Saturday, March 29, 2008
the wall is great
Today was our last day in China. We have had an amazing time with an amazing host. We saw the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace, a lot of 2008 Olympic propaganda, and the Great Wall.
Mao and I. This is where Mao Tse Dong has been pickled. When he died, nobody knew what to do with his body. Looking to Lenin and Ho Chi Minh as examples, they decided to preserve his body as well as make a wax copy, you know, just in case. So they put him in formaldehyde and he is now on display. Unfortunately, he was under construction while we were there and we were unable to pay our respects. Mao, by the way, wanted to be cremated.
Like most large cities, Beijing used to made of poor people living in squalor surrounding the rich aristocrats. The Emperor and his family (and concubines) lived in the Forbidden City and everyone else lived in these Hu’Tongs. The are shanty towns. Constructed of whatever is laying around. Most of them are being destroyed before the Olympics are to be held. Unfortunately, they are being replaced by skyscrapers. There are giant high rises being built everywhere you look. The history of Beijing is being replaced with a lot of money.
This is the Summer Palace. The Emperor and his family (and concubines) lived here when the weather was nice. They would be pulled from the Forbidden City along canals (30km) in boats. Everything was painted with beautiful intricate designs.
It wasn’t until our last day that we got to the highlight of our China leg of the trip. The shopping and food were just bonuses. The first day that we tried to go to the Great Wall, it was snowing and the bus drivers all told us to come back tomorrow. Well, most people don’t speak English, but that is what we understood. So the next day we showed up, and they all waved us away. We went from bus to bus saying the name of the city where we get off to see the wall, “Ba da ling?” They would point us one direction and then the other. We went to a dozen buses in 4 different directions and finally someone told us to get on their bus. It was about 7:40 and they said the bus would leave at 8, we thought. We sat in a parking lot for about 2 hours. Not moving. It was 2 degrees. Celsius.
Eventually we made it to Ba da ling, and it was colder than I imagined it was now -5 degrees and windy. I will check my Garmin and post the info, but I think that we started at about 700 meters in elevation. The wall is about 7 meters high and 5 meters wide. I could not get over it. But it still didn’t keep me out China.