Pics of today's adventures are at:
I woke up at 6 AM today, and made the rest of the calls I intended to make to family letting them know that I got in safely,. Replied to a bunch of e-mails, then got dressed and ready to go out with Tom for the day. While getting dressed, I realized that I fried my charger for my DS as well as my rechargeable battery pack by plugging them directly into the wall. Whoops. You'd think I'd know better. The recharge pack isn't a big deal since Tom has one, but the DS one sort of is, since it's my clock, alarm clock, and my train/flight entertainment. So I need to work on finding a replacement tomorrow.
We ate breakfast at the UIBE (University of International Business and Economics) cafeteria- I had some salty flatbread thing that was decent, as well as some WAY oversalted collard greens- and took the city bus to the Beijing hub for trips to The Great Wall. At around 8 yuan each, it was a real bargain. The ride was about an hour, and the first half hour, other than some giant Disney-looking palace thing, was fairly unremarkable. The last half hour, on the other hand, was gorgeous. The mountains are high- REALLY high- and all a tan stone with the most beautiful greenery growing out of it. And the Great Wall is visible among the mountains, fading in and out as we took the twists and turns in the road. There was also a carving in the stone near the top of the mountain- I am baffled by how someone could have gone up this steep ledge solely for the purpose of making a massive carving of some deity or emperor.
We arrived at the based of one of the portions of The Great Wall, which was lined with shops and restaurants- even a cellular telephone dealer- and packed with tourists, primarily from China but also from all across the globe. I sighted Americans, Japanese, Germans, Arabs, and French. It was nice to overhear a smattering of English.
We bought our tickets for 40 yuan a piece, and headed for the Wall itself. I cannot begin to state how massive it is- it towers up into the mountains, and is very, very steep, although steps are used only when absolutely necessary; much of it is simply paved stone aligned towards the ascent with the curve of the earth's mountains in the region. We climbed over halfway up, taking pictures along the way, although regrettably, my overwhelming fear of heights prevented me from going as far as Josh and Tom did. I made it much farther than I thought I would have though.
The stones used in the construction are overall not massive like those used in The Forbidden City, but the sheer number of them, along with the length of the wall and the fact that parts of it have held so well over time, is just amazing. Little wonders that it IS one of the 7 Wonders of the World.
We came back down after a bit and ate at a little fast-food noodle joint; after last night I kept it safe with some shredded chicken and noodles that were quite good, although we all agreed that the portions were too large. Tom and Josh got dumplings, and they got a heap of them. We then went in the gift shop so that I could check out some of the gorgeous parasols like the ones the girls here use to keep out the sun- but while the price was good, the construction was shoddy, so I passed.
We took the bus back down, and Josh and I compared notes on universities while Tom slept. We went to the Wu Mart- I'm not kidding, it's like Wal-Mart but Chinese- and purchased a backpack for Tom and some nail polish remover for me, as well as some pens. Then we realized that there was a Wu-Mart grocery store in the second level of the basement. Score.
I picked up some Chrysanthemum for a friend back home who's fond of it, and browsed the aisles. They have shrimp Pringles here. Major "icky-but-I'm-fascinated" moment. We also looked at the baked goods, which looked awesome till some old guy stuck his nose right into them. Ewww. But among the haul, we got: Cadbury candy bars, Pepsi, Coke, some Moon Pie type things, coconut cookies, jasmine tea...
tasty things, very tasty things.
It was now around 5:30, so Josh and Tom were talking about going to the old city. My back was killing me, so Tom and Josh escorted me back to the hotel, then went out gallivanting for the night. I bought a beer, got in a nice shower, changed into PJs, and am now drinking said tasty beer whilst writing this. So this is it for tonight; tomorrow, we will be going to the Summer Palace. I will post again when I can, but it will probably be a few days, as tomorrow night we take the night train to Inner Mongolia to meet Josh's family and go see the Terracotta army. So until then, enjoy the pictures, e-mail me if you'd like, and have a great week!