluntarily as much as we could, legs still aching from the Kung Fu lessons a couple of days prior. In awe we all silently attempted the picture the vast scale of how seemingly improbable it was that an ancient civilisation built such a structure over an unprecedented amount of time. The wall was first built in the Qing Dynasty when the first emperor of China existed about 2400 years ago. It was originally built to seperate China from Ghengis Khans threatening Mongolian army, aswell as it being used for trade and immigration control purposes. Each watch tower had 60 men guarding it, some parts of the wall also had tunnels built beneath it to keep horses. A common myth about the Great Wall is that it can be seen by space and believe it or not it wasn’t the Chinese who spread this urban myth, it was actually the Americans. After the cultural revolution had ended, China realised how important it was to start building international relationships with foreign countries for trade and political purposes. The government sent a team of Chinese ping pong players to the U.S for a tournament to compete in but purposely lost each game they played against the Americans to attempt to create a friendly alliance. America wanting to create an even friendly alliance did something more drastic than cheating in a ping pong tournament. NASA claimed that from space the only man main structure that could be seen was the Great Wall of China. This was preached as gospel in Chinese text books for decades and is still believed my many. It wasn’t until Chinese astronauts went to space and saw the Earth that they blew a whistle on the matter and stated that the wall cannot be seen from space. Which if you look at pictures of the Great Wall where the width is about 2 and a half metres, how on earth could that be seen from outer space?
Anyway it was quite a significant moment seeing a very minute section of one of the wonders of the world. We stayed in a hotel that night for the first time on our travels which was luxorious.
The next morning we woke up at 6am to climb the Great Wall at sunrise.
When we arrived back in Beijing at around 11am we were all very tired of all the hiking we had been doing over the past few days so we did exactly what a proper British tourist does when going on holiday, we got drunk. On Qianmen street there are quite a few bars to go to for a bar crawl, the weather was passing 20 degrees, it felt like being in an urban beer garden, we continued to drink until early evening where we had some Peking Duckk. Admittedly it wasn’t as good as the Duck me and Georgia had last time, as after KTV that night Georgia was ill throughout the night and I was ill throughout the next day.
The Duck had definitely had a ferocious impact on our bowels but that didn’t stop us from exploring. We had a walking tour of Tian’amen square and the forbidden city. We then visited Jingshan Park and the Pearl market which we had already been to before. At this point we decided that we needed to go back to the hostel for some rest whilst the others went to Wafujing night market.