A Travellerspoint blog

A night on the town, and more on the Olympics

In which much of my life is on a "need to know" basis.

28 °C

For about a week now, I’ve known that Aaron had some sort of surprise for Saturday night. In the afternoon, we rode into the city on the bus, and wandered around Houhai. Houhai is a beautiful park-like area around a big lake in the center of the city. Along the shores are restaurants, bars, and little shops that give way to hutong, all in the shadow of the Drum Tower. We couldn’t find the Daoist restaurant we had intended to eat in, so we strolled along, doing our best to ignore the cries of “We have beer, second floor!” by the many young men employed to ensnare tourists. We stepped into a tiny little place right by the water, only to discover (I suspect Aaron already knew this) that they served tripe, exclusively. We ordered a plate of steamed beef intestines, which came with a bowl of sesame sauce with cilantro and green onions. Now, I rarely meet a food I dislike, but even the smell of this dish was pretty bad. The sliced intestines were white semi-circles on one side (the outer wall of the gut, I suppose) with long strands of very rough gray material hanging from it. The white was very chewy and tough, while the grey was chewy and rough-feeling. I did not appreciate the taste, even with copious amounts of sauce. We abandoned the idea of tripe for dinner, and set off to find some real food.

We ended up in a Vietnamese restaurant overlooking the lake. The building was a very old courtyard house, with lovely exposed wooden beams, woodworking details, and odd roof angles. The décor was unique: hanging colorful burlap, lights set inside wicker-basket style fixtures, rough wooden floors, little bridges and ponds, and even an aluminum dragon snaking his way up from the basement. This was a much nicer restaurant than our usual weekend fare, and definitely a treat. The windows on the second floor were open, letting a glorious breeze in that cooled our table. We ordered shrimp spring rolls with mint for an appetizer. Mint is a flavor I hadn’t had in a while, and these were delicious and light and crisp. To drink, I had Vietnamese iced coffee, and Aaron had a mango smoothie. Our main courses were pineapple fried rice (which was served in a pineapple!), asparagus with a red bean sauce (perfectly cooked – oh, how I love asparagus!), and a ginger chicken dish which was oh, so gingery. For dessert, we had coconut milk sticky rice with grilled banana…mmm…. A delicious meal that featured much finer (and very different) flavors from our usual Chinese restaurant choices.

After dinner, we cabbed to…well, I didn’t know. I guessed from Aaron’s hand gesturing to the cab driver that we were going to “The Egg:” the new National Peforming Arts Center. But I had no idea what we’d be seeing. The Egg is distinctly ovoid and sits inside a wide moat set in a peaceful public open space. After being dropped off at the wrong side, we got to walk around the moat, and then under it, into the lobby of the space. The moat runs across a glass ceiling, letting in some light with a rippling shadow effect. The Egg has three performing spaces, but from signs, I was able to ascertain that we were going to hear the King’s Singers! After making our first attempt to pass through the strictest security I’ve yet seen in this city (possibly excepting the airport, where looking unlike your seven-year-old passport photo will lead to temporary detainment), we were rejected because I had a camera in my purse, which I carry with me wherever I go but would never dream of using during a concert! We backtracked to coat check, where I reluctantly checked my camera. After passing through security again, we walked into a sea of people taking pictures with both their cameras and their cell phones. I was now absolutely furious and spent our ten minute walk to the theater trying to regain any semblance of joviality.

The Concert Hall is even more magnificent inside than outside. The ceilings are rich hardwood, glass and bronze metal which meet a floor of many types of stone and patterned bronze. The whole thing is elemental and seamlessly designed to make massive, curved space seem natural and warm. It is the most strikingly beautiful and fascinating building I have ever been in.

The theater we were in is fairly small, with seating around all four sides. The stage is at one end, with a light-colored wood floor. The seats were very comfortable and set nearly stadium-style in the balcony. We had fourth row balcony seats, in the center.

The King’s Singers were fantastic. I had very little time to set my expectations for this event, but I had expected the King’s Singers to perform mostly classical, folk and madrigal music. They did just that, but also sang a selection each from Billy Joel and Queen (with kazoo!), a set of Zulu songs, and several selections of work based on music from the Jungle Book! There were often harmonies I had never heard before, and beautiful sounds that I desperately wanted to grab hold of and examine more closely. However, due to the ephemeral nature of music, each chord drifted away and was replaced by more of similar quality and awe-inspiring nature. These men are exceptionally talented, and goose-bump raising. I would not hesitate to see them again!

