Friday, January 06, 2012

The Great Wall – 25 December 2011

“We Three Kings of Orient are” felt quite appropriate this Christmas morning as we visited the Summer Palace just outside Beijing. Three times the size of the Forbidden City, but mostly covered by the enhanced natural lake, this was the residence of the Emperor for seven months of the year. It is a fabulously beautiful setting with the pagodas, temples and quintessentially Chinese bridges dotted amongst the trees. It is a “Willow Pattern” fantasy on a grand scale.

After lunch and the obligatory shopping trip to a Jade factory we finally set off for the Great Wall. There are a number of sections of the Wall that have been restored and opened to tourists, in all about 20% of the 5533 miles that were originally joined together to create this defensive masterpiece. The point was made, at the entrance to the section we visited, that the Wall which was originally designed to keep foreigners away is now a huge draw-card welcoming foreign visitors.

From the car-park we took the gondola for the short ride to the Wall itself, arriving close to Tower 14 of the Mutianyu section. From there we could walk left to Tower 24 or right to Tower 1. We chose to walk uphill so that we could return on a downhill when we were tired.
Having arrived at the Chinese flag on Tower 24 we chose to ignore the “End of tourist area” sign and climbed on further to another tower. Clearly quite a few tourists do this as there were two vendors further along this forbidden section of the wall attempting to sell us drinks, postcards and trinkets. One did feel quite sorry for them having carted their wares all the way to the top but their location of choice was decidedly odd.

The sun was setting as we boarded the bus, extremely satisfied with the experience of walking the Wall in such wonderfully mild and clear conditions and being winter, without the hoards of other tourists.

All that remained to finish the day was the special Peking Duck dinner that had been arranged for the evening and then it was into bed ready for the 05:00 wake-up call.

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