Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Great Wall

I was sleeping very well, lingering my snores in a blanket of cozy dreams when the phone rang at 6:30 in the morning. On the other side of the line Michael (our day-tour guide) wanted to make sure we were joining to the excursion that morning. It was weird since [1] we confirmed few hours prior with his company, and [2] the pickup time was only two hours later at the lobby, some 33 meters away from the bed I was lying down on at the time of the call.

[[Ming Tomb Sacred Way Entrance Door]]

Anyway, upon verifications confirmed with lengthy and convoluted early morning "hums", it was time to dive back to bed in the wait for the official wake up call to do its assigned job a whole extra hour later, which came only 20 minutes later. No doubt that the Great Wall was calling me to passion and unforgiveness and since you only have one opportunity to watch anything for the first time, I decided that was time to stand up in front of my destiny, heading courageously to a new whole day of exploration, with a tiny detour to the shower and the breakfast table juts in case.

[[Mutianyu's Cable Car to the Great Wall]]

The minibus was waiting for us in the parking lot in front of the hotel when we reached out late (vengeance is a cold dish) the meeting point, and we climbed in the last seat available for our journey to the stony architectural construction. I should have realized right away that something was wrong, and my senses should have beeped all the way up to my neuron that I sometime use as a brain, but the too-early-morning fog that enveloped me did interfered with any signals.

[[Mutianyu's Great Wall Throw a Door]]

The entire back of the minibus was over occupied by a group of eight, late-twenty-early-thirty, more than average American boys and girls, even thought it was obvious they were part of the visible Desy minority. Reflecting on it now, it wasn't the laugh per se but its volume that ripped me out of my sleepy seat. It is hard to describe but it was closed to the intensity of a car accident involving multiple vehicles, two trains and an old airplane all at once. Must have been my polite (read passive instead) behavior that make me stayed put and retained myself from commenting openly about the painful experience that was proposed to me (and the rest of the bus) for an entire day.

[[Mutianyu's Great Wall View Up]]

Group dynamic is interesting at least, and most certainly puzzling, but I (over-positively) suspected that her early-morning excitement would quickly fade away with the mechanical waves of a Chinese bus trip, and therefore decided to refrained my irritation. It was the opposite, and during the two hours of drive that separate the group from our first stop, the bus learned that the newly-mum had some recurrent flatulence due to most certainly air transport, that the two brothers did not like taking a shower on a hang-over morning, that one of the soon to be bridesmaid did hurt her small toe while dancing at a prior weeding and skipped surgery and amputation only by chance, that all Chinese who attempt to speak American have a snoozy accent and that Häagen-Dazs was a German company that makes some sort of traditional dish mixed of strawberry and beef (certainly why it will never take off in the USA).

[[Mutianyu's Great Wall View Down]]

The first stop before the Great Wall was at the government owned Jade factory where each and every tourist bus of the planet Beijing has to stop on their way to see the Wall. For the first time in a long time I was relieved to be part of another hundred of thousand people, as long as distance was empirically created between the entire planet and them. Therefore I was happy to jump from one store to another, listening to eloquent explanation about Jade categorization and contemplating the surgerical stone carving of the size of a Ming guard statue.

[[ Mutianyu's Great Wall View Throw another Door ]]

It should not have come to a surprise to me when the Group arrive back not only late but also with their arms in the air, complaining about how "fuzzy" and "scamy" China was. While trying on one of the Jade bracelet, SHE, the mad-laughter let it drop and broke it. Refusing to pay the merely US$50 the discussion was on and for sometime, until a financial compromise was reached between the Jade seller, the mini-bus company and the group. Fortunately my internal laugh was too loud to be contained and my gourmand smile changed itself into an openly content satisfaction shared by the entire bus. After all there is some group behavioral justice in this world.

The rest of the trip became quieter with less offending comments and more blanks in conversation.

[[ Luge Down Video]]

The Great Wall is a fantastic one-day trip activity. Mutianyu or Jiankou are most recommended over Badaling (the closest one from Beijing and therefore more crowded), although I heard that Simatai or Jinshanling are the favorite of adventurers. On a clear and sunny day, this unique construction, sometime called the Longest Chinese Cemetery is an astonishing construction. Only few parts of the original wall are renovated today but that makes it even more fascinating to walk on. A must do in a one of a life-time experience.