There was, however, a downside. As noted previously, there are some members of Chinese society who know not the norms of behavior at public cultural events. There were regular cell phone rings, text message noises, and glaring lights from cell phone screens. People talked, stood up and walked around during the music. They arrived late and left early, not waiting for intermission or applause. And one man insisted upon clapping along during a song sung in Chinese, despite the fact that absolutely no one else was clapping. As with the Messiah that we saw in December, after the last selection the crowd began to clap in rhythm as a gym-ful of high schoolers might do when a basketball game doesn’t start on time. About one third of the audience left entirely during the intermission which was, frankly, a relief.

Despite the beautiful music, all this made it an incredible challenge to concentrate on the performance. Is this a cultural difference? Is it boorish behavior? Can people be changed? Should they?

This week is the last of regular classes. Exams begin on July 1 and end on July 4. Wheee!! Yesterday, at the first meeting for foreign volunteers, Aaron and I found out that we’d been moved to the major Olympic venue area (near or in the Bird’s Nest or Water Cube) for our volunteer service. No word on exactly what we’ll be doing, or where, but now we’re right in the action! We signed our volunteer agreements, and will report for duty on August 2 (where and at what time, we know not). Look for me on TV!!! 

(Note: the next blog post is new also!)

Posted by ucpegasus 22:52 Archived in China Comments (1)

Rainy Weekend in Beijing

In which Zara and I dodged puddles between indoor activities.

25 °C

Last weekend, to give Aaron and reprieve from my pesky self so he could get some work done, and to enjoy a girls’ weekend away, Zara and I headed into the city right after classes ended on Friday. After a somewhat circuitous walk on the wrong side of the Forbidden City looking for the hostel, we arrived (thank goodness for mobile phones!) and checked in. The hostel is located in a hutong off a nice road of (slightly touristy) shops and restaurants. The hostel is beautiful inside. There’s a cozy living room with tables and benches, couches facing tables, a tv, computers, etc. Half of the living room was a sun room with a glass ceiling and wall of windows looking into a little courtyard garden with tables and chairs, potted plants, bicycles for rent, etc. The star of the hostel is a little Siamese kitten with pale blue eyes who stalks around nipping at anything dangly, like travelers’ scarves and laptop cords. Both mornings, while I was enjoying my coffee, he came over looking especially cute. I poured a little of my leftover milk into my saucer, and the cat jumped up onto my lap for his treat. I suspect he chooses a likely sucker every morning… After licking the saucer clean, he curled up in my lap, and proceeded to dream and twitch, and generally appear cute with a little smile on his face for the next hour!

In all the places in China I’ve so far visited, the reaction of Chinese people to foreigners has been varied. Many Beijingers are sophisticated and have travelled abroad and don’t gawk or comment on the presence of foreigners. However, many have spent their whole lives in the city where they grew up and, even though China has been “open” for about 30 years, seem to view foreigners with a mix of curiosity and opportunism. Rarely a day goes by without a “Hellooooo!” shouted at me, or long stares and comments of “laowai!” (foreigner!) thrust my way. This, in a city with thousands of foreign experts and hundreds of thousands of tourists!! You’d think people would get over it… The worst, however, is the racism in the way of unfair business practice towards Western-looking foreigners. I am white, probably American, and thus, I must have a lot of money. On Friday night, Zara and I were wandering along the street near our hostel, and came across a restaurant with little plates of boiled, seasoned soybeans by the door. I now, through experience, have a policy of not eating anything until I know its price. In Chinese, I asked, “How much is it?” The waitress opened her mouth, closed it, and called for the boss. My internal red flag raised. The boss comes over with a “Hellooooo!” in English. I ask him, in Chinese, “How much is it?” He looks down, looks up, pauses and says (in Chinese), “Um…10 kuai.” I laugh, as the plate of beans should be less than five, and say again, “How much IS it?” He says, “Um…7 kuai?” I pull out a phrase that means, roughly, “What are you doing?” and he shrugs and makes no effort to provide a fair price. The last thing I want to do on a Friday night is haggle over a plate of soybeans!! We walked out… I’d rather be hungry than give that many any of my money! Is this racism, or a fair way to make a living?

