Saturday, November 15, 2008

Great Wall of China

Today we visited the Great Wall. This amazing wonder of the world is 6,400 km long. The easiest part for tourists to visit is about 70 km from Beijing. It is so easy, that 100,000 people visit the wall every day! I know I use the word, "amazing" too often, but this truly is. In this picture, off to the right of me are just a few of those thousands trekking up the final piece before reaching watchtower #8 at Badaling. Last night I badly stubbed my toe and as it was complete black and blue this morning, we decided not to walk from watchtower #1 to the top. That trek would take about three hours. Instead, we opted for taking the gondola to tower #7 and then just climbed the last piece. It was a glorious day. Today is Saturday, and even in Beijing, it was blue sky. When people aren't commuting to work, the smog is considerably less. In fact, Beijingers are dealing with smog in several ways. First, during the Olympics, each day, they only allowed even or odd licenses to drive on even and odd days. Now, they don't allow two final digits to commute each day, thus cutting traffic by 20%. I find myself saying, "those clever Chinese" too often.

Anyway, millions of people built the wall. And millions died there and are buried beneath the wall. A truly stupendous undertaking.

The coordination of enabling 100,000 people to visit the wall every day is also stupendous. And, it all works. We saw thousands of buses. We've felt so spoiled as we've had local guides for our tour. And they are the nicest, well spoken people...excited to have jobs and to practice their English. Here's Nancy. (They always take English names, although frankly, I enjoyed her Chinese name better: Luodan. I've encouraged all the guides we've had so far, to use their Chinese names instead of using English names like Susan, Helen, or Nancy. If they are going to use English names, at least they should be using contemporary names like Camilla or Arden!)

Lo and behold, even in Badaling, there is American comfort. Starbucks are EVERYWHERE! And, they too are packed. The Chinese now love coffee. We, on the other hand have been tea snobs for years, drinking green tea. But today, with 35 degree weather, we succumbed to the familiar....Major's favorite Coffee Mocha.
Tomorrow....Guilin at 7 in the morning. Must get some sleep.

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