Monday, June 19, 2006

Me, Mao and His Great Wall

"If you haven't been to the Great Wall, you aren't a real man." - Mao Zedong

Yay. It's official. I am now a real man (I am sure Mao meant man/woman to be interchangeable - at least I am going to interpret it that way).

The Great Wall. When you put the word "great" into the title of something you set high expectations. Some would have shied away from "great", perhaps opting for "The Ok Wall of China" or the "Don't Get Your Hopes Up Wall of China". Fortunately the Chinese were brave and went with "great". I have to say, the Great Wall was one of those rare tourist attractions that live up to its billing. I was prepared to hate the Great Wall but it was incredible.

My trip to the Great Wall was even "greater" because of the people who trekked the wall with me - a German couple and two hilarious, gorgeous and incredibly bright guys from the UK (James and Sid you have made your blog debut, did I do you justice?). These people were a constant source of entertainment through the trek, especially considering the heat and strenuous nature of the climb.

The section of the wall we hiked was older and had not been restored. It was hilly and difficult to climb. As a result, it was almost empty of tourists. I had envisioned the wall to be flat but quickly discovered that the section we were on required some intense climbing. I pictured thousands of old greying tourists clogging up my shots of the wall. I was prepared for something resembling Disneyland. I was wrong. Throughout the trip we were pretty much only greeted by desperate locals who had climbed to the most challenging portions of the wall and attempted to sell tourists water (makes sense) and, strangely enough, beer (what the???). Despite the hazy day, most of my photos of the wall are void of people, providing you with a general idea of what the wall looked like when it was built.

The rest of Beijing was interesting, but not as awe-inspiring as the Great Wall. I visited the Forbidden City and Tiannamen Sqaure - the centre of the Chinese universe. I'd like to say that I had some compelling story about either one of these icons, but neither one really impressed me all that much. The Mao picture was big. The Square was big. There was a lot of red. There were a lot of imposing stone memorials commemorating the worker. That's about it. The only mildly entertaining thing I saw was a small children in his backless pants (as is the style for all infants here) pissing in the middle of the square (I imagined it to be a political statement on democracy).

Perhaps it was a sign that I have been traveling too long. Maybe I had seen too many temp
les - after a while they start to merge into one giant temple in your mind. Perhaps it was the endless grey days and rain in Beijing. Or it's possible that the crazy tatooed pigs have ruined me for life...nothing will ever impress/baffle me like the pigs. Either way, I left the Forbidden City and Tiannamen Square hoping for something more.

I think that I am being too hard on Beijing. It might have had more of a chance if it had been my first stop instead of almost at the end of the line. I do have to say though that I met some of the best, most interesting and compelling people of my trip there - wonderfully funny girls who I shared a room with at the hostel, a generous guy from Hong Kong, a sweet Chinese girl trying to learn English and ditch her German boyfriend on late-night phone calls, a beautiful, smart and stylish French girl who made me laugh and, of course, again, the uberwonderful guys from the UK.


Blogger DaveHooper said...

I was in Beijing on Sunday! World"s crappiest airport. Never fly Air China.

9:27 PM  

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