Friday night was wet and spitting drizzle intermittently. We met our colleague Matt for (a mediocre) dinner, followed by Belgian waffles for dessert. The waffles were pretty good, but the fruit topping was cold and sour and the whipped cream was really not too good. I really look forward to small doses of Western treats, but this was quite expensive (45RMB); not quite worth it to me. Maybe my expectations were, as usual, set too high…

By Saturday, the rain had increased to pouring, and trapped us in the cozy hostel living room scheming over what to do. The Underground City (tunnels under the city center, rumored lead all the way to the third ring road!) was closed, the Yanjing Beer factory wasn’t holding tours, and we didn’t want to go shopping. Finally, Zara remembered that a colleague of ours had gone to an exhibit on Tibet at the Cultural Palace of Nationalities. We found the place on a map, and headed out with a new friend from Spain and our umbrellas.

I must note here that I navigated to the Cultural Palace all by myself, and didn’t get lost even for a second. You may congratulate me at any time, especially those of you who are aware of my getting-lost-ophobia and my general lack of sense of direction.

The exhibit is entitled “Tibet of China: Past and Present” is divided into two parts: “History of Tibet and Feudal Serfdom in Old Tibet” and “New Tibet Changing With Each Passing Day.” First, the title: a not-so-subtle reminder that Tibet is indeed part of China! Part one was in a dimly lit room, full of grainy photographs, some relics and reproductions, and descriptions of the happenings of Tibet as they relate to China from the 1400s until 1957. Tibet is portrayed as backwards (this word appeared often), a friend of China, and historically inexorably linked to the central government of China. The exhibit toured through the lives of several Dalai Lamas, and their relationship to the government. The society of Tibet was organized into 5% land and slave owning feudal lords and 95% impoverished serfs and slaves. One entire wall of this exhibition hall is dedicated to grotesque photographs from the early part of the 1900s depicting malnourished, disfigured slaves in extreme poverty, as well as case upon case of torture instruments used by the lords. This exhibit hall as a whole paints a grim picture of Tibet as a failing territory of China.

Part Two triumphantly begins with the liberation of the Tibetan people by the People’s Liberation Army in 1957. The remainder of the exhibit is dedicated to displaying the improvements to the lives of Tibetans: significantly longer life spans, vehicles and vacations for everyone, refrigerators full of beer, smiling educated children, etc. There were enormous photographs of the president shaking hands with traditionally dressed Tibetan women (obviously photoshopped!) and paragraph after paragraph of flowery language informing us of the wonderful life and religious freedom all Tibetans enjoy today. I’ll leave you to make your own conclusion about this propaganda-palooza. At least it was free!

Following that exhibit, we met Matt again to view a movie entitled “Boomtown Beijing” shown in a Spanish restaurant on a neat little artsy and Western restaurant street north of the Forbidden City. The film was a documentary on how the upcoming Olympics has shaped the lives of four Beijingers: a cab driver, a little boy, an old man, and a blind athlete. The cab driver commented, predictably, on the changing urban landscape, the traffic and roads, and the changes in his hutong. The little boy desperately wanted to be a torch-bearer for the Olympics, but was too young. The old man performed and taught the ribbon dance in a Beijing park, and wanted to gather 600 other ribbon dancers to perform the Olympic Rings Ribbon Dance during an Olympics ceremony, but was finding no support for the idea. The blind athlete, who had competed and placed in many Asian Games, was trying in his last year of eligibility to qualify for the Paralympics. The stories were very interesting, and an insightful look at how the Olympics has changed individuals. Most often, in this society, change and benefit is viewed on a massive scale through the mouthpiece of the government: change is beneficial to the economy and thus, the people. Very rarely do we glimpse how change affects an individual.

On Sunday, Zara and I went to the Lama Temple. This temple is the most magnificent and colorful in the city, with hundreds of Buddha of nearly every shape and size, mostly built in the 1400s. Hall after hall houses brightly pained wooden statues swathed in gold and purple and white cloths, set behind alters holding fruit, incense and burning candles. Outside, giant braziers burn sticks of incense brought by worshippers, and a cloud of sticky, sweet smoke hung low over the whole of the temple grounds. The most physically imposing Buddha holds a Guinness World Record for the largest carved from a single piece of sandalwood. It stands 18 meters high, and is painted a rich bronzy-gold. The whole place is peaceful and relaxing, and an excellent place to people watch when you’ve had enough of the Buddha. It did make me realize that I know almost nothing about Chinese Buddhism, and that I have very little idea of why people worship or what the basis of the religious is. As a tourist attraction, it is quite stunning, but quite clearly it goes beyond that as a place of worship for many Beijingers.

