I wasn’t going to become that foreigner who lived in China for ten months without visiting the Wall. The amount of ridicule I would have had to endure back home would be enough to build a gigantic wall of shame. So, with time running out and one more holiday to celebrate (China you really do enjoy your holidays) I along with Lisa, Dan, Ollie and Lucy set off to Qinhuangdao, Shanhaiguan and the most eastern part of the Great Wall of China.
Our first train ride was an eight-hour chug through many small towns and one or two larger cities. I was in charge of ticket acquisitions, and in the days previous I thought I had purchased sleeper tickets for the rides there and back. There are many different tickets you can buy for trains here, some are seats (hard or soft) sleeper beds (hard or soft) and, if you’re lucky, a dining cart table on some of the more expensive trains. We were all looking forward to lying down in a bed, playing cards, reading, and nappng away the eight hours ahead.
Plot twist: I purchased seated tickets. Whoops.
(Travel companions are all still talking to me at least).
We passed the time playing cards and napping in obscure origami inspired sleeping/crouching positions. We arrived ~4pm, caught some cabs after fighting with multiple drivers about the exact location of our hotel, and made it to what is definitely in my top three of hotels to never stay at again. Kirin Hotel, nope, just nope. Lisa had some professional students living in Qinhuangdao who after being contacted by her were far too cute in wanting to take us out to dinner. I can still confirm that Beijing Duck is one of the best Chinese dishes you can have (duck skin and sugar, mmmm). The night ended with us all playing Articulate, a game where you describe a word without saying the actual word. It’s highly addictive and a great way to kill an hour or two.
Woke up to day two and rain.
We hunted out some coffee/breakfast at ol’ reliable McDonalds and then went to the bus station. Bus number 25 or 35 will take you from Qinhuangdao to Shanhaiguan in about half an hour. We got off and purchased tickets to the main attraction and the highlight of my post – LaoLongTou aka Old Dragon’s Head. Its name comes from the extension into the ocean, which is meant to represent a dragon’s head drinking the water. For more information about this specific part of the Wall this link here is quite good –
Emotional summary – BADASS! I’m really jealous of countries whose history extend into the four digit category (silly New Zealand, you aren’t even 1000 years old) and seeing such magnificent structures from time periods my country doesn’t know is really rad.
The first part you could walk around consisted of a lot of rooms dedicated to the soldiers that would have worked and maintained the area. Many grain storage shelves and weapons get appreciated here. Then, through the final room, we gazed across and saw a magnificent stone maze just sitting before us. Naturally we filed into it and proceeded to race around for half an hour. Part of the Wall ran alongside it, so there were a lot of Chinese watching us get lost (we asked for their help in exiting, they helped by getting us even more trapped >__< ).
Finally, we walked up a ramp towards the main temple and the first sighting for me of the most eastern part of the Wall, Laolongtou. Completing the final step I looked out, followed the dragon neck towards the head, to be met with a beautiful sand barge beached up alongside the freakin head. China, what were you doing parking a boat there, honestly. However it didn’t cull the excitement I felt and I am very happy to tick the Great Wall of China off my list of viewed badassery, especially a non-traditional part of the wall with great constructional history and restoration. Now the next goal is to go to the most western part of the wall.
For the remaining day in Qinhuangdao Dan, Lisa and I met up with Agata, a lovely Polish girl who transferred from Shijjiazhuang to Qinhuangdao. We went to Beidaihe by bus and walked along the beach. I do not like beaches with fences, or ones with a fee to actually set foot on it, however that is China for you and we obliged. It felt calming to touch something that wasn’t gravel and concrete though, and we had a great time splashing and walking barefoot (even got sunburnt, whoops).
The sleeper train for the ride home actually was a bed; only it was 8-9 feet off the ground with a pathetic excuse for a safety barrier. But Lisa and I talked ourselves into a sleep coma and I ended up having a reasonable rest, much better than the stupid Kirin Hotel.
As I am in China another year I need another epic monument or five to visit. What would you suggest? Do you think the traditional tourist ones are the way to go, or is there some interesting place you’ve heard about that would be worth checking out?