Saturday, 13 November
Alexey had arranged with Jiankang, who lives in Beijing, for him to take us to the Great Wall. We planned to meet at 9. Jiankang was already waiting for me when I came out of the breakfast room, and we soon all gathered and headed north to the Mutianyu (慕田峪) section of the Great Wall. I’m glad we did that section, instead of the more popular Badaling (八达岭) section, for two reasons:
- it was Saturday, and a beautiful day, and Badaling would surely be more crowded, and
- I can more easily go to Badaling during the week, if I want to, because it’s closer and transportation is more readily available.
Jiankang chose Mutianyu for the first reason, and also because it’s near where he grew up, so he knows things in that area, including places to stop along the way.
He started by taking us for an early lunch, 11-ish, at a place where you catch your own fish. From a pool. They had some vendors selling stuff, and I went to look at the dried fruits, and so Jiankang bought us a potload of dried fruits, including a couple of kinds of berries and a bunch of persimmons. We gave up on fishing, and the staff netted out two fish, which we saw flapping in the net now, and had on our table 15 minutes later, along with two kinds of local field greens sautéed with garlic and sesame oil, a big bowl of fatty pork with chestnuts in a sweet brown sauce, radish and lettuce salad, sliced potatoes with onions, taro noodles, sliced Chinese sausage, and scallion pancakes. I think I got it all. That was for four people, for lunch.
Have to get energy for climbing Great Wall, said our host. Oh, yes, and we had an interesting hot, milky, almond drink. And tea.
When we got to the Great Wall, we opted for the ski-lift chairs up, and the toboggan ride down. We walked the wall for a while, lots of up and down there, sometimes steep. Very impressive. It seems amazing that they were moved to build it, and the human toll of doing so is something I can only imagine. It’s quite a work of engineering. And it’s UNESCO World Heritage Site number one for this trip — there’ll be four before we’re done.
When we got to the toboggan entrance to go down, there were two young women in front of us, and we waited a while before we went in, figuring that they’d be slow. We gave them plenty of time to get ahead. It turned out to be insufficient; they were much slower than we’d imagined. I went first, and within less than a minute, I caught up with them and had to brake constantly to keep from creeping up on them. Everyone else caught up with me just as soon, and we didn’t have much fun on our ride down. Oh, well.
On the way back to Beijing, we stopped in a town and did a boat ride on a reservoir, ending right around sunset. We met two others back at the hotel, and we all went out to a nice Beijing restaurant, where we again got too much food (beef, pork, lamb, chicken, snails, several vegetables, dumplings, meat buns... we were totally stuffed). We finished the evening with a walk around Hou Hai (后海), a lake surrounded by flashy bars, with people constantly accosting us and trying to sell us things or get us to come into their bars.
I could have done without the accosting part, but other than that the lake walk was interesting, and the whole day was great!