Posted by ucpegasus 22:50 Archived in China Comments (0)

Out and about

In which we enjoy some little weekend adventures.

29 °C

The “in” thing as a foreign teacher out in Changping is to rent an apartment in the city. Initially, I was a little jealous of these folks with their easy weekend getaways near all the action. A colleague of mine and his girlfriend (who, between the two of them have three apartments – one from each of their jobs, and one they rent together), invited Aaron and I to visit their Beijing hutong apartment for a barbecue last weekend. I’ve been sticking pretty close to home these last few weeks, just working and relaxing on the weekends. I was pretty ready to get out and do something new. Their apartment is in a traditional little alley off a little road and proved to be a little challenging to find. When we did find the neighborhood, we then had to find their hutong. Hutong are usually set behind a door shared by all the families who have apartments in that alley. After passing through their door, we encountered sort of a dirt outdoor hallway lined with doors to individual apartments. The apartment itself boasts a closet-sized kitchen, a showoilet (with appropriately hidden toilet paper), two decently sized bedrooms, and an open-air living room. There is a little water heater for the shower, no heat (aside from an electric heater) and no AC. The living room could have been screened, but was open, inviting birds to nest inside, which they happily did. We grilled, ate delicious food (including some imported cheese!), and relaxed while the sky turned an ominous and fitting shade of communist red.

Despite my momentary jealousy, the desire for my own hutong apartment has passed. I think Aaron and I would use it maybe two weekends each month at the most, and never during the week. And at around 2000RMB per month, it’s not a cheap proposition. It would be much more economical to rent a hostel room every once in a while if we decide to stay in the city for a weekend.

Speaking of imports, this past weekend I was gripped with the sudden feeling that it was absolutely necessary to procure some imported food. On Sunday, with some of my more experienced colleagues (in Western-good buying, that is) I went to Jenny Lou’s, which is a Beijing chain specializing in selling grocery imports to expats as ridiculous prices. I bought dried pasta, basil, fresh mozzarella, sharp cheddar, avocados, gin, a lime, sauerkraut and applesauce. Then, we went out for brunch at The Den, which is a pubby sort of place and the official drinking establishment of the Beijing (Foreign) Devils Rugby Team. I had eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, coffee and orange juice, and a half pint of Guinness for dessert. Don’t ask how much money this whole import expedition cost – I don’t even want to know! The basil and mozzarella was made into pizza with some fresh tomatoes and homemade pizza sauce. I think you know what happened to the gin and lime!

Last night, my colleague Julius hosted a little get-together to celebrate the end of the school year and his retirement from teaching (and move back to New Zealand). We met at the restaurant of the Auspicious Business Hotel in Changping. This place is amazing. The name fits – it is fancy, ornate, richly decorated, and boasts a high end menu to match. The main part of the restaurant is a banquet hall with a stage on one end. This area was occupied by a wedding. Upstairs, around the perimeter of the hall, are private rooms (very common at nicer restaurants here – you can dine with your party of six or more in privacy!) which overlook the hall and stage. Ours had two tables and a silk-covered bed with purple curtains!! We watched the wedding entertainment (singing, dancing by a professional troupe, musicians playing minority instruments) as we dined on fancy food (wild greens salad, bean curd, delicious pork ribs, fruit, lion’s head meatballs, spicy green beans, rice noodles in chili peanut sauce, egg custards, etc.) and drank wine and tea. It was quite enjoyable. Mom, this one’s on the short list for places to dine when you come visit!

Four more weeks of school…

Posted by ucpegasus 18:15 Archived in China Comments (1)

Good Luck Beijing!

In which China warms up for the Summer Games.

sunny 26 °C

My dear Mother, with whom I just spent two weeks, was already insisting that I blog even before I left her company. Doubtless, I am more interesting in small, cyber-doses than for twice-daily hour-long car rides.

Having returned from my visit to the States where I left my Dad recovering from his very successful surgery to remove some type of mean, nasty tumor which turned out to be slightly less mean and nasty than expected but nevertheless is requiring a slow return to normal life (but yay, solid food!), I am back to “normal life” in China.

