since this is the one weekend that all of my fellow co-workers are in the country, it’s our big time for sighseeing. this morning, after a late & liesurely breakfast, the gang met up with our host for the day to see the great wall. there are apparently several places in the Beijing area to choose from; we ended up at the Badaling site, no doubt due to the fantastic mountain views. a little 4-seater cable car took us up to the bottom of the site, and from there we had to climb.
the hike up was all kinds of steep. some parts of it were long ramps, while other sections were worn and uneven stone steps.
given that the wall terminated into a mountain side, i’m guessing that the ramps actually used to be horizontal ramparts, and that there has simply been some quantity of geologic activity and/or major settling of the stones. much like the grand canyon i visited with my sister a few months ago, the great wall is an overwhelmingly huge experience that you could either hike for days or just take a few small sips at.
the vast majority of the stones capping the wall were marked up in some fashion. some of the graffiti was standard ink, some of it was carved in the style most often seen on tabletops in dive bars.
on our way up, my coworker Jacques was stopped by a few people and dragged into pictures. “not only am i the tallest person here by at least a foot,” he said, “but also, i’m apparently the only black man in china.” the two of us were pulled into pictures by a exuberantly happy woman somewhere mid-hike, and again at the top. her husband took both my and their cameras and snapped pictures of us like we were old friends, all while she was laughing and chattering a mile a minute.
we stopped in a nearby smaller town for lunch, and had another wonderful traditionally-served (i.e., communal dishes) meal. our host seemed to worry that the atmosphere wasn’t fancy enough,
but we all thought it was fabulously real. somehow, an insane quantity of delicious food got ordered, which we were completely unable to finish.
once again, the very fresh veggies were outstanding. the lamb and beef ribs (in theory we’d only ordered the lamb, but both showed up on our groaning table) were both coated in a dry spice rub that was heavy on the comino – i associate that with mexican food, and had no idea it was used in chinese cooking. my 2 colleagues who’d each been in the city once before have been insisting we try the donkey. no, i’m not convinced it’s not actually horse, so i’m going to now knock that off my omnivore’s list (i saw what was clearly a mule and neither a donkey nor a horse pulling a cart on the street later, so there we go). no, there’s nothing special about it, and i actually wouldn’t have been able to differentiate it from a stewed cut of beef. i think they were just intrigued by the exoticism, and well, i’ve eaten something crazy now, so that’s alright.
we finished out the day at the tombs of the ming emperors, which were not all that impressive after the enormous scope of the great wall. here and there, the site had some lovely carvings d0ne in marble and native stone.
the story goes that the forbidden city (tomorrow’s destination) is the real showstopper for decorative architecture on a grand scale. my inner 3 year old is having a ball.