Oh yes. There has been tourism supported by Kev. Finally. It's really the first touristy thing I've done since I arrived, almost two months ago. Yesterday I went to The Great Wall, and it was spectacular. Holy crap was it amazing. I'm pretty sure I had a big stupid smile on my face the entire day.
It was pretty random too. Here's how it happened: I was at a party (4th of july!) the night before and Stephanie, a Chinese American from Hawaii whom I know from frisbee was going with a group the morning. She asked, "Do you want to go?" and I said "Yes." End of story. I didn't even have to think about it, and it ended up being the single most enjoyable day of my time in Beijing.
So the bus left at 10 am, and it was comfortable, air conditioned, and not too crowded. The trip out there was uneventful, a pleasant 90 minute jaunt through the country. We passed small villages built along streams and on terraced hillsides. From out vantage, we could look down into courtyards and see families gathered and children playing. We ended at a restaurant called the roadhouse, a great resatuarant that served BBQ with a chill patio for us to luncheon. They cooked an amazing lunch with cheese burgers, fries, corn on the cob, potato salad, and watermelon. And beer. It was a perfect 4th of july meal. And since it was about noon on the 5th, it was still the 4th in California! Made it just under the wire!
After the lunch we stopped by a glassblowing shop and watched a quick demonstration. It was here that I really met Benj (pronounced like the first syllable-ish of Benjamin). He has the exact same camera as I do and he was giving me some pointers. Also: He's a digital photography instructor. Wow. I'm going to start taking his classes every week. That was an amazing find. Throughout the day he taught me some tricks that i had no idea my camera could do. I also caught a few cool pictures that are worth sharing.
Then the wall. But first! The hawkers gauntlet on the way to the wall! You have to walk up this steep, narrow road lined on both sides by vendors relentlessly vending t-shirts, cheap crap with your name etched into it, and hats. They mumble things that sound vaguely like english to tourists who almost entirely ignore them. Quintessential tourist trap.
We were a little short on time so we opted for the cable car ride up to the top. The rest of this requires little explanation. The views are some of the most majestic I've ever seen. The day was clear, but cloudy enough to offer some relief from the sun. It rained all the day before, so it smelled fresh and clean. It's pretty obvious why this is one of the Wonders of the World. I've never been so impressed by Man's ability to build the impossible. Large parts of the wall are build 1000's of feet up massive mountains and rugged terrain. How they accomplished over 4000 miles of this 200 years BC is unfathomable.
We took an actual chair lift from a ski resort back down. They had a tobbogen run that we could have taken, but it was closed. Which is ok, because I will be going back to this place over and over again.