The same day my plane landed, fresh off a 14 hour flight on which a baby screamed and cried for roughly 13 hours and 49 minutes, Aaron and I joined two other couples for an evening out at the new National Stadium. Open for its inaugural events as part of the Good Luck Beijing series (really, a dress rehearsal for the Olympics), the Bird’s Nest hosted an athletic competition over three days in late May. We taxied into the area, which was absolutely congested with traffic and without any sort of marked highway exit towards or access road to the venue. We sat in traffic and sweated in the smoggy air as I began to wilt from my jet lag (not even – probably just from being awake for over 30 hours). Finally, we abandoned our cab, and walked in the general direction of the stadium. Once outside the giant perimeter fence, we were told that we could not gain access by the closest gate, but must take a bus around to the opposite side of the Nest. The bus was blissfully air conditioned. That seems to be a major detail worth mentioning. Once at the correct entrance, we ascertained that our seats were on the opposite side (you know, the one near the gate we weren’t allowed to use). We walked around, photographing as we went, and easily found our seats – the venue is very well marked.

The outside of the Nest is a web of spectacular steel beams, apparently without a pattern, woven into the famously-shaped façade. The inside is also very nice, with comfortable (though, Chinese-sized – let this be a warning to the plus-sized traveler!) seats, good lighting, large and plentiful bathrooms (though, painted all-black inside, which lead to a great deal of confusion on my part, both finding a bathroom stall and then finding my way back out!) with soap AND toilet paper AND western-style toilets, and concession stands with 2RMB (30 cents) bottled water. Let’s hope the water stays that price, especially since bringing in one’s own reusable bottle of water is against the rules (“Green Olympics,” my wide foreign derrière)!!

The very center of the arena is open to the air, and the gaps between the steel beams are either open, or covered with a translucent skin. During the day, the Nest is lit with sunlight, and at night some very bright lights do the job.

The six of us didn’t have seats together, so Aaron and I began in the bottom tier under the overhang of the second tier. The view was very good, and monitors overhead made the details that much easier to see. Later, we moved into some empty seats much closer to the action from which we could see the giant screen and scoreboard. The track and field events on that night included: 3000 m wheelchair racing, running some long distance, steeplechase, 400 m hurdles, 100 m hurdles, 4x400 m relay, discus, hammer, long jump, triple jump, and pole vaulting. One of the 100 m hurdlers is a Chinese idol (posters of his giant thighs line the subway tunnel walls, advertising something, I'm sure), and received by far the greatest applause, and even did an on-field interview.

The athletes were mostly Chinese, and represented their provinces until they medaled in an event, at which time they represented their Motherland. I suspect this is because they had just qualified for the Olympics. Other athletes were from the US, Europe and Canada. As expected, China did exceptionally well. As expected, the rare Japanese who won an even largely failed to receive any applause. When Aaron clapped extra hard to make up for this, he got some rather strange and nasty looks from neighboring spectators.

One of the most amusing parts of our visit to the Nest was watching the volunteers. China has taken great pride in the training of its volunteers, the duties of whom range from helping spectators find their seats, standing by the entrances and greeting non-Chinese visitors in English (what an assumption!), to professionally trained cheering sections and those volunteers who are in charge of guarding athletes’ personal belongings during an event. First, the cheering section. These yellow-shirted folks have been training for months. They occupy some of the most coveted seats in the house, and are seated together. They hold matching cheersticks (you know, those awful plastic inflatable horrors that one bangs together as if clapping was an insufficient way of expressing congratulations), and clap, slap and chant in unison. The novice Chinese spectator need only look their way for expert guidance on the dos and don’ts of being a respectable spectator. (On a side note, for months, the video screens on board the subway trains have been showing informational videos on the vocabulary and rules associated with various Olympics sports.) Next, my favorite kind of volunteer: those that guard athlete’s belongings. These ladies march out in unison in matching uniforms, one volunteer for each competitor, holding matching, numbered plastic bins. When they arrive at their field-side destination, the turn in unison, set down the bins in a straight line, stand up, and fold their hands behind their backs. All perfectly in sync. And there they remain until the completion of the event at which time they repeat the entire production in reverse. I can only hope that I secure this position during my tenure volunteering at the Olympic Triathlon Course. (Did I mention? I’m volunteering for the triathlon events! It is north of Changping – no need to fight traffic to get into the city!)

In other BOCOG news, I have sent in my measurements for my volunteer uniform. I am a large (which, by Chinese standards, is probably quite fair). The uniforms consist of Adidas sneakers, zip-off pants, a blue and white wave pattern polo, a long-sleeved polo, a hat, and a little orange fanny pack. I am very exited. Now, if only I knew when I’m volunteering!

