Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Wall Is Truly Great….and so is the hot pot!!

 

OK….we have been home for a week so I guess that I should get this trip journal finished up!!   It is awfully hard to find time to sit down and write when there are SO many things here that need to be done…..

But, here goes……the story of one of our favorite days in China……

On Saturday morning, we met our tour guide for a trip to the Great Wall of China.  We had set this up thru the hotel and had specifically requested to be taken to one of the less popular areas so that there wouldn’t be as many people.

We were met by a driver (in a REALLY nice car) and James (our guide)  from Gray Line Tours.  We had about a 2-1/2 hour drive to our section of the wall so we settled in for the ride.

James gave us some interesting facts about Beijing.  The city has 20 million people (just 2 million less than the population of Australia), and 5 million vehicles.  To curb traffic in the city, a car is only allowed to be driven one day each week (based on the license plate number).   However, on weekends all controls are off so traffic is actually WORSE.

He also told us that the Great Wall is 6700 kilometers in length (about 4000 miles) and was built to protect China from Mongolia.

We were glad to have a driver since on of the turns was navigated by exiting off of the highway, into a gas station parking lot and then up another smaller road!!!

When we arrived James purchased our tickets and we started walking down a long road heading to the wall.  And then we saw it in the distance…..

_7025001 

Now let me say here that I was NOT thinking correctly about the wall.  I had visions of climbing up to the wall and then walking on the same level for miles.  NOPE…..because the wall follows the contours of the hills it is constantly up and down.

There were a few areas that were undeveloped, but most of the trip  was climbing stairs of various heights.  The steps varied from 3 or 4 inches high to  over 14 inches in height...._7025026

And some areas were more rustic than others….._7025166And there were plenty of signs reminding you to be careful….wonder what happened to this one….

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The only problem with this was that you HAD to keep looking downward so that you wouldn’t stumble when you really wanted to be looking up at the wonderful view….._7025023

 

The good thing was that we had to take lots of stops for photos……_7025019

and a few for catching our breath……_7025188

These cut-outs in the wall were perfect for stopping because the breeze would barrel thru the opening, providing a great air-conditioner.

As the morning got hotter, we were desperate for something to use to clear the sweat from our foreheads.  I looked into my purse and found a pair of socks that I had planned to wear on the plane yesterday but had never put them on.   These became our sweat  rags!!!

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    So we went up….._7025032

 

…and down….._7025046 …..rest and repeat!!!!_7025078

Here are few of our favorite photos….._7025034  _7025061

It was fairly hazy when we first arrived, but it gave the place an ethereal feel.    When we ere leaving, we realized that the sky had cleared considerably.

The woman in this next photo was a vendor who had climbed a LONG way to sell her goods, including bottles of suspect looking water.  By this stage we had depleted our water and were ALMOST tempted to purchase hers. 

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It was interesting to see how the vendors/hawkers/con-artists worked up here.  First of all, I was amazed that they would climb so far, but I guess that their “clients” were in a compromised position too.

Most of them would start talking to you in English and give you information  about the wall or “help” you in some way.  After a while they would either ask for money for their help or start showing you their “artwork”.

We had one section of steps where you had to scramble up a small area of rocks rather than stairs.  This one woman grabbed my arm to help me up the rocks.  The only problem was that she moved MUCH faster than I would have and I felt like she was dragging me up.   She stayed by us for a while, much like a loyal dog, but when she took out a fan and started fanning me while I was trying to look at the scenery, I finally told her to GO AWAY@!@!@!

We kept on walking, saying at each turn “we will go to that next fort and then stop”….

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We finally gave up and headed back home, but had to have a photo first.  If we both look a bit strange, it is because we were standing on a STEEP slope and were having to balance ourselves….  _7025152 

On the way down, we decided that we HAD to make some phone calls from the Wall…..the first to Jenny (who I knew would still be awake) and one to Michael’s Mama (who wasn’t home to take our call)!! _7025165  

I loved this photo because it  looks like there is a picture of the wall hanging on the wall!!   The lighter colored bricks at the bottom of the wall are from the original wall, while the upper ones have been restored._7025169

Parts of the wall were fairly deserted, but as we got closer to the place where a Cable Car dropped people off, we started seeing more and more.  I called them “The Cheaters” as they hadn’t walked the same distance that we had!!!

