CHINA: Part 2

SATURDAY

This morning, we checked out of our guesthouse and walked through the village to get to the ‘Sleeping Dragon’ section of the Great Wall. There were actually other tourists out today! (Probably because it’s the weekend).

We hiked along this section of the wall. It was a bit more restored than yesterday. At the end of this section of the wall is a military base, so we stopped at the last possible watchtower for another picnic lunch, then had the option to hike back along the wall to the bus, or to continue off the wall down through the countryside to our next guesthouse. I opted to go back along the wall (to spend as much time on the Great Wall as possible!)

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When the group was reunited, we drove to a more restored section of the Wall, Jinshanling. We would be staying in a village just beside the entrance. I’m always so excited to take my boots off and shower after a long hike, and that’s just what I did!

SUNDAY

This morning, we checked out of this guesthouse (short stay!) and went to hike the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall. This is one of the most restored sections and was absolutely stunning. I actually took the cable car up because on day five of hiking, my knees were feeling it, and I wanted to save my energy for the Wall itself!

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It was nice to be ahead because I was able to stop and sit and take in the views. There was a group of five of us who took the cable car, so when we didn’t know how far we were supposed to go, we waited at the top of a watchtower until we saw the others. I could look at those views all day. A woman came out of the watchtower, trying to sell us souvenirs. She actually just sat with us until the group came so I bought some things there.

When we found our guide, Frank, we were told we were only two towers away. This day probably had the most steps out of all the sections! We had lunch at a local restaurant, and then had a four hour drive to the next village. I started packing my flip flops in my bag so I could wear them in the van (thank God!) the drive was beautiful, through mountains and past lakes. We made it to our guesthouse before dinner.

MONDAY

Today was our last day hiking on the Great Wall! We had breakfast at our guesthouse, checked out, and drove about 15 minutes to the entrance at Huangyaguan. The walk up to the wall was beautifully short and then we were walking along looking at the most stunning views! The end of the wall on the right went right into the side of a mountain and continued on the other side. At one point along the side of the wall we saw a group of locals, men women and children, with horses, in hammocks, hanging out right beside the Wall. I wonder what they were doing! We waited for the group at the highest point. Then started hiking down, still along the wall. We ended in an ancient village with temples. We saw a monk watching us from one of them!

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It was a bit of a maze to get out, but we made it to the car park (my boots were off before we got to the bus), and headed to Qing (pronounced Ching) Tombs. We took a shuttle (with no sides) to the entrance and explored inside. We had lunch at a local restaurant there, then started our three-hour drive back to Beijing. I listened to music, trying to take in the landscape as we drove but I fell asleep. When I woke up we were in the city, and the sky had become grey and overcast. It started to rain for the first time since I’d been there.

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Now I had run out of cash on Wednesday, our first day on the wall. I told Frank, assuming ATM’s would be all over the place. I was wrong. We were in rural China, and even when we drove through cities, there were no ATM’s anywhere! It was awful! Luckily, Frank lent me money until we got to Beijing. When we pulled up to the hotel, the first thing I did before even unloading the bags was RUN across the street, in the rain, the the Bank of China. The branch was closed, but there was a machine around the back of the building. I walked through the dodgiest alley way, and looped around to the ATM. It was in a parking lot that was guarded (bless) and I was able to take money out! Such a relief! (even though I only had one day left!)

I got back to the lobby and about half the group was still getting sorted. Janet and I checked into our room, and were able to have a shower where we could regulate the temperature! (it’s the little things) We only had a few minutes to chill// get ready, because we met the group in the lobby at 6:40pm for our last dinner.

We went to a restaurant across the street where we ordered Peking Duck! I was really excited to try it. We had other dished as well, and then were shown how to eat the duck, with the wraps and condiments. It tasted really good! When we finished eating, the lights went out and Frank walked out with a cake! Three people in our group had birthdays on the trip so this was a cumulative ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY!’ It was a white sponge cake with grapes, dragon fruit, and kiwi on top! We ate, and said our goodbyes. Tuesday is a free day so there’s no guarantee we’ll see each other. I was so happy with my group and actually had the best time. I was sad to leave them.


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TUESDAY

This morning, I woke up slowly, and made my way out at 9:30am. I went to Costa, a coffee shop for breakfast, and ate sitting at the window, people watching. Some of the women have very bold tastes in clothes and shoes. They also all carry umbrellas to avoid the sun, and some wear breathing masks because the air quality can be very poor. The mall across from the hotel opened at 10am and I planned to do some shopping! I browsed around, bought lots of stationary, and found the cutest little shops to browse around in! I bought a clean shirt for the plane (all mine are dirty, and it makes all the difference), then headed back to the hotel to pack up. It was much less painful than I expected.

My flight out was at 11:55pm, but I have never seen traffic like in Beijing. It took us two hours to get from the airport to the hotel when I arrived so to be safe, I booked a car for 4pm. We got to the airport at 5:30pm (plenty of time!) I browsed around the shops, got some food, and before I knew it, it was time to check in. I feel like an old pro at airports now! We left on time and I was SO glad to be on my way home!

WEDNESDAY

I arrived in Dubai at 3:30am local time. I tried to get used to Toronto time so am sitting for 6 hours, trying to stay awake. My gate is right beside a ‘Shake Shack’ PERFECT! I had a burger, fries, and peanut butter shake at 5am. It was heavenly. I endured a 14 hour flight, and am now content on my couch, at home. I’m so happy! What an incredible trip!

Pamela

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