Day 37 - Monday 8th May - Beijing

Originally we were to drive the MGs out to the Great Wall, but after our experience of Shanghai peak hour traffic we decided that this was imprudent. I think there had been some thoughts of photo opportunities of MGs and the Great Wall, but that was not going to happen in Beijing. A bus was organised to take us around for the day.

Breakfast was a similar experience to the previous day. Except that the dining room was full of westerners. We had not seen so many in nearly 3 weeks – well for the most part we had not seen any, so a significant congregation was a bit of a shock to the system. But while they were looking in vain for the muesli we headed straight for the congee and eggs. But there was a sop to the tourists, the orange stuff at the juice bar was cold juice and tasted vaguely of orange, rather than warm orange cordial. They also had something called Hawthorn juice which was tasty.

Beijing seemed to be the first stop for most and all were wandering about in a jet lagged daze.    

The Mutianyu Great Wall is around 70k from down town Beijing. The bus trip out took a couple of hours in slow, grinding traffic for a significant part. This part of the Wall is set in a mountainous area with almonds and chestnuts trees growing on every available piece of ground.


To get to the Wall there is the obligatory Ticket Office, souvenir and food shops and the bus stop to the chairlift. We could have climbed up to the Wall, but elected to take the chair. From there you are only allowed to walk a couple of kilometres in either direction. The Wall was built by the Ming in 1406 and then repaired in 1987. What was 1406 wall and what was 1987 wall was unclear. But safe to say that any invaders would have struggled to get through from what we saw. The Wall sat on top of steep ridges, which I assume were barren of trees back in the day as they would have needed every skerrick of wood to stoke the fires to keep warm in winter. While there were some undulating sections to walk along in others the stairs seemed to rise twice the distance of travel.

I walked both directions that we were allowed and a bit further as the barricade was easily surmounted. The path back down the mountain was virtually unused except for a few farm workers who were making their way up the mountain. Not sure whether they could not afford the chairlift or were off to look for almonds.

We were told that, as this section of the Wall is a bit further out of town it does not get as many tourists as other closer sections. Lucky, as there were enough there. A mixture of Chinese and European.

The Ming tombs were next on the itinerary. There are 13 on the complex. We visited two. Not quite in the class of the pyramids, they are significant structures. We are gradually getting a handle on the quite complex subject of Chinese history, at least at a high level. 

In a quick synopsis of the last 9 centuries. The Ming (Han Chinese) replaced the Mongols (Ghingis Khan and his clan) in 1368. The Ming Dynasty collapsed in 1644 and was replaced by the Qing Dynasty (Manchurians from the north) which lasted until 1911 when replaced by the Republic.

As you will note from the above, the Wall was built to keep the Manchurians out. And it seems to have done this for a couple of hundred years.