I woke up late today and – after finally figuring out how to get to the Badaling section of the Great Wall (probably the most famous and most “touristy” part of the wall), I left the hostel and took the subway to the Beijing North train station. Unfortunately I had just missed the train to Badaling, and had to kill an hour and forty-two minutes, which I did in the mall attached to the subway station – since nothing of interest was in the vicinity. It looked just like every other mall found throughout the world with it’s designer clothes and chain restaurants. Also, outside I noticed the smog was worse than the previous day, blanketing Beijing in a grey haze.
Finally, after the time had passed, I boarded the train to Badaling. Along the route I saw a WalMart Supercenter (so they have those here in addition to the WuMarts) and two cemeteries with tall mounds of soil placed atop each grave and a tombstone at each head. We then reached Badaling after an hour and a half. I left the station and followed the signs to the Great Wall, passing many souvenir shops, though the best was yet to come. I paid for the entrance ticket and was soon walking on the wall. It surpassed expectation and luckily the crowds were not as heavy as I’ve been conditioned to fear (I think a light rain storm that passed through and the fact that it was weekday worked in my advantage). One thing I did not expect was just how steep the wall was (in retrospect this makes sense, since the mountains in China are very steep). I climbed up and down many steps and safely navigated through the steep slopes of smoothed rock. I walked along and took many photos before I reached a dead end (only segments of the wall are open for visitors, so you can’t walk the whole thing).
I then descended the steps out of the wall and, much to my chagrin, I passed ever so many souvenir stalls, peddlers, and even a pen for black bears to climb around and be gawking fodder for tourists. I hurried past all that nonsense and made my way to the museum, which had many artifacts related to the Wall from the various dynasties and many reproductions of such artifacts. I finished up the museum just as the speaker was announcing it was “closing time” and that we should plan our visit more carefully next time. I headed back to the train station, bought my ticket, waited over an hour, became crowded by many other sweaty travelers, and then boarded the train.
After an hour and a half travel, I was back in Beijing. I took the subway back to the hostel-area, wandered the streets looking for a decent place to eat, but couldn’t decide, so I just had beer back at the hostel. During my night walk, I did see many restaurants on Dongzhimen Inner street with flashing lights, announcers on loud speakers trying to draw in customers, several men eating inside without their shirts on (I wonder, when it gets even hotter in the summer, do the women also eat without their shirts on? I hope so), and many people sitting outside on little plastic and metal chairs eating sunflower seeds and talking amongst themselves. I then caught up on my journals and decided it was best not to add any pages to my website while in China for fear of reprisals against the things I type. This of course means I’ll have a lot of late nights in Taiwan and the Philippines in order to catch up.