Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Badaling Great Wall

Today I was thinking I would see a different section of The Great Wall. I decided to go see the really popular section near Badaling, mostly because I wanted to see the Ming Tombs, final resting places of China's Ming dynasty emperors. My trip was nothing like I expected.

I went to an area where I thought I could catch public buses, but only tour buses were available. I was hesitant to book a tour, but after seeing a whole bunch of other foreigners, I paid for a trip that included both The Great Wall and the Ming Tombs. When I got on the bus, the group of foreigners left and I found myself on a Chinese tour, all in Mandarin. It wasn't a big deal, I was more interested in the pictures anyway.

When we got to the Badaling, the guide wrote down the time I had to meet them at the bus and I went to do my thing. This section of the wall pales in comparison to what I did before, but it was nice to see it among cherry blossoms. It even snowed a bit while I walked around.

When I was done taking photos, I walked over to the bus and asked if the Ming Tombs were next. The guide said "No Ming Tombs!" I was surprised, because I confirmed a number of times with the ticket office and even after I showed her my ticket, she just kept saying "No Ming Tombs!" I showed it to the driver and got the same response. Then I tried to get a partial refund. After much argument, hand gestures and numbers on a calculator, I managed to get my money back. But then they didn't want to let me back on the bus. I just ignored them and went back on.

From one of the passengers, I found out that the bus was going for lunch (included in the tour) then to the Olympic Birds Nest stadium, where I figured I could catch the subway back to my hostel. However, when we got to the lunch place, we first had to go through a jade factory/store. The bus driver and guide get comission for bringing tourists to these stores. These are extremely annoying, they try really hard to sell you trinkets for real high prices. The Chinese tourists seemed to be loving it and many were buying things.

I went outside and waited for everyone to come out, when I was approached by a girl who worked at this place. She spoke very good English and I soon found out the bus was intending to go to two more factories and would not be back in Beijing until late in the evening. I asked her if there was any other way to get back to Beijing and she pointed me in the direction of a local bus. I left the tour and was soon on my way back. What a day.

On the bright side, I met some really nice and helpful people while trying to find my way back to the city. On the bus I even met a guy who walked me over to the subway and bought me a bottle of water on the way. That's the neat thing about traveling on my own, people are more likely to approach. I've met so many good people on this trip.

This is my final day of sightseeing. Tomorrow I'll be doing some shopping then it's off to the airport and back home. It's been quite a trip. China is nothing like I expected. It's much more modern. Unfortunately historical areas getting replaced with new. The natural scenery is stunning and though there is pollution, it's not as bad as I expected. The country seems to be changing so fast.

The Great Wall at Badaling: