Back in Beijing from Lhasa I had two days to explore the city. There’s plenty to look at even if a large part of the city consists of rather uninspiring soviet-style residential buildings. However, I came down with a head cold on my way back from Lhasa and the first day was essentially a loss. So, on the second day, firmly determined that I couldn’t come to Beijing and not see the Great Wall, I ventured out to pay it a visit.
According to my guide book, there was a bus that left from near my hotel that would take me out there. However, at the bus station, everything was shut off and someone gave me a long explanation in Chinese as to what was going on, but of course I didn’t understand a single word. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted another western girl, who seemed to be in the same situation, so I approached her and asked if she wanted to share a taxi out to the Great Wall, which she did. She turned out to be a Canadian who had been living in Japan. And even though her Chinese was about as bad as mine, she proved to be a tremendous negotiator. She convinced the cabbie to take us out to the wall (about 2 h drive each way), wait for us and drive us back in for about US$40 total.
After driving for a while, the cabbie suddenly turned his car around after he had talked to a policeman. It turned out that the road to Ba-da-ling, the site of the Great Wall we had come to see, was closed for some reason. The cabbie tried to explain, but you know … his English had about the level of our Chinese. So, we circled around for a bit, trying to find an alternate route until it became evident that ALL the roads to the Great Wall were closed, hence the closed bus station obviously … Also, there was a lot of police standing around. Who knows what happened …
So, we opted to see the nearby Ming toumbs that could be visited. If you have already visited the Forbidden City, the Ming toumbs don’t offer much new architectually, since both sites were build during the same period, but the site is nicely located in a forested area. So, a nice retreat from the city, but not necessarily worth the journey by itself. Most tours pass by the Ming toumbs on their way to the Great Wall, which I suppose makes sense.
After the toumb visit we drove back to Beijing again, original mission unaccomplished. I left for Tokyo very early the following morning, and my Canadian co-conspirator took the Transmongolian train from Beijing to Moscow via Ulan Bator around the same time my plane took off. Quod erat demonstrandum, you CAN go to Beijing and not see the Great Wall ….