sunnuntai 8. maaliskuuta 2009

Touristing in the Capital

In Beijing we had 2,5 days to take it all in, which meant we had to use time efficiently. And we did: walking and sightseeing from 9 am until 10:30 pm the first day, 8:30 am 'till 00:30 am the next day. I can tell you I slept like a baby. But then again, I usually do.

Who said in Beijing you cannot see the sky?

From my Lonely Planet China book I learned that spending a day in Beijing is equal for you lungs to smoking 80 (yes, eight zero) cigairettes. Personally I have never (never-ever) smoked. Now by spending couple of days there I was off to a good start... (No, not for real, I still dislike smoking). But, I am not sure how many cigarettes Beijing meant to my lungs: certainly you could see the haze if looking far to the horizon, and at times there was something black inside your nose (I'll spare you from the rest of the details) but still generally, the air was actually very clear and sun was shining. Maybe we got lucky. Or maybe the recession + Olympics have closed some industrial polluters... Who knows.

We decided to spenf the pther day in the car and go see the Great Wall of China. As you may know, it is some 80+ kilometers away from the city, so we needed a transportation. As we had one in our group who was not willing to join any group tours, we had to get a car. W asked from the hotel of the options they could offer us. They sáid it is 1400 RMB, which we considered too expensive (as to what should be the going rate for a car and a driver for one day). So, intead we opted to do what stupid people do: we called to the company who had an add in the tourist map. We don't want any lunch, tickets, tour guides or anything additional. We just want a good car and a driver. And they said:

"Ok, ok. 700 RMB. You'll have a car and driver for your use the whole day. You can go anywhere you want to."

Well, the next morning when they arrived: the first thing we saw was that there was a guide. A nice girl, but a) we didn't really want a guide b) we sure as heck were not going to pay for it, and c) she wasn't too knowledgeable of the tourist attractions in Beijing.

But off we went, and decided to start with the Olympic stadium, the famed Birds Nest. At that day, some seven months after the Olympics (on a beautiful Sunday morning, but still) the site was still very busy. There was nothing going on, but there were many (Chinese-many aka seriously many) Chinese-looking tourists (and us) there to admire the famed Bird Nest, and the glowy Cube. It was 50 RMB to see the Nest from within, but we skipped. Empty stadium chairs were lower on the list of "must sees" compared to the Wall.

The Nest is prettier from farer away...

We also saw the glowy Cube, and the dragon-shape-reminding 7-star hotel (the head showing in the picture, the rest of the body is hiding behind the Cube.) I don't know who want's to stay there, in the midst of "nowhere", away from the city center, but maybe I am not in the target group, and therefore cannot understand this.

When we started towards the Great Wall of China, the guide told us there is no time to see both the Wall and the Ming Tombs. (The Ming Tombs held the remains of 13 of the 17 Ming and Qing Dynasty emperors, if my memory serves me right.) Nooo, no no no. We agreed that was what we wanted to see. Yes, but the drive to the Wall takes 90 minutes, it is another 90 minutes to the Tombs, and we need some time to see them. I figured we would need two hours at the Wall, one would need to cover the Tombs, and we would be fine. After a short exhange of arguments (in a friendly tone, of course) we agreed to decide later, when we see how long the Wall takes, about the Tombs.

But before long, the guide ligthly mentioned that now we would be going to the silk factory. Come again? We don't want to go to the silk factory! You are taking us to the silk factory, but we don't have time to go to the Tombs? Come on. You must be kidding me. Well, you can imagine that there were some words after that. The girl was determined to take us there, even I told her we hired a car to take us where ever we want, not where ever they want, I told her we are not going to buy ANYTHING, no matter where they take us and they better take us to the Wall as soon as possible. There were various reasons why we should stop there:

"We just need to stop there for twenty minutes."

"We just need to stop there for ten minutes."

"We always go there."

"It is a nice place."

"It is just part of our job to take you there."

And finally my favorite:

"Government pays us 100 RMB for gasoline money to promote Chinese culture if we take tourists there ."

Nice try, but the poor girl did not consider she was talking to:

a) people who live in China

b) one of whom is naturally leery about anything and everything

c) one of whom is an internal auditor, and suspiciousness comes with the job.

Well, J. then said: "We have had it. Take us back to the hotel. Now."

The guide swiftly called her manager, and what do you know? We can go to the Wall, without silk factories or others stops. I felt bad for the guide-girl, who propably thought we were the most stubborn, horrible tourist that had happened in her way, but then again I felt bad for us too, as we felt scammed, we had to fight over such a stupid issue, and for the next few hours we were not that trustful about the driver and the guide.

My friend later on commented, that for the duration of the negotiation I had a wide smile across my face. Maybe I have earned yellow belt in this avoid face-loosing came, 'cause I sure as hell wasn't feeling very smiley...

But we arrived at Mutiany, which is one of the locations you can go to see the Wall. It is supposed to have one of the best views and not be quite as touristy as Badaling (but almost). We were lazy, so we went up to the Wall by this:

And we came out sliding slates in this:

It was fun, though I went down after a German lady, who wasn't exactly a daredevil...

The views were quite nice, and we walked several watch towers, good hour and half. Sun was shining, and all was well.

Except that I don't think I had realised (history teacher might not appreciate this) the whole Wall is really "new". It has been totally re-done. I think all of us expected that there would be something authentic left of it... But at least not in Mutiany.

There were hawkers offering drinks and snacks every 100 meters or so, and there were tourists there, but it wasn't crowded or anything, like I have seen in some photos.

I cannot but wonder how do you run a marathon there? I have to see if it is actually going on the Wall the whole way, as at least the stint we saw, was up and down, up and down, stairs and slopes and more stairs. I admire anyone who runs a marathon there. Truly. I humbly knee in front of thee who master it :o)

3 kommenttia:

Anonyymi kirjoitti...

Jälleen loistavaa viihdettä! Tulee itsellekin ikävä Kiinaan. Tosin mun suosikkikommentti oli selvitys C sisäisestä tarkastuksesta ja epäluuloisuudesta. Eheheheh, kiitos hyvästä mielestä :o)

Eeva kirjoitti...

Happy to entertain! Aina silloin kun ammattimaiselta(?) kyyläämiseltä ehtii ;o)

alex kirjoitti...

Great pics!!

Thank you))