Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Damn, That's Some Wall!

As you know, I get to China quite often.  And every time I'm there, I hear about the sights I should see--the terracotta warriors, the Great Wall, the beaches in the South but honestly, when I'm done working I'm usually ready to go right home.  After spending 3 stinky days at the terrible Beijing fabric show (more in a later post...), we managed to find a little time to check out the Great Wall.  F and I hired a private driver and tour guide, which is quite common and affordable and not at all as fancy as it sounds, but really I was happy that my Great Wall excursion did not involve a tourbus full of olds.  The part we went to--the Juyang Pass--was a little over an hour from Beijing.  There is no funicular to take you up to the top at this part of the wall, and I'm not exaggerating when I say there were lots of unevenly treacherous stairs to master.  We had to stop a few times on the way up to catch our breath and one of us (not me) didn't go all the way to the top.  It's a workout!

It's funny because I always had the impression that the wall was impassable, that it was the wall itself that kept the Mongols out.  I'm sure the wall was quite an impediment to these roving groups, but honestly with a leg up or some climbing tools or a a crude ladder, the Mongols could have up-and-overed it for sure.  But really the wall is fortified with watchtowers all along the way, where soldiers (who would live there) would have a view for miles and be on alert for incoming tribes.  So with this system of alert in place (they would send up smoke when invaders were spotted) and the giant wall to slow the bad guys down, the Great Wall was a pretty good system.

Oh, and our guide was talking about the oppressive labor required to build it and how people's entire lives were given solely to building this wall.  Ugh.  He said it's considered the world's longest cemetery because when the laborers would die, they would often just put the bodies in the wall and keep building.  And then he took us to a jade factory and tried to get us to buy stuff.

Present day marauders.

Love locks, just like in Paris!

Oh, man this sneak shot is the BEST!  Thanks, crazy Jesus scrawler, for giving my random Great Wall portraiture that extra something!

The steps are high and irregular.  Heights fears were stared in the eye today.  I did it!

Great Wall portraiture without crazy Jesus scrawling.

What a view!

I like the one that says, "Hey dummy, it's storming.  Get off your damn cellphone!" 

But my favorite is:  "Heart cerebral disease sufferer ascend the Great Wall to please watch for."  YES.

Welcome to climb the Great Wall, heart attackers!

Oh boy, I love the use of "Welcome to" in China.  "Welcome to take my taxi!"  "Welcome to enjoy the tea!"  It is second only to "Please enjoy" in my list of favorite Engrish phrases.

All along the watch tower.