China 1982

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan 2018

China 1982

Today was a day of experiencing China’s new burgeoning tourist industry.  We began with the two hour drive to the north-west of Peking city to visit the Great Wall at Badaling.  Peking is situated on the extremely flat North China Plain, but it is surrounded to the west, north-west and north by extremely rugged mountains of mixed slates and granites. 

Like everything in China, extremely efficient use is made of building materials.  All towns in China endeavour to be as self-sufficient as possible and provide for their own needs.  This accounts for the different building materials, styles and colours in different parts of China.  There was an interesting progression from (mostly grey) bricks in Peking to coarse river boulders as the main building material as we drove out of Peking, particularly after we passed Nankou (or Southern Gate) at the foot of the escarpment.

Most of the Great Wall is in a state of ruin, but the Chinese Government restored a couple of kilometres of the Wall in the late 1950s, and that is the section visited now by some 10,000 people each day.  There are three trainloads each day and 30 buses per hour bringing tourists to the Great Wall, mainly Chinese people on their days off.  It was interesting to see the extent to which photography has taken off in China; there was certainly a multitude of cameras in use at the Great Wall.

When we arrived at the Wall, we were given the option of climbing either to the left or the right.  I chose to go left (not a political statement) as it is steeper and therefore was considerably less crowded.

We were given boxed picnic-style lunches.  Apparently, everyone from visiting Prime Minsters down gets the Great Wall picnic lunch when they visit.  I don’t think anyone would choose to visit the Great wall for the food; it was easily the driest, most tasteless excuse for food I have ever had the displeasure to try.

We returned to Peking via the Ming Tombs.  Only one of the tombs is open (the others remain sealed to preserve their contents).  It could be thought of as a vault to house the treasures that the dead emperor might need in a future life, and I thought that was appropriate – the interior had all the appeal of a bank vault.

This evening we dined at the famous Peking Duck Restaurant.  Actually there are four Peking Duck restaurants: the Big Duck (named because of its size), the Little Duck (also named because of its size), the Cheap Duck (because it isn’t) and the Sick Duck (because it is located near the city hospital).  We ate at the Sick Duck, and the food definitely did measure up to expectations – it was delicious.  It was good learn that many Peking residents also eat here, especially when they want to entertain guests who are visiting from other parts of China.

Our itinerary seems to keep changing.  We learned in Wuhan that we would have to miss Nanking and would visit Shanghai instead (which I’m really happy about).  This evening we learned that because of the flight schedules, we would pick up an extra day in Sian and lose a day in Shanghai, which I’m less thrilled about.  Of course, there is not much anyone can do about it when you are in the hands of the only travel organisation that operates in the country (i.e. the government).

Peking is very dusty in the springtime.  Dust is getting into everyone’s eyes, and it is common to see the women wearing scarves and the men wearing caps.  The wind-blown dust is apparently the result of soil erosion to the west of Peking, caused by excessive tree clearing and over-grazing of animals.  It really is quite difficult to keep clean here.

Day 15

Peking, China


16 April 1982