Friday, December 17, 2021

Running The Great Wall

 This trip to China, sponsored by their government, was all about the "business" people buying gifts to take back home.  There was only one business meeting, and only two people in our group attended.  They sold almonds and were trying to set up a foreign market.

If you live in China, you work for the government.  We tried to ask questions, like how much do you get paid, but guards were always standing close by, so no one answered.  It's pittance, I'm sure, since even the Palace Guards were severely underfed.  There were no overweight people in China.

I wish we had some kind of itinerary, but alas, we didn't know from one minute to the next where we were going.  On occasion we had a big bus, but for the most part, we were in small groups of 25, traveling on roads that strictly controlled what we would see.  After all, China was wanting to make a statement with the Olympics about how modern they were.  That meant they were tearing down everything else.

When told we were going to the Great Wall, we were excited.  Here's a line of Terracotta Soldiers made out of concrete for your picture taking pleasure.  Let me just say most of the wall is in various stages of disintegration.  This section has been rebuilt just for the tourist industry.

The wall is 13,171 miles long, but only a couple of miles have been rebuilt.  It's a hard, steep climb on rock steps that are all different heights.  

Although they tried to tell us that no one was buried inside the wall, meaning the original workers who died on the spot, I didn't believe them.  This is crazy steep country and the wall follows the contours of the mountains.  The square buildings are where the guards stayed in the freezing weather, trying to survive.  If there was an attack on the wall, those guards would build fires to warn everyone down the line to come help.

I don't know who said what, but the next thing I knew, I was in a footrace to that top guard station.  I ran lots of marathons back then, so it wasn't as hard as it looks, but believe me, it's STEEP.

Yay!  I won!!  But then we had to walk all the way back down and up the other side, which was even steeper.  It was interesting to see and hear bagpipes being played on the opposite side.  Very eerie considering the history here.  At the bottom were two government-approved ladies selling "I climbed the wall" chatchkeys.  

For $50 we could have ridden the camel here, but I passed.  I did pet him on the nose though.

Next up was a quick stop at the Imperial Tombs of the Ming Dynasty.  The actual tombs were found quite by accident and turned into a tourist destination.  The buildings were magnificent, but the thought of those 100 concubines killed one by one and dumped in two pits at the bottom, was rather off-putting.  I think we stopped here because it had one of maybe three bathrooms on the entire trip with American toilets.  

Here's another weird thing about China.  The houses do not have bathrooms.  Each little section of town has a communal bathroom, most with no doors, which everyone uses.  Don't bother looking for the "women" or "men" signs, because there aren't any.  The government pays two or three people to keep it clean, relatively speaking.  They can do nothing for the smell.

We stopped at a Pearl Factory somewhere along the way, but purchasing homemade pearls wasn't on my list of important things.  Next up, another factory tour of how their fabulous vases are made.  

As we walked through, hand picked girls and boys (mostly very young) were painting their Ming vases.  Some vases are five feet tall, and some two inches tall.  I'm not sure of the chemicals used, but most had on masks.  We did not and it smelled terrible.

I'm pretty sure this painting section was set up just for sales.  I imagine most of the vases came from sweat shops, but at least these eight people had somewhat decent working conditions.  Here's the vase I came home with.  The picture does not do it justice.  The painting is magnificent!!

The good news is I remembered to take along a bag with nothing in it, in order to get all this stuff back home.  In case you didn't do that, they took us to a market where we could buy luggage ... very cheap luggage, made in where else, China!!

On a side note, no one told me about the duty fees I would pay upon arrival back in the U.S.

Back at my little house which would probably house 30 people in China, I'm off to bookkeeping duties for most of the day, then more packing.  Time is short and I have lots to do.


  1. You picked your souvenirs well. That is a beautiful vase. The Wall is amazing. Just thinking of the years of manual labor it took to build. And the lives!

  2. Wonder if the infrastructure is better today than back when you went there?

    1. No. They only built it up for the Olympics of 2008. I went again and nothing had changed.

  3. Thanks for taking me on a journey....Elva

  4. It's quite an interesting to you had.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. I thought the jade elephant was a nice buy but that vase looks really, really beautiful. That certainly sounds like a wonderful adventure. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I did try not to purchase junk, which there was a lot of! LOL

  6. Thank you for the trip! Not anywhere I'd want to go especially now, but very interesting !

    1. It gets even better Shirley. I have to say I would not go back however.