Today we pile onto our busses at 7:30am and head north to the Badaling section of the Great Wall. This is the easiest section to access from Beijing and, despite arriving early, the place is very crowded. We are given free rein to roam at will with a firm reminder to be at the designated meeting point at a specific time. One of the English women, Pam, and I head off and soon we climb past the first couple of easily reached towers and the crowds thin out enough for our walk up the wall to be quite pleasant.
A quick explanation of how this Wall walking works. There are numerous towers along the wall and at some of them entry points have been created. We 21st century tourists clamber up into the towers then head one way or the other along the wide – about 5 metres – stone pathway snaking along between battlements on each side. Sometimes the pathway slopes up or down, sometimes there are shallow flights of steps, sometimes the steps are as high as my knees, mostly they are quite deep but there are some narrow ones as well. In a few places there are modern hand rails – especially the really steep sections – but mostly there are not. The towers have numerous small arched rooms and windows which look out over the slopes below.
Of course the section we are now clambering up has been restored, but still it is fun to imagine one is treading in the footsteps of warriors who once defended their country from the mongol invaders.
The sun is shining, it is warm. It’s an absolutely perfect day. Pam and I hike steeply up through five towers then return down to our starting point. I take a few extra minutes to nearly run up three more towers in the opposite direction in order to get a few more pictures! The light is so bright that unfortunately none of my pictures turn out that well. The experience is much too short and soon we are headed back into Beijing for lunch at a jade “factory.”
So here’s my big criticism of our Viking tour. This jade factory tour was not really a tour at all. It was a shopping opportunity with a captive, and dare I say, naive, audience. Lunch itself is fine. Another Lazy-Susan affair. After lunch we endure being harassed by very zealous sales people. I pause at one counter to look at some very pretty ear rings and a sales woman says to me, “These are ear rings.” No kidding Sherlock! Good grief. Anyway they are like horrid little cling-ones sticking like glue and making many inane comments. A couple of us are looking for Christmas decorations and find some. Each one is priced at the equivalent of Cdn$20.00. They are tiny ornaments. I offer something rather more realistic and the poor wee woman is truly upset as this is already the special sale price. Happily it is finally time to leave! Why Viking thinks less time on the Great Wall and that much time in that rip-off place is good use of our time considering what we pay to take a Viking trip is beyond me. I am far from the only person to be displeased. We have been subjected to a similar experiences at silk and lacquer “factories.”
The next day a couple of us are shopping at a large market close to our hotel and we find exactly the same ornaments which we buy for the equivalent of Cdn$4.00 each with very little bargaining involved.
I seem to have misplaced when several of us had a Peking Duck dinner. Well perhaps that’s as it was fairly forgettable. Nothing the matter with it, the duck was good, but it wasn’t as special as we’d been led to believe. To my mind the Lazy-Susan takes the “fine” out of fine dining.