Tuesday - The Great Wall

     I think I need to buy the electronic Chinese to English translator soon. I just opened a box of juice and inserted the customary straw. My first sip told me this was not a fruit juice, at least not know to me. I think it's a form of milk, warm milk at that. Remember no refrigerator and therwas no need for bed covers last night. The air temperature at landing yesterday was 80F. Having no information about the forecast, I suspect today will be the same.

     So far I don't notice any breathing difficulties or taste in the air. Perhaps when we go downtown.

Getting Started

     We met Philo at 7:30 to have breakfast at the CAFA cafeteria. At that time there were only a handful of students seated at 3x8 in a single huge room. Two young ladies stood at attention behind a small table which we approaching assuming they would take our money and direct us with regard to where to go next. Behind a glass wall one could see huge pots for boiling foods, and huge wok shaped pots sitting on gas burners. Young men were running water into a boiling pot and stirring with a utensil more the size of a garden shovel than a kitchen spoon.

     We were informed the serving wwas closed and no food remained. After some time persuading we convinced Philo that we would be fine and would eat some of the food Yulin had left us. So we gathered some cheese packaged in single slices, bread which came as four slices in a plastic wrap, some very ripe large grapes and water.

     As we had come from the cafteria we met Yulin who arrived an hour early so after a quick breakfast, we headed out in a car that she had rented for us for the week. The driver is Shi Fu and will be with us all week. He is a great driver but it appears that the traditional philosophy that the community is more important than the individual does not apply to driving. It appears that you can drive anywhere there's no car orperson, and if there is either you can honk your horn before you proceed. While this is an exaggeration, it helps identify an approach different from America.

The Wall

     We headed directly to the Great Wall some 60 kilometers (according to the signs) northwest of Beijing. After many kilometers of flat land filled with buildings and trees, we saw mountains through the smog on the horizon. Soon we were climbing as indicated by prssure in the ear the the very slow moving trucks. For the most part we drove on four lane roads much like American interstate highways. However, we did drive through a toll booth where we were handed a small ticket. We returned the ticket later at another booth as we exited the highway where the driver paid about 15 yuan. Traffic was very light.

     We had been seeing the Great Wall for some time before we stopped as well as several signs indicating exits to the great wall, but we continued to a site that included a cable car to the top of the highest point of the Great Wall. (The cost for the car and entrance to the Wall was 105 yuan,except a senior citizen, which is about $14US.) The long undergraound tunnel to the Wall entrance was lined with barrier for controlling crowds and if it wasn't for the fact that the four of us were the only persons in the tunnel it would have reflected crowd control at Disneyland. The last hundred feet before stepping unto the Wall were lined with kioshs selling sournevirs and energetic merchants.

     There seemed to be wall all around us and the continuity of these visual snapshots was not obvious. Our first steps on the wall were up a very steep incline followed by hundreds of steps of varying rises and runs. One side of the wall of about waist high while on the other side the wall was head high with opening was watching for the enemy. Smaller holes lower in the tall wall faced downward to safely view and fight the enemy. At the top of the highest part of the Wall were more vendors and many photographers shooting their perfect picture with the companions standing in the ideal location.

     The greatness of this wall lies in its size in the location where one stands and also in its vast length over thousands of miles. The feat bringing the materials together in this extreme terrain remains beyond the imagination of the mind, and the fact that someone thought to build this wall taking years to build and thousands to build it, to protect the people of China long into the future. Their long range planning is remarkable.

     After retracing our steps down including the cable car, we were guided to a fine restaurant in about the sixth ring of Beijing. The menu was huge in physical size as well as in content. Pictures shown each food in tempting color. The uniqueness of the restaurant was the barbecue type tray in the center of the table where we could cook our own unique foods. To the disappointment of ourselves we ordered bowls of steamed rice to match the moods of our stomachs. We were erred on the side of caution.

The Ming Tombs

     A short drive took us to the Ming Tomb, actually the Chang tomb, the central and largest tomb. What we saw where the structures, gates and buildings around the tomb. The largest building included artifacts from the tombs and a large centrally located statute of the Emperor. The Ming tombs numbered 13 for the thirteen emperors during the Ming dynasty starting in the 17th century.

     Another short drive took us to the Dingling or Ding Ling or Ding tomb, the most recent tomb and othe only one where one could actually descend and enter the tomb itself. The tomb seemed to be about five stories down and was originally sealed with a series of large doors which were designed to self close and lock from the inside, and finally mortaring in with a brick wall. They discovered the tomb from evidence on the surface and their understanding of the tomb relative to these remains. The items in the tomb were a mix of authentic relics such as Ming vases and recontructed coffins, and boxes to storing the artifacts that were buried with the emperor, and in the case of Ding, his two wives.

     And yet another short drive took us to the rows of carved animals that lined the road to the tombs. These exquistely carved animals, some real and some ficticious, were huge begging the question, where did the stones come from, how were they moved and what artists did such fine work. The walk was beautiful, peaceful and very relaxing even though we were exhausted. The restroom aside the path was designed for emperors, flush overstuffed couches in a waiting area, stalls with automatic lights, flush toilet, handicap rails and a private lavatory. Still there was no paper, not even for wiping one's hands. The driver met us at the end of the mile walk saving us the return walk.

The Olympic Site

     As we were where driving along the central portion of the fourth ring we spotted much construction and also a very uniquely shaped structure. Conversation lead us to the conclusion that this was one of the stadiums for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. We stopped and got out to take some pictures, starting to realize that almost everything we could see were buildings and structures connected to the future games. A look at the map suggested that across the highway were many other sites for the games. Traffic on the highway past this area was very bad and in part due to the construction in the highway which were also in preparation of the games.

     The evening meal was a family restaurant and we requested that we not order as much this time. We ended up with egg rolls, a cold soup, a tofu stir fry, a beef stir fry and tea. We were served in a private room around a table with eight chairs. Here the menu was again complete with color pictures, but we ordered by marking our choices on an eraseable checklist. Well satisfied we returned to the car and discussed the next move. It was suggested that since no one was very decisive we decided that we were passively agreeing to return to our rooms. It was just after 7:00PM and a rest sounded good.


Updated september 4, 2007
Denvy Saxowsky©