Saturday, 6 November 2010

The Great Wall & Beijing (1st of September)

Doing the proper tourist thing we took a trip to the Wall from our hostel via another hostel and a different bus to Jin Shaling. On the way we saw mangoes or papaya growing and lots of paper bags tied to the trees for them to grow into. It was very pretty as we got into the mountains although a bit hazy.

Left at Jing Shaling we had to walk six kilometers, past 22 towers, where our guide would be waiting for us to take us down a track to the bus. For some reason everyone seemed to be treating it as a race and it was a while before I could relax, enjoy myself and not feel the need to play catch-up.

As soon as we started walking we began to be hounded by souvenir sellers, apparently farmers from Inner Mongolia and with wares to sell such as, fans, books, post cards and water. We would be asked where we were from – “Arrr England” and then they would try to sell us things to which we would say “no thank you” and they “later, later” and we “no thank you, no, no!” They would follow us for ages trying to engage in conversation, offering to hoist us up steep sections or giving us tips on the best side to walk. Eventually they would get the message and they’d try to find another victim. No matter how many times the first lady told us we were beautiful we were not going to buy her souvenirs.

It was not the most relaxing of walks, trying to scramble as fast as we could up the wall and attempting to fend off the sellers. But the wall was really quite grand and there weren’t thousands of people on it like you would see at other sites.

Often we wished we had a tape recording we could press to answer “no thank you, no thank you” in reply to calls of “t-shirt, t-shirt”. They did seem to like picking on us in particular and it took a bit of educating from fellow travellers until we got the right we don’t want to buy your stuff look. Everyone was trying their best to shake off the souvenir sellers. Some Australians who were walking the wall for five days and had already had a few days practice were offered beer and declared they could not buy it as it was against their religion. An Aussie lady couldn’t handle her Chinese shadow any longer and said she would buy the water on the condition that she’d be left alone. The German traveller from our group succumbed to the purchase of a t-shirt because he didn’t have any clean ones left. He bargained hard though and got it down to 12RMB, equivalent to about £1.20. Although it probably would have been a good thing to support these people’s livelihoods we just didn’t want any of their mass produced tat and really didn’t appreciate the way they go about getting tourists to buy it.

Since some people were yet to arrive at tower no. 22 we dawdled our way down looking at the oak trees with funny acorns, other plants, the furry caterpillars and a lizard. After an hour the guide and further members of the group arrived. Turned out they were going so fast and not counting the towers had got to no. 31, were stopped by the police who were just standing there and had to go all the way back to 22.

On the journey back I had an amazing view of all the amusing Chinese road signs with pictures of giraffes, elephants and cars with funny expressions on them. One sign read “Caution avoid collision with backside” and I was left wondering if I was riding a horse or camel again.

In the evening we moved into a new hostel so that we could use the kitchen it didn't have.

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