Well that was fun.
I managed to run the gauntlet of solicitors at Beijing airport, offering “cheap taxi” and “cheap limo” rides, “help you sir ?” and “where you go ?” questions abounded. I politely but firmly refused all kind offers (I had been warned about this) – and eventually found my way to where the actual taxi rank was.
I came prepared with my printout of the Chinese instructions for how to get to the hotel – which was just as well since nobody seems to speak a word of english once you set foot outside the airport terminal. After a couple of reads, muttering to himself, the cab driver exclaimed with confidence that he knew where to go (I think).
About 30 minutes along the freeways to get to the hotel – an experience that made me think I was in a rather fast and dangerous game of Frogger. At times we hit speeds of over 140kph – changing lanes with abandon, weaving in and out of the slow moving trucks and trying to avoid the even faster moving luxury cars.
What’s more, it wasn’t until after we had pulled out of the airport that I realised there were no seatbelts in the back seat. So all I had was a handgrip above the door and more than a few prayers. I just hoped that the cab driver’s sense of self preservation was strong enough to keep me safe.
At least I did get here in one piece.
Took a bus tour yesterday to the Ming tombs and the Great Wall.
Started just after 8am, and we spent some time looking at the Changling – the burial mausoleum of Chengzu (1360 – 1424), Zhu Di, The third emperor of the Ming Dynasty. The mausoleum is one of 13 built in the surrounding valley – one for each of the 13 emporers of the dynasty.
Kind of interesting – especially since they haven’t yet opened most of them.
The bus tour then took us to a Jade carving factory – for the usual sell job you get on these things. After this we stopped for lunch at a restaurant next to one of the local “Friendship Stores” – with ample more time for shopping.
Then it was off into the mountains towards the Great Wall.
We started catching glimpses of it fairly quickly as it wound its way along the mountain ridges. The Wall is actually several walls that were joined at one point.
The terrain is very steep, and when you realise that it was all built by hand – people lugging to stone up those mountains to contruct the wall – it’s even more impressive. Then you also need to remind yourself that you are only seeing a tiny part of the wall – at one stage in its history it was over 10,000km long !
Anyway, once we had navigated the traffic jam to get to the main access point, we were given 90 minutes to wonder along the wall and take in the magnitude of it all.
Wonder ? Climb is a better description – the wall follows the mountain ridges and climbs and falls at sometimes incredibly steep angles. It’s quite exhausting covering even a couple of hundred metres of the wall. But well worth the effort – the views were spectacular and quite rewarding.
I think the best way of describing it is with pictures – check out my photo gallery for more.
LOCATION: Traders Hotel, Beijing, China
LOCAL TIME: 12:00am, Sunday 21st Sept