Friday, August 17, 2012

The Great Wall

This is another heavy picture post. If you knew how many pictures I could have posted, but didn't, you would be proud of me. 

Okay--to continue with our Shanhaiguan trip.
The hotel where we stayed was constructed in a hutong style, which means all the rooms were built centered around courtyards. There are only two hotels in this small city that foreigners can stay in. This was the nicer of the two. Our friends helped us to check in and got us a really good price. Only 100 kuai per room! That's about $15. 

Tom and Emma had their own room, and survived on their own. The Chinese style bathrooms threw them for a loop. At least there were western style toilets---but the showers were a different story. Just a drain in the floor, and a shower head in the corner. We had to buy our own toilet paper, and the towels were ratty and frayed. Tommy and Emma's shower drain didn't work...unfortunately. Emma opted to forgo the shower until we got back to Shenyang. But hey, a bed is a bed, and a shower is a shower. . 

Sleeping with a toddler is an interesting experience. You have to go to sleep when she does, you give up your rights to even move, not to mention the right to any space of your own. It was equally hard for Willow because she was confused and it took her a long time to settle down and fall asleep. She didn't cry, almost surprisingly, but she did a lot of tossing/turning/flopping-around. Finally, she fell asleep, and then despite the humidity, we fell asleep too. 

In the morning, all that humidity turned into a steady rain fall that lasted the entire day. Since we only had one day to spend in Shanhaiguan, we made the most of it and set out on our journey to see the great wall. 

Courtyard outside the rooms where we slept. 
Adam and Tommy locking up the hotel rooms where we stayed. Forgot to take pictures of the actual rooms. 

Our friends, Dave and Lauren, were amazing translators. We've been in China the same amount of time, but they have retained a lot more Mandarin than us. Honestly, we probably wouldn't have gone if they hadn't mentioned they were also going--I think we might have invited ourselves along--just because trying to figure out what to do, where to go, who to talk to, what to pay is all very overwhelming when you have a baby whose needs are nearly incessant. As we were checking out, they were able to bargain for someone to drive us to the sites we wanted to see. They got a good price considering the rain, and the fact that we would be those driver's only business that day. Somehow, Lauren understood from their Chinese that main Great Wall site she had been to before was closed. There was another site that the drivers knew of though. So, we piled into two vehicles and set off.

The roads grew less like a city and more rural very quickly. We were cruising along mountain roads, whipping around corners, crossing bridges that were flooded over, and speeding over sections of road that had mud/rocks sliding down them from the mountainside. The rain made it all a little freaky. They were the kinds of roads that two cars could barely squeeze past when meeting around a bend--so it's scary when it's a truck that's coming at you.

We finally arrived and purchased our tickets. There were lots of vendors out selling fruit, umbrellas, ponchos, and hats made out of rubber leaves.

On the way to get onto the great wall, we were passing this dam. Apparently, according to the sign, this was called the "water park". Lots of people were wading in the water, and picking up different shell fish to eat.

Starting to climb the great wall. Willow is a trooper! It was humid, it was raining, she couldn't really move around. She had just experienced a long car ride---and now we're just walking up stairs. Not exactly Willow's idea of a fun day, but she did well despite it all.

Willow was extremely pleased to discover that she could scale the wall herself. She walked up a few steps with Adam's help. Sometimes I can barely believe the life that Willow leads. Climbing the Great Wall at 12 months old.

You can sort of see how the Wall just disappears into the mountain, since it just became too steep. It is amazing how they made it despite the odds. Lots of people died during its construction and they are said to be buried in the wall itself since there was no time to stop and bury them properly.  Also, the name of this Great Wall site has been painted on the cliff wall. I don't know HOW they did that. 

After a certain point, it was futile trying to stay dry. Forget the hats and umbrellas. 

There are more pictures too! We took some fun jumping pictures that I'll have to post either here or on facebook. We ate lunch after we finished looking around this section of the wall at a Chinese restaurant. Because Willow was exhausted beyond belief, I stayed in the taxi with her. It was pounding rain outside at this point, and it was hard to stay awake. I dozed off once or twice. Once, I woke up and looked down at Willow who was sleeping in my lap. She had several drops of water on her head. I looked up at the ceiling thinking that we had sprung a leak before I realized that she was sweating. This girl sweats like her dad! Eventually, Adam came out to relieve me so that I could eat some lunch too.

Then we headed for the Dragon's Head which is where the Great Wall meets the sea. Perhaps it was the weather, the post lunch satisfaction, or the fact that we had been walking for a few hours already, but when we arrived at the Dragon's Head everyone agreed they were too tired to site see. We headed back to the hotel since that's where we had left most of our luggage. But once we got there, we didn't really know what to do next because of the rain. If it hadn't been raining, it would have been more enjoyable to walk up and down the streets and experience the hutongs. But, we needed something to do since our train wouldn't arrive for another four hours.

With less of a foreign influence, there wasn't going to be a coffee shop somewhere where we could camp out. And since we just ate lunch, we weren't going to sit in another restaurant. Our friend, Dave was able to convince the hotel manager to let us all pay for a room to hang out in for a few hours. So, for a fairly good price considering the unusual situation, we played games together in a hotel room, and Willow was able to expend some energy. When the time came, we packed up our stuff and headed to the train station, boarded the train, endured the ride with a toddler, exited the Shenyang rail station, walked a ways to find a home, ate dinner, and went to bed. What a day!

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