Follow the experiences of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of Moravian College, Moravian Theological Seminary and the Comenius Center who live in or travel to China for pleasure, for business, or for study during the 2010-11 CHINA | IN FOCUS thematic year.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Great day on the Great Wall!

As I write this post at 8:22 pm, Brian is already asleep...the jet lag has definitely caught up with him. I wanted to take a few moments to share our day before crashing myself!

Today we left our hotel at 7 am to venture north of Beijing to the town of Jinshanling. Many friends recommended doing "the hike" on this section of the Great Wall and said it was a "must see". We thought the ride would be about 2 hours, but our driver suggested closer to 3. He was right - the traffic getting out of Beijing was terrible and everytime I thought we were out of the city, we'd discover more skyscrapers, more traffic. Given that we will get very little time out of the cities of Beijing and Shanghai, however, we enjoyed the long ride and took it as an opportunity to see more of China.

Prior to our trip, we heard so much about the development and construction efforts here. Being from the northeast in areas that have fallen victim to suburbianization we thought it would be the same. It is not! The development here is unbelievable. Unlike back home where a cornfield may be converted to a 100 house development, here the projects are redoing entire towns. Everywhere you turn there was construction. We also realized that the planned landscape we mentioned in our last post continued miles outside of Beijing - perfecly aligned rows of trees, beautiful rose bushes in the medians of all the roads, and perfectly manicured shrubery on the roadsides. We can't help but think about the level of staffing needed to maintain the landscape, yet we only saw 1-2 people working on it during our 3 hour drive.

Once we got out of Beijing we started to see little towns that surprisingly seemed very similar to the "Chinatowns" you find in the major US cities. At the entrance of the town would be the large archway followed by homes and shops standing closely together. Unfortunately we didn't have time to visit these towns, but got to see many of the residents either selling fruit at roadside stands or riding their bicycles or electric bikes along the highway. I keep mentioning bad traffic - there are cars everywhere but I feel like there are as many cyclists, too. Between these two types of commuters (plus many walkers), the roads are so crowded with people, cars, and bikes going every which way. I am certain I would not feel comfortable driving here for many years as the flow of traffic seems so unpredictable. Fortunately our driver was a pro and got us there a little under 3 hours.

Now, onto Jinshanling. I should mention that as we left Beijing we kept hoping to escape the smog I mentioned before, which we did, but only to find fog and rain. The entire drive to Jinshanling we experienced sporadic showers. Although we were prepared to hike in the rain, we knew the fog would prevent us from seeing the amazing views.

Upon arriving, we bought our ticket into the Great Wall and the rain started coming down steadily. We threw our ponchos on, Brian invested in a hat and we were off! There is a small dirt trail that leads up to the Wall but given the rain we decided to take advantage of the gondola. The gondola ride took about 10 minutes and dropped us off at the Little Jinshanling Tower. As soon as we got to the Tower, we were in awe. The rain started to slow down and the fog was clearing a bit and we just saw miles and miles of The Great Wall. It really seems endless!

We were warned that Jinshanling was really a hike, not just a walk, and we found that out pretty quickly. The hike consisted of steep uphills stair climbs, a plateau at a Tower, down a steep set of stairs. Repeat. I have included some pictures to show the steepness. At every Tower we would take a break to enjoy the view (and catch our breath, let's be honest) and then continue again. We quickly realized we needed to set a goal - time, Tower, something - because you really could just keep walking. We had planned to do a 5k hike from Jinshanling to Simatai; however, we learned that they government has closed Simatai for renovations. As such we set out for 1.5 hours in one direction and then turned around.

The walk back was just as beautiful and we kept saying to each other, "Wow, we are on the Great Wall". Standing there you can't help but admire the beauty of the Wall against the lush, green mountains surrounding either side. You also can't help but respect the vision and hard work the Chinese people invested in creating the Wall. Parts of it are definitely showing wear and tear from time and travellers, but the foundation is solid. (We have many beautiful pictures to share, but can't seem to download them from our camera to the computer. I'll try again soon).

Tomorrow we will be joined with about 15-20 students and spouses from Brian's program at Wharton who have also travelled to Beijing prior to their studies in Shanghai. We are taking a trip to the Forbidden City and another section of the Great Wall. We look forward to seeing our friends and exploring more of Beijing!

1 comment:

  1. Greetings from back West! Sounds like you guys are having a great time. Thanks for the updates.