Hiking the Great Wall and shopping in China.

Apart from the Forbidden City, I suppose the Great Wall is the other “must see” when visiting Beijing. Of course, the wall is 8000 km long, so Beijing is not the only place to see it from, and even from the capital, there are multiple locations to visit. The most popular, and touristy, sites are Badaling and Mutianyu. The option I chose was to get on an organized tour which dropped me off at Jinshanling, about 140 km from Beijing, and picked me up three hours later at Simatai, which I reached by hiking 7 km on the wall itself. A pricy option, but so much easier than getting there and back by public transportation.


I won’t babble about the Wall, that’s what Wikipedia is for.



I must say it is impressive to see the Wall going off in the distance. To think that you are only looking at a minuscule percentage of what was built essentially by hand, using a massive amount of workers toiling away with 3rd Century technology. Unfortunately, the visibility was not that great in the middle of the day. Going at dawn would probably be better, but you would have to sleep in an adjacent town, or take a very expensive taxi at some horribly early time.


Some sections have been restored.


Some not.


The concept of the tour is to climb the wall, so I am not sure who put the “Don’t climb the wall” sign.


It can be quite the climb at times.


But the views are rewarding.


Despite the place not being too touristy, I managed to find a beer seller. The price was horrible, but an American woman who has been living in Shanghai for 7 years used her excellent Chinese to negotiate the price down by 80%! Sorry of the bad picture, I had a little camera setting issue which ruined about half of my Wall shots. Now, to shopping.


I bought dress pants before going to North Korea. The paper label says “Polo Ralph Lauren”, but the permanent fake leather label reads “Polo Chino Ralph Auren”!


The clothes might be fake, but the fish is fresh.


Close to the Forbidden City, I found the only accordion store I have ever seen in the world. I don’t think I’ll be opening one in Ottawa any time soon.


And in my book, China has officially replaced Myanmar as the country where you can get drunk for the least amount of money (village brew excluded). This 5 litre bottle of 62% alcohol Chinese “Whiskey” costs just over $10. I bought a little bottle to try. It’s disgusting; like a mixture of really bad booze with a dash of chicken broth. But they have other, much more enjoyable cheap liquor.


After a short stay in Beijing, I headed to the city of Quingdao to catch my flight to South Korea. The train ride didn’t take very long!


Quingdao gave me the feeling of having escaped crazy Beijing for a nice little city with a more manageable pace. The funny thing is that Quingdao, with it’s suburbs, has a population of nearly 9 million!


Unfortunately, it rained on the first day, but I still went in the back alleys where dozens of little outlets sell street food of all kinds. I had a skewer of some sort that seemed popular, but I was never able to figure out what it was. Possible squid balls. Quite nice.


Surprisingly, the city was built by the Germans, who won a 99 year concession from the Chinese Emperor in 1897 and transformed the little village into a city in a matter of just a few years. The influence and architecture can still be seen, but it’s nothing like the former colonies where German colonists actually remained. In other words, nothing like Oktoberfest in Namibia!


Walking around the city before my flight, I passed by the beach and realized something horrible. For some reason, absolutely every woman on the beach was fully dressed, but all the dudes were in Speedos. Strange.

Next stop, Tibet.


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