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Goodbye New Jersey. Hello World! A record of my journey as I give up my job, my possessions, and life as I know it to go off and see the world!

Things You Wouldn't Expect on the Great Wall of China

CHINA | Wednesday, 29 September 2010 | Views [2949]

I arrived to Beijing via the Trans Mongolian railroad with one thought in my mind: “I can’t wait to go to the Great Wall of China!” I wanted more than anything to get that photograph of me in front of it. It’s one of those things on “the list”. You know - the Grand Canyon, the Pyramids, the Taj Majal….all the other famous stuff that you have been told through society that they are “must sees”.

But I want to talk with you about the train journey first. We left from Ulaan Bataar pretty early in the morning. The views out the window were not particularly exciting for quite some while. When I say there was nothing to see I truly mean it. We rode through the Gobi desert all day long. Picture flat dirt - possibly some grass growing and posts for electrical wires. That’s it. No trees. No hills. Absolutely nothing for miles and miles. I found myself wondering two things. One: What would happen if our train were to break down? We would seriously be in trouble. Two: What would happen if one of these power lines broke? Would all of Mongolia be out of power? And how long would it take to fix it? I spent the day bumming around the train and talking with friends from my tour. I was starting to think of how my tour would be ending soon and how much I was going to miss these people that I have many happy memories with now.

Things became more exciting at night. First, we got to see the sunset over the desert. It’s amazing how something can look so boring during the day and then absolutely dazzling at night. The colors painted the sky and the full moon rose. Suddenly it didn’t seem so empty outside. There was a sense of magic and mystery. We then got to the Mongolian crossing which was not as bad as when we left China. We sat in our train cars patiently and waited for the Mongolian customs people to come, take our passports and leave us in the train for an hour before they came back with them stamped. Then we rode in “no man’s land” for about a half an hour before reaching the Chinese border. Again we sat in our cars and gave up our passports to the officials. This waiting time was somewhat exciting however because we got to watch the wheels on our train get changed. You see, the tracks in China have a different width than the tracks in Russia and Mongolia so they have to go through this long process of switching the wheels. To be honest I don’t see why we didn’t just change trains, but that’s alright. The one thing I didn’t like about border crossings is that there was no toilet and that can be a real issue if you are drinking to pass the time, as I was!

So that was getting to Beijing. Now - back to my experience with the Great Wall. The day after we arrived in Beijing we took a tour to Jinshanling, a part of the wall that is older and slightly deteriorating. It was a long, 3 hour bus ride to get there but it was totally worth it. At first I wasn’t entirely a fan because there were quite a few Chinese school groups there and the kids were being very loud and running around in their matching outfits and to be honest, I was just overwhelmed by how many of them there were. As we continued walking along the crumbling wall though the amount of people thinned out and eventually it was just us. We were on top of the mountain and could see the wall go on forever in both directions. I was awed by just how long it is and I cannot wrap my mind around how they actually were able to construct the thing.

What I found extremely amusing were the Chinese people selling things on the wall. They carried up with them soda, water, souvenirs, coffee, tea, and beer! At first I was thinking - this is a bit wrong…but then I decided to have a beer. I figured, why the hell not? I just walked about 2 hours on the wall and it would be nice to sit on the edge with a cold brew in my hands and chill out with my friends. So that’s exactly what I did. I had a beer on the great wall of China! If you ever go there I say that you should do it too.

I also witnessed the most hilarious thing ever on the wall. I’m sitting there with my friend Johan and we watch a Chinese man walk by with a live cat in a plastic shopping bag. The cat is meowing and crying in the bag….okay perhaps you are now wondering why I think this is funny because I guess it is kind of messed up. But anyways as he is walking these Canadian tourists come up to him and offer to pay for the cat. The Chinese man is looking at these Canadians like they are crazy because they offered a ridiculous amount of money for this cat that the man apparently thought wasn’t worth anything. The sale commenced but as the Canadians went to free the cat the man followed them with the intent of catching the cat again. Of coarse these Canadians didn’t want that to happen so they proceeded to walk the entire way back from the wall with the cat in the bag, meowing it’s head off and then they set it free at the base of the mountain. I wonder how long it took for another Chinese person to catch that same cat. I do give the Canadians credit for their act of kindness but really I found it quite silly as well. I am sure that this sort of thing happens all the time.

So yeah….cat in a bag, beer on the wall, who said that seeing things on “the list” have to be a cliché?

Tags: beijing, china, great wall of china, trans mongolian

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