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Email: Greetings from Beijing

«Beijing and The Great Wall

Date: Monday, 24 September 2001 21:32 PDT
Subject: Greetings from Beijing

Yesterday we went to the Great Wall. It is a portion of the wall that sees very few visitors. While all of the others require a fee to enter, this one is free.

Sandy found a tour at the front desk of our hotel for Y330 (about $40) a person. With all the buses and subway, it cost us Y66 or $7 per person. Pulling the whole thing off wasn’t easy though.

We had to go to the long range bus station by subway. There were buses lined up everywhere so we started to look for a bus with our number. We met a Dutch couple in the sea of Chinese. We were the only white people that we would see for awhile. Together, we finally found the bus station. The Dutch man wanted to use the bathroom before leaving, so we split up. We rode the bus for 90 minutes to Huairou. Lots of traffic on the way.

In order to make our transfer to the next bus, we had written our destination on a small piece of paper. We had learned this technique from the China by Rail book that Sandy bought before we left. We kept showing it to the girl on the bus who collected the money. After two or three times, she said in English, “last stop”.

Before we left the bus she asked for a pen and wrote ‘sit 961’. This meant we should go to the waiting room and wait for our next bus. The touts attacked us as we left the bus and walked the 100 feet to the bus station. We showed the paper with the final destination at the ticket counter. The woman there wrote ‘12:10’ on the piece of paper. It was 12:08 so we went outside to find the right bus.

We met a Chinese woman that was to ride on our bus collecting the money. At first we were the only people on the bus (except for one man). After a few more minutes, we left. When we were just a few blocks away from the bus station, we saw our Dutch friends. They had taken another bus but had gotten off before the bus station. We yelled for the bus driver to stop and he did. Our Dutch friends and five other Dutch young people got on the bus.

We picked up quite a few passengers throughout the city so our bus was full now. We drove for about an hour. In the distance we saw the Great Wall. Before we arrived we saw donkeys pulling carts and mothers with their babies. There was Chinese writing on the walls. The large font size gave us the impression they were slogans. As we got closer, we continued to see glimpses of the Great Wall. Finally, the road crossed the wall. We all got off. The young people took off in one direction. We took off in the other. The Dutch couple stayed at the station to eat lunch.

The trail was steep. By the time we got to the first tower, we were exhausted. As we went up, we got great views of the other side where the young people went. The other side was in better shape than ours. It went for miles up the mountain and over to the other side. Below was a small lake with a resort. As we continued, we took more pictures when the sun cooperated. At the top of our side, we stopped to have lunch. As we continued down, both Sandy and I slipped but didn’t get hurt.

It was pretty here. There were fruit trees planted by farmers long ago. Near the wall, there was black pine. At the bottom, there was a ‘gate’ (a giant arch to allow people to pass under the wall). The wall continued up the next mountain. The gate had a plaque which our guide book stated had the names of the people in charge of constructing the gate. This part of the wall was 500 years old. Other parts were more than 2,000.

As we continued on a trail, we saw a man carrying sticks on his back. Later, we saw two men and a donkey. On the way down, I slipped again. This time, hitting my head pretty hard, I got right up but saw ‘stars’ later. I felt better after a few minutes. On the way back to the bus stop, we walked through a village. There was no electricity or phones or indoor plumbing. We saw carts pulled by donkeys. We saw women with babies and old men. We said “Nee How” (“Hi”) to everyone. Some said “Nee How” back. Others just laughed. There were clearly not many tourists through this area.

We waited at the bus stop with the Dutch couple for about 40 minutes. The return trip required two more bus rides. After about three hours we returned to the bus station. It was now about 6:30pm. So it was dark. The place was packed with people. We continued with the Dutch people to the subway. We transferred and both got off at the same place. It was there that we said “Goodbye”. We gave them one of our ‘business cards’ with our email address. So, hopefully, they will send a note.

Darren