 

We came across this fun group of students who were from Hong Kong.  In this photo they are all yelling “Hello” to the Americans….._7025172

And then we looked back and saw them posing for this acrobatic photo….._7025181…..proving that teens are the same ALL over the world!!!!

This is our favorite photo of the wall…..

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I loved that you could look all along it’s length and see the towers as they dotted the tops of the hills.  It was truly a spectacular sight!!!!

As we came off of the wall, we were both dying for some water so James called our driver and he met us at the car with ICE COLD bottles of water for the return trip!!!!

Thank you James for taking such good care of us!!!!

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After a wonderful shower and rest time, we headed off to a “Hot-Pot” Restaurant that the hotel concierge had suggested for us.  We had a bit of trouble finding it, even with the concierge directions, but finally found it on the SEVENTH floor of a shopping mall.  We just kept going up the escalators and looking for something that looked right.

We asked on the 6th floor and were pointed upward one more time.  When we stepped off of the  escalator we figured that we were at the right place since all of the windows were covered in steam!!!

Our reservation was for 6:30  and even with the trouble of finding the place, we were about 5 minutes early.  This caused all sorts of problems because apparently our table wasn’t ready yet so they sat us at a small table, gave us some lemonade to drink and brought out a tray for nibbles.  

We had only been there for 3 or 4 minutes when they came and motioned for us to follow them to our table.

The table has a propane tank under it and a square hole in the middle. 

We leafed thru the 10+ page menu (which fortunately had some English sub-titles) and finally ordered our food, starting with the “Affectionate Couple Hotpot”!!!

A divided metal container with one clear broth and one milky broth was brought to our table.  Then the server cut open a plastic bag of wonderful spicy red sauce and poured it into the clear broth.

_7025222 The propane burner was turned on and we instantly had bubbling, boiling liquid at our table.

Our server knew a few words of English and was able to get the point across that we were to go to a bar to make up our own dipping sauce.  I added onions, garlic, sesame paste (tasted more like peanut) and my favorite addition….”Fragrant Spicy Cow Sauce!!!!      Not sure exactly what it was, but it WAS good!!!

The meat and vegetables (pronounced weggetables) were brought to our table and we were off.   The waitress placed our meat choices (beef and lamb) into each of the hotpots

_7025226 We then added mushrooms……

_7025225….spinach…..  _7025227

….and sweet potatoes sticks (no photo) to the pot.

The waitresses brought us appropriate attire for the evening…..red aprons!!!!

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Before we started eating, one of the waitresses came running over with forks in her hand but we thanked her and waved her off.

 

The process of the evening was to…..dip into the hotpot and pull out whatever you found……_7025229

….dip it into your sauce and enjoy….._7025230 

We left quite a mess at the end of the meal……._7025231When it came time to pay, we happily shelled out the $32 and tried to give our waitress a tip.  She frowned, slapped her hands together and said “NO!!!”.

We regretfully took off our aprons and started out the door, only to be chased down by the waitress because I had left my notebook sitting on the table!!!

We returned to the hotel and started looking for someplace to have dessert.  We remembered that we were welcome in the lounge area on the 17th floor of the hotel and that there was a Happy Hour going on until 8:00.  We arrived there about 10 minutes prior to the ending time so the attendant told us to load up our plates before they started taking the food away.

It was mostly “finger” food so we each picked our favorites and enjoyed sitting and relaxing…..

IMG_0525 ….the chocolate wasn’t bad either!!!!!

1 comment:

Karen said...

Your photos of the wall are wonderful! What an amazing opportunity.
It also seems that every meal is an adventure in itself!

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