Yesterday’s “classic” photo might have been a bit more obscure than I thought as only people who’d actually been there would recognize it. Well today’s photo should be easier.
Yep, it’s the Great Wall. The surprising parts to me were: a) how steep it is in places, a thrill to walk it, and, b) how much isn’t really “old” and is reconstruction. In fact in the distance we could see truly old wall that hadn’t been restored for the tourists. Nonetheless it was very interesting to walk the wall (its size is impressive and unexpectedly large) and see all the very rugged surrounding countryside. While there are tons of tourists most are actually Chinese rather than foreigners so that’s a good sign when a tourist attraction is also popular with the locals. While there are so many interesting things to see in China don’t neglect this because it seems so cliche as it is worth the visit, though not first priority.
I was fortunate to have a project that took me to China several times (even got to fly first class since the trip was so long, expense accounts are wonderful). On the last trip, which we thought might be our last trip, we took in the wall.
Since there was a large group of us riding in taxis wasn’t feasible so our colleagues in China rented a minivan and a driver. The driver mostly just waited for us so actually he liked driving to the wall for a change of scenery. None of us spoke Mandarin and he didn’t speak any English so fortunately our hosts had explained the trip to him. But once we arrived at the very crowded parking lot and he dropped us off right at the gate (not where he could park) it became necessary to “discuss” where we’d meet him when we were done. Using a phrase book and pointing eventually we agreed to a plan.
The part of the Wall we visited (a couple hours outside Beijing) had a chairlift to ascend to the start. Since it was our last day we had mostly spent all our Chinese money but had saved enough for the tickets for chairlift. What we didn’t know was the tickets were only one-way so once we were done we didn’t have enough money to buy tickets back down. Fortunately there was a fun alternative – a kind of fake “bobsled” run (not on ice, but a metal pipe) that was cheaper. We weren’t the only adults doing it but we did look pretty silly given some of us were in suits and there were no children with us. But it was actually more fun going back down the hill on the sleds than the chairlift.
Also for me it had another interest. I think many of us think of China as mostly growing rice in wet paddies, but that’s in the south. North of Beijing the main crop was corn, which of course, is almost all I see here in the midwest. But in passing through small villages we saw people manually shelling the corn directly from the ears which were in big piles by their houses. We didn’t see anyone harvesting so I don’t know if they use machinery for that part, but obviously they weren’t using the same combines used in corn country here to also remove the kernels from the cobs.