The Great Wall of meh!

  The Great Wall at Ba Da Ling

The Great Wall as you may have heard is a series of walls built over centuries to defend China from Mongol invaders. The great earth wall stands sentinel over the hills and silently glares down at all who dare to trespass. In this day and age, it stands just as silent, but far from defending, is meekly trodden upon by the millions who visit it from all over the world, just so that they can say ‘I’ve done that’.

Getting to the Badaling, on public transport as we were supposed to do is quite easy. Of course, with the kind of luck I usually have, it never is. The directions were pretty clear; Go to Deshengmen bus station and catch the buses marked Badaling. And you’ll be there. We took a detour. Just outside the bus station, was a frozen lake and we just HAD to get on it and walk as far as possible. The thick ice made for good skating and many Beijing-ren took advantage of this.

Now, back to the bus station. Our detour cost us some time and by the time we went to buy tickets, we were told by the official at the station that the last bus had already left! Damn.. this was our last day in Beijing and we HAD to do the Great Wall…who the heck goes to Beijing on holiday and does not go to the Great Wall? I did not want to be that person. In desperation, we walked around and tried to get a taxi to take us to Badaling and back.
Taxi drivers either refused downright or charged on heck of a lot of money for the trip. A seedy looking character approached us offered to take us to Badaling for Y250. It was a steal compared to the 450 odd that the others were quoting. We hastily agreed and got into the taxi.. as we were pulling out, the driver honked and waved to the afore-mention official, who in turn grinned broadly showing his dirty teeth and gave the driver a thumbs-up. At that point, I knew that we had been cheated. I got further confirmation when just behind us a bus bound for Badaling. Damn.
Seething with rage, I was cursing the driver in ever Indian language I knew. Magically, Telugu swear words also came out although I don’t even know the language. Of course, all this was done with a grin, smile and a lot of laughter as after all, the guy could have been kidnapping us. Once we reached the Badaling, he asked for his money. Apparently, he was out of fuel and needed to refill. I gave him half and told him that I’d give the rest once we got back to Beijing. Good thing I did that..else he would have just left us in the cold with no way to get back.

The wall was pretty much an anticlimax. After the big build up to getting to this place, the wall felt like just another wall. The highlight was the cable car to get us up to the top of the hill and then back. Oh.. how can I forget the frozen cucumber sandwich ??? at 10 degrees below everything pretty much freezes. Including the muscles on your face stuck to a grin or frown, depending on the mood you are in, getting out of the cab.

The best thing about visiting the Great Wall in the dead of winter is the fewer tourists… from the million people visiting in a day during summer, the winter load is just 750K. Perfect for strolling around. Just our luck. Cold, and unfit and miserable, we just headed back to the cable car, took some mandatory shots of the area and got back into the taxi and headed to the hotel.

 The most interesting thing I’ve seen at the Great Wall – a camel with two humps
The verdict ? You go there to say that you’ve gone there. But will I do I again? Probably not…. I thought it was a scam elaborately executed, starting with the legend of how it can be seen from space. You can’t see the road outside your house from a plane.. forget about space.... and the Great wall is practically the the same width. I’m sure some Chinese astronaut must have been asked if he could see the wall from his space ship and the poor guy in fear of his and his family’s safety, would have meekly said yes, giving substance to a good PR campaign.

Trampled byY Trip at Saturday, October 16, 2010


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