Great Wall

"A man is not a true man if he have not walked the Great Wall" - Mao Zedong

Perhaps one of the few statements of the great chairman that I truly agree with (not that I know many statements from him, but anyway). Seeing, walking on and climbing the Great Wall was a awesome experience! I did a day trip from Beijing to a far-off portion of the wall. We started at Jinshanling which is about 4 hours bus from Beijing. This part of the wall has not been repaired at all, leaving it in a crumbled state with lots of the genuine bricks and watchtowers to see! Some parts have been a bit renovated to allow for passage, but most of it was "the real thing". From there we hiked along the wall to Simatai which is equally impressive but a bit more renovated. Both these places is the steepest parts of the wall, which meant we sometimes had to climb with both feet and hands to get up or down.

The weather was just perfect for seeing the Great Wall. The sky was blue with only one of two clouds sweaping by and the weather was nice, although a wind kept us cool while climbing the steepest parts. It was just awesome and the weather was clear enough for us to see the Great Wall disappear in the distance faaaar off!

The hike from Jinshanling to Simatai was 10 km and it took us close to four hours to complete. It was really nice that I chose to do this hike - it gave me loads of time to see the wall, to take pictures and just saviour the experience! We were in a small tour group of about 16 people, but after 20 minutes we lost them all and it was just me, an Irish girl, a kiwi and two Americans who were walking on the wall more or less. Occasionally we would see someone from the group in the distance or meet some other tourists, but basically we were all by ourselves on the wall! It was just awesome, compared to photos I've seen from parts of the wall closer to Beijing where they stand in line to get photos, the wall is newly renovated and looks like any brick building and they have to get past immense amounts of gawkers, street stalls and vendors. We had two locals following us for a while to sell post cards, water or t-shirts - but they acted more like guides telling us about the towers, the views and everything like that instead of trying to sell stuff.

All in all the trip was just awesome. It really felt like walking a piece of history and the greatness of the wall is just immense. It's hard to imagine how big it is until you actually stand there on the top of the highest watchtower and see the wall disappearing away in the distance, miles and miles away. Just incredible!

Also uploaded pictures from this trip so check out the Great Wall in my pictures! :)

Right now I'm trying to get into Mongolia as soon as possible. It seems that the TransMongolian train only leaves on Saturdays since it's not summer, so that is too long from now (I don't want to spend another week in Beijing and my Chinese visa is running out and I don't want to extend it either). The other options is train to the border and then another local train in Mongolia, but they don't seem to leave right now either. The third option was to catch a daily bus taking me across the border and then onto the local traion - but the guy booking those trips were in Mongolia right now and couldn't arrange that. The fourth option is to try to get a bus to the border town and from there figure out what to do. That is what I will do - today I try to get tickets for the bus (it supposedly leaves at 4 pm and they start selling the tickets at 1:30 - I'm ready for an immense fight with the Chinese and the Mongolians about the tickets). From there I figure I just take a minivan across the border and then I at least don't have to worry about my visa running out. From the border town on the Mongolian side there is trains leaving every day and if I can't get one there you could always hitchhike. Hitchhiking in Mongolian seems to be the way to get around if there aren't any trains - there are no buses and very little public transport in general so most Mongolians hitchhike with trucks to get around in the country. Might be an experience even though I would prefer the train to Ulan-Bataar. I'll keep everyone updated about why whereabouts - hopefully I'll be in Mongolia and Ulan-Bataar the next time I write here.

And oh yeah - yesterday I went to a Chinese nightclub with another Swede I met at the hostel. It was an interesting experience - it's like taken directly from the movies. The music was soo loud - my ears are still ringing. The place was just a big dance floor and the bar - and it was all so modern. Three DJs were playing a good mix of neverending dance beats and the whole wall was a huge TV screen blasting lights and blinking behind them, the other walls were covered with huge TV screens showing different music videos, the bar were juggling with bottles, serving the drinks were they set the whole bar desk on fire and pouring burning alcohol over a pyramid of glasses into the glasses of people buying the drinks, a small firework in the middle of the bar, crazy Chinese people dancing on the bar, on elevated squares along the wall and rich Chinese businessmen sitting in the VIP booths drinking whiskey and champagne. It was just crazy - definetely a new side of China! The drink of choice for most expats and Chinese seems to be to order a bottle of whiskey which comes with free amounts of tea to mix it with - a really nice mix that works well actually! What you do when you're not dancing is to play a interesting dice game - to talk is impossible which means playing is a nice way to make some time pass - all you need to know is the hand signals. I joined some groups and played with them for a while - great fun!

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