|Teddy's not impressed with anything these days...but wow!|
First, I spent a day treating myself to lunch at a Muslim restaurant with halal food made famous by the Uyghur people of China. If you don't know about them, go ahead and start Googling it and you'll understand more about why this is significant. Without getting into the politics of it, I can attest that the lamb was spicy and delicious, and Time Out Beijing did a good job of picking out this restaurant for me.
I picked up a few baked goods at the restaurant's bakery for the next day's trek planned by one of my colleagues. I walked back across town, about 3 or 4 hours, since the sun was out and the air was clear.
The next morning I woke up early and threw on my shorts and hiking shoes for another visit to the wall, this time at a portion call Simatai. My colleague organized the journey, which landed us on a super local bus with provincial Chinese going to and from the market, old women who pushed us around and gawked at my bare calves. It was probably the most interesting journey I've ever had on public transport, but we survived the crush of always loud but never angry Chinese locals who traveled with us.
Once we arrived, the wall itself was stunning. At the base is a water town, a touristy reconstruction of what may never have actually existed, but which delights visitors all the same. We took another bus past the fancy part (there are spas) included in the ticket and then hiked up, up, up to the wall which juts up into the hills. We climbed up the stairs for some breathtaking views, and my vertigo didn't get too bad, as long as I didn't look down for too long. It's not for the feint heart, but we had snacks and a mission and so we walked up and conquered the towers one by one, perching on the edge of the wall to eat Muslim baked goods and sliced mangos.
These are the sorts of moments that burn into your memory, where every detail registers in a percent recess of the mind, where ever gust of wind, sweet taste of biscuit, ray of sun, and symphony of Mandarin in the background is stamped permanently.
We took the cable car down, dangling precariously as the wind tested the structure's integrity, finally landing at the bottom, safe and sound. A few cold beers while waiting for the bus wrapped up a very memorable day, the kind of day that most tourists from the West probably won't ever experience, that they might not want to experience, but that I am very excited to have in my cerebral hard drive for years to come.