Tuesday, October 24, 2006


This weekend I made it to the Great Wall - I must be one of the few visitors who leaves it 5 weeks in Beijing before visiting it!

It's a bit of a shock to realise I've been here for 5 weeks! The counter on the Olympics was 692 when I arrived. Now it's 655!

I went to the Great Wall at Simatai. Fortunately I managed to negotiate what I thought was a relatively fair price for the taxi. I was a bit paranoid about getting it as they are normally trying to rip you off and I'm not prepared to drive a killer bargain because it's really not fair on them either. So I have this thing about taxis. I suppose then it was the best thing to challenge my comfort zone!

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I did get an OK price - at least I only paid just over half the original price so I suppose I did OK. I got to the wall and powered up to the top in half the stipulated time. There was a woman who was trying to sell me a book who walked all the way up with me. I didn't ask her to but she basically guided me up - not that there was much guiding required. I was annoyed at first but then decided to go with the flow and started to practice my Chinese with her.

When I got to the top I was a bit disappointed that there was a guard stopping people go to the higher watch towers with the more challenging walking/climbing. Still that did mean I wasn't tempted to take the risk. I almost ran down with the local lady following/leading. I did buy the book. Not sure whether out of guilt or actually wanting it - the photos are quite good. Then I went straight up the other side - killing the legs but actually this less crowded section was far more interesting. The wall was narrowing and in worse condition but this gave it an authenticity that enhanced the experience of walking on it.

I am not sure about the Great Wall - it is a bit of a myth as it was never 1 entity - it was built by different people at different times and a bit like China was united by various people at various times. It was also built with the cost of large numbers of lives. Is it wrong to enjoy such a thing even hundreds of years after the crime? Will people look at the places we look down on now as unacceptable? I think it is certainly a part of a global heritage - a feat of human determination more than anything else. Also a clear signal of man's need to feel domination over all things other men, plants, animals and mountains. When you look at the Simatai ridge from a distance, it itself looks like a wall - what other reason can they have had to build it except to try and send a signal to an enemy that we are more powerful than you and if we can do this then how can you conquer us?

So for me it was really just a great way to access remote hills and a great walk taking you quickly up and down steep slopes and giving you great views.

Great Wall - tick box. It makes a nice trio - Machu Piccu, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China. Three landmark places / constructions, three different countries, same theme - let's a build a building that makes a statement and shows everyone else how amazing we are. Just goes to show that while people and people's products look different, they are all the same underneath!


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