Posted by ucpegasus 17:44 Archived in China Comments (2)

Blue sky day at the Great Wall

In which the Wall becomes "pay as you go."

16 °C

The urge to post has been muted by our lovely Spring weather, and visitors.

Aaron’s family traveled around China for two weeks in early April. The first week was spent in and around Beijing, and the second week traveling by train and plane to Xi’an and Hangzhou. While in Beijing, I joined them for Beijing opera and dinner. The opera was a for-tourists “highlights of” affair, and included some singing, music and fight scenes. And one of those fabulous head pieces with the long feathers. Now, I’d love to see an entire, cohesive opera, maybe without the table of noisy tourists sitting behind us. The following weekend included an extra day off for the tomb sweeping holiday. On Thursday, we left Changping in two taxis to travel north to a village in the shadow of the Great Wall. On our last visit, Aaron and I had hiked east starting from this same village, and had found several guesthouses that looked suitably fun for an overnight visit. Also, last visit, the road between Changping and the Wall had been paved. It was not so this time, having been dug up in its entirety to be repaved at a later date.

After making the jarring trek to the village (and Aaron’s parents now suspecting that Aaron and I purposefully seek out long rides on unpaved roads, such as that to Antigua Gurerra in Mexico to which we had traveled on their visit to Texas), we had a delicious dinner of locally farmed mushrooms, whole chicken soup, home-style tofu, and much, much more. We settled in on our kang beds, which are heated with wood fire from underneath. The next morning, we headed across orchards and fields on our way to the wall.

From previous experience, we knew that there was a farmer who would require some money before letting us pass through his land. Before we walked past his house, however, we were met by an old woman, who followed us to the farmer’s place, and then walked through his gate. We haggled the farmer down to 5RMB each (from his requested 20RMB for “maintenance of Chestnut Farm” as his English-language sign read – there was no such thing available in Chinese), and proceeded through the gate. Immediately, the old woman produced hand-written tickets that indicated her fee for accessing the wall was 10RMB per person.

Aaron calmly informed her that we had just paid and were free to walk to the wall. She followed along, holding out her tickets, crying “10 kuai!” and generally being sort of irritating. When we reached the steep path up to the wall, she threw herself in our way, spreading her arms and legs wide, and began demanding money loudly. I scrambled up through the trees beside the path, helping up Aaron’s mother after me. Soon, only Aaron was left behind, still trying to reason with this woman regarding her illegitimate ownership claim of the land, the path, the wall, and her self-proclaimed right to our money. Aaron made it past, and we rested, looking over the countryside, dappled with flowering plum trees and greening vegetation.

And then she caught up with us. And continued to demand money. The wall is exceptionally steep and crumbling at this location – far more so than Aaron’s parents had expected (because, well, they were not totally informed by their son as to the magnitude of the “walk on the wall” on which we were about to embark). We were resting, and this old woman was neither resting her legs, nor her voice. She continued, this time at a fever pitch, screaming, yelling, gesturing and carrying on. She disappeared for a few moments, only to resurface with a big stick. Again, she repeated her “throw out the limbs across the narrow path” maneuver, giving me a shove as I tried to push past. I’ll admit it: I shoved back, just a little. Again, all but Aaron managed to squeeze past, and climb up. Aaron again tried to reason and explain, as she, I’m sure, cursed his family, ancestors and offspring. Finally, as we sat watching from above, she backed Aaron up toward the side of the wall, yelling and carrying on. Aaron rushed past her for a final time, having apparently decided that out-hiking her would be easier than reasoning with her. As he moved past her, he was rewarded with the smack of her stick on his back. But we were past the dragon, officially out of her territory. As we hiked up, for the next thirty minutes or so, we could hear her muttering and raging to herself below, until the next hapless group of wall-hikers unwittingly set foot in her territory. The hikers, a group of Chinese people, actually decided to turn around and hike further along the wall, just to avoid her nasty ways.

After that excitement, our hike was peaceful. For quite a while, as we pulled ourselves up nearly vertical stairs and across the rubble of the wall, we were alone. Further west, the wall is restored, and as we approached the reservoir, more people populated the wall. After picnicking in the shade of one of the guard towers, we finished our hike at the reservoir. We enjoyed some beer in the coolness by the water while waiting for our taxi driver to pick us up and head for home.

Posted by ucpegasus 22:31 Archived in China Comments (3)

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