How great is the Great Wall of China?

28 04 2010

In the first two days in Beijing we visited the Silk Street market and the Great Wall of China.  We had been looking forward to both attractions for quite a while and were really excited.

The Silk Street market used to be an outdoor street market with numerous stalls lining the streets but has been moved indoors to a seven floor shopping mall.  At the market one can buy all sorts of stuff, both traditional Chinese stuff and replicas of western fashion stuff like bags, watches and clothes.  There is no fixed price and you need to bargain hard to avoid over-paying for the things you want.

We have found the salespeople here in China extremely pleasant but the sales girls at the Silk market were very aggressive, grabbing us into their stalls and trying to block us if we wanted to leave without buying anything – all in good fun though.

We did a bit of shopping and were very happy with the results.  After hard negotiations we got what we wanted for the prices we wanted.  Some store owners acted like they had been unfairly treated but as we all know it is always they that win in the end – otherwise they wouldn’t agree on the final price. 

After Elínborg went berserk in the bags department I had to drag her out of the mall so that we would have some money to eat for the last three days – but we plan to return on our last day to spend any excess Yuan :)  Maybe we’ll be composed enough to take some photos ;)

The day after we went on an organized tour to the Great Wall and the Ding Ling underground tomb with mandatory stops at jade and silk factories.  The wall was build to keep the nomadic hoards of Mongolia away from the Chinese empire.  It is actually a series of walls rather than one long wall, constructed from the 5th to the 16th century.

Most visitors go the the wall at Badaling but to escape the crowds we went to Mútiányú, a bit further from Beijing.  Like Badaling, Mútiányú has both cable cars to go up and slides to go down but we, like proper backpackers, opted for the stairs :)  When we were about half way up we kind of regretted our decision but we marched on and made it to the top.

Most pictures from the wall are without any people on the wall so it is difficult to get a clear image of how high and wide the wall really is.  My first reaction was that the wall seemed smaller than I had imagined (about 8 m. high and 5 m. wide) but very long and majestic. 

We got on the wall through one of the many watch towers and walked on the wall for a couple of hours.  The sky was blue and the weather very nice and we enjoyed the walk very much. 

After the wall we went to the Jade factory.  Our guide rationalized the jade factory visit by telling us that after visiting tombs and graveyards the Chinese always touch jade to get rid of evil spirits from the graves and the wall is the worlds longest graveyard.  It is thought that the bodies of about 10,000 workers were buried under the wall during its construction.  We knew that the main purpose was of course to sell us some jade items.  Jade is not really our thing and the price was definitely not in our range so we left empty handed.

We had a very good lunch and went to the tomb of emperor Wanli and his empress and concubines.  The tomb is an underground palace 27 m. below ground level.  It was impressively build but all of the relics and artifacts were destroyed during the cultural revolution so there wasn’t much to see.

At the end we went to a silk factory and were educated on the production of silk.  The main purpose here was to sell us silk duvets but we are happy with our down duvets and again left empty handed.

The traffic in the afternoon in Beijing is something else and it took us two hours to navigate through the city to get to our hostel but we got there in the end, jumped to the night market to get some dinner and went to sleep after a great day.

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2 responses

29 04 2010
Srikanth

Excellent reading, as always, dear Örn!

Very happy for you and wish I (can?) do something similar – it is, after all, a very interesting planet :)

When are you guys finally back?

You have a standing invite to DUS, especially if the stopover permits it.

Cheers,
Srikanth

30 04 2010
othordarson

Hey Shrikanth
Thank you for your comment!
We are going back today. We sure hope to visit “the best place on Earth” in the near future but are flying through London this time. We’re just hoping that our counter-attack on the British (Operation Ash-Attack) won’t spoil our homecoming.
All the best
– Ö r n –

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