The Great Wall

13 04 2010

Day 2 was walking the Great Wall of China. In Seoul a fellow backpacker had recommended the Simatai part of the wall and strongly suggested against the Badaling section so we followed his advice and it was worth it. A slightly painful 6am collection, then driving about 3 hours to the wall, arriving around 9am. The driver organised our tickets and showed us the path, then we were on our own to walk the wall until lunch time. It was fairly quiet, not many other people and just a few “Mongolian ex-farmers” selling drinks and tacky souvenir t-shirts along the way. We had excellent visibility and the surrounding mountains were beautiful. It wasn’t too cold, although the strong Mongolian winds were a little scary on sections of the wall with no fence/wall.

Benno took a flying fox off the wall after our 4 hour walk and we had lunch at a restaurant with out tour group. They were able to provide vegetables for us, and hopefully the rest of our tour group didn’t mind having to share with vegans rather than meat eaters.

We went to Loving Hut for dinner. The subway was so busy we thought we’d almost be crushed to death. Just when you thought the train was full, another 20 people would shove their way on until the little old man next to me was wheezing from having the air squeezed out of his chest by all the people pushing. We almost didn’t make it out of the train but with some pushing we exited just as the doors shut again. Breathe.

Loving Hut offered us salt and pepper tofu and chili green beans – just like we used to eat at Ip’s at the central markets. While we were sitting there eating Benno saw a friend from Adelaide walk past outside. Small world. Fortunately on the way back the subway was a little less crowded, although Chinese could learn some subway manners from the Japanese (like waiting for people to exit before entering).

Welcome to China

13 04 2010

We survived the busy subway ride from our Seoul hostel to Incheon, Had to ask for help as to where the bus stop was, then got on a public bus for the International Port for 1000 won. Unfortunately the stop was not written in English so we had to guess by the road signs where we should get off. We arrived at Port Terminal 2, found the Weidong ferry building and about 600 Chinese waiting for the ferry. It was really packed and noisy. People were pushy in waiting for their tickets- there was no line, just push in when you see a gap. While our tickets were being printed there was a man who pushed in and was trying to hand his passport and money to the lady. Pushy!

The ferry itself was quite luxurious – karaoke room, convenience store, duty free shop, cinema, TV in room, sauna, restaurant, cafe, late night party on the deck and golden banister on the grand staircase. We had a few won left over so we bought snacks from the store and bought a korean souvenir from the duty free shop. We watched the 10pm movie about UFOs (in English) and some bad korean and chinese TV then slept well in our ensuite royal suite room. Very grateful to be able to escape the crowds!

Our luxurious 'Royal' ensuite berth number 106. Great for escaping the crowds, second hand smoke and loud noises.

Clearing immigration etc was no problem – our visas were fine and we got our stamp. Out in the waiting room were taxi drivers all trying to get our custom. We declined and walked out on the street to flag one down and negotiate a price to get to the train station. 30Y was probably too much but still a lot cheaper than Japanese taxis.

Benno had written down Beijing in Chinese characters and we tried to buy train tickets from Qingdao to Beijing but it was already full. We had to buy seats for the next day. So then we had to find accommodation – we took the easy option and followed one of the guys outside the station to a close hotel he was touting for. 100Y a night was cheap, even if the door key never worked and there was no working heating. We walked around the rubble-filled city, down by the beach where people were selling turtles, star fish and baby octopus on a stick along with shells and other crap (fancy a pig shaped toy that squashes flat then returns back to its original shape?). Found an internet cafe and a supermarket selling only snacks – we have since termed these crapmarkets. The internet/gaming room staff spoke no English and we had trouble communicating … we just wanted to check our e-mail so they refused any payment (not that 3Y is much anyway).

Anyway, we stayed one night in our budget hotel next to Qingdao station and got up early for our 8am train, making sure we understood what waiting room we needed and where our train would be leaving from. Fairly uneventful ride- top speed of 243 km/hr, about 5 hours to get to Beijing with most seats taken. From Beijing we had the fun of transferring to the busy subway and taking 2 lines to our hostel with our all our luggage. No more stairs, please!

Dinner was at VeganHut- English photo menu and English speaking staff. We were happy to discover that the Chinese restaurants in Adelaide’s ChinaTown taste the same as Chinese food in China. Top points for authenticity.