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This morning we were picked up at 6am to get to our bullet train to Shanhaiguan. We were too early for our hotel breakfast so for the first time in our lives we had KFC Chicken sandwiches and coffee for breakfast. It was all that was open when we were there. Starbucks, McDonalds etc all opened at 7am. Their (or our??) loss. Three hours later after traveling at 157KM/hr we arrived. I have to say the train is a great way to travel. Lots of space, quiet and you can get up and move around.

We started our tour at the Shanhaiguan city wall and base of operations for guarding the wall.

This is a famous (in China at least) quote by Chairman Mao: “he who has not climbed the great wall is not a hero”. Lots of people pose to prove they are heroes. We have better pictures to prove our hero status.

After a brief tour there we headed over to the reason we made the trip to Shanhaiguan in the first place. This is where the Great Wall ends on the East. Right at the ocean or Yellow Sea as the locals call it. From here the wall travels 4800 km to somewhere in the middle of the Gobi Desert where it kind of peters out. But here it is well maintained.

There is quite a base here and it is well signed and preserved. Even a maze which Kris solved for us.

There was the officer’s strategy room, General’s quarters and good displays of how it was “back in the day”

A copy of the original designs. Red = new construction.

This is a rice pot in the barracks kitchen used to make enough to feed the 900 soldiers posted here. It must have been 12 feet deep.

Kris found a friend. He wasn’t much of a talker. More the strong silent type.

And Dave visited the jail. He didn’t look happy to be there.

And finally, after spending a lot longer in the ‘fort’ than we expected, we made our way down to the actual end of the line (this first one is a photo of a photo we found in the adjoining park).

A selfie from the end of the wall.

I have to say that was very cool to see. Just down the beach is a series of temples to the Sea Gods.

And the God himself.

Beside the gods are statues of Arhats – people in the Buddhist religion who have achieved enlightenment and returned to earth help others. Often they are ugly and unworldly.

Unfortunately when Dave first heard of Arhats his mind went to Ass Hats. You simply can’t unhear that and so forevermore those incredibly fortunate souls who have achieved enlightenment are known to Dave as Ass Hats. Small things still entertain boys I suppose.

From the beach, we drove a little way up the hill to the first gate on the wall. It was originally constructed in the early Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). Jiaoshan is the first mountain the wall climbs as it leaves the sea.

This is the short section of the wall that has been restored.

No hiking up today – there is a cable car that gets you part way up the mountain.

This is the wall, although you’d never know it. We’ve learned that almost 2/3 of the wall is gone. Only the parts around Beijing and Shanhaiguan are restored. The rest has fallen back to nature and in some places looks like nothing more than a raised strip of grass.

The wall up to the first gate is restored.

Pretty lake in the distance.

The view from the top looking back down.

We had planned to go to a nearby cave where there are some carvings and more Arhats but the area was closed to prevent fires. Our driver tried to negotiate with the nice lady guarding the road saying we had come a long way from Beijing and were important. She didn’t care. She was polite but insistent. It was actually fortuitous that we didn’t because the cable car shut down at 3pm and we would have likely missed it. Good fortune shines upon us.

After rushing a bit up the wall to catch the cable car down, we discovered our train back to Beijing was not until 6:30. So we had some time to kill. We tried to move our train to one of the earlier ones but they were all sold out. Our guide suggested the Great Wall Museum in Shanhaiguan. We’d read some history of the wall but it was very interesting to see how and why it was built. Basically it was a bunch of defensive walls that were interconnected by the Ji, Han, Ming and finally Qing dynasties. It was built and rebuilt over many years and various sections of the wall reflect local materials as well as architectural styles. From very refined brick and tower shapes to basically a dirt pile and everything in between. Even in the 1930’s it was still used as a defensive wall against the Japanese.

At precisely 4pm the lights in the museum started to be turned off and a woman started locking doors all around us. No announcement just the fire exit lights left. We were there past closing time apparently. Needless to say there wasn’t a hoard of people there anymore. Just us. It was nice and quiet. We took the hint.

With still an hour or so to wait and being willing to try new things we asked our driver to take us to a tea house to learn about teas and have a tea ceremony. It’s a big deal here of course. Our second day in Beijing we’d done one so we had an inkling of what was coming. We were taken to a local tea house and met the owners. We sampled about 5 different kinds of tea. I learned the hard way that I was being polite by drinking each cup as it was poured and the host being polite kept filling it up. I drank a lot of tea! I’m a slow learner sometimes. Once we had tasted a few it was time to buy (of course). Once we negotiated what we wanted the owners realized we were for real and the good stuff was brought out. We sample a fermented white tea shown below. Aged for a year it’s about $240 for 500 grams. We were shown, but didn’t taste (we asked not to) another that was $480 for 250 grams! The tea leaves are packed into disks by steam press and shipped in wooden boxes. When the cheap stuff comes in garbage bags and the good stuff comes in hockey puck sized wooden boxes, well you can tell why the price is so different.

The owners performing the ceremony.

The really expensive stuff – like no tea I’ve ever seen before!

Brewed leaves in the brewing cup. This was a white tea.

It was now time to head to the train. We had planned on doing a Peking Duck dinner tonight, but it would have been 10pm. We elected to buy some fruit on the train and have some trail mix and protein bars we’d packed from home. Simple but nutritious dinner. We just couldn’t fathom a big production of Peking Duck at 10pm and then crashing right after.

Tomorrow we tour the Summer Palace in Beijing and then fly to Xian.

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