Sunday, July 15, 2007


Note: This blog post with pictures is here

I am not writing this from Beijing. I’m actually on a train on my way to Paris, but Darlana gave me a lot of trouble about finishing up my China blog before I forget everything. Funny, because she hasn’t written a darn thing yet.

We took a guided bus tour to the famous stuff in Beijing. It was the three of us, another lady, the guide, and a driver, who didn’t say much of anything.

Our first stop was Tiananmen Square, where that famous protest or something or other happened. Apparently the square can fit about a million people at once. It’s a big square. A tourist spot, here you’ll find lots of annoying salespeople poking you in the back and going “Here! Buy this crap! Here! Buy this!” We’re the biggest freak show yet on the square, mostly because the people here are other tourists from more rural areas in China. We see a lot of people lining up their friends sort of in front of us so they can “nonchalantly” take a picture “of their friend” but really of us. The brave ones would ask us to pose with them, as always.

Next stop was the Forbidden City, which is across the street from Tiananmen square. As we enter, we notice that all the people are touching the knobies on the big doors as they walk by. We decide that the door-breasts were made to distract the enemy as they tried to attack.

The Great Bears

The first thing we saw at the great wall were black bears, who had apparently trained themselves to catch pieces of cucumber tourists bought to throw at them. (There’s a business idea for you – “Pay us to feed our bears for us” – but I did pay, and I’d do it again).

Boring roller coaster ride

To get up to the entrance of the Great Wall, you had to take this little tram thing that was really a roller coaster that went really slow. When we saw it, we thought it would be much more fun, but unfortunately, they never finished that big drop of the other side we were hoping for.

As we were making the .0005 mph trip up the little roller coaster, I lifted my little safety harness a little bit so I could turn around to take a picture of Darlana, who was in the car behind me. This did not bode well for the spy-worker, who turned around in his car in front of me and yelled “Bdsaiog dabiho iadsgofd gaiox djio!!!” at me. When I turned back around and put my harness back, proceeded to stay turned in his chair, never taking his eyes off me for the remainder of the “ride.”

“I pooped on the Great Wall of China”

No, I didn’t poop on the Great Wall of China. I’ll get to that later.

We were pretty disappointed with the visibility that day, as there was none. Where we were hoping to see the wall stretching and winding along the mountain on the horizon, we saw a thick blanket of white fog. Darlana was particularly peeved about this little fact as we made our ascent up the steep, uneven bricks of the wall surrounded by a thick mass of gawking tourists. As she whined about it, I turned to her and said “yeah, but we’re on the Great Wall of China!”

She stopped mid-complaint, and a flash of recognition lit up her eyes.

“We are!” She exclaimed. “We’re on the f***ing Great Wall of China!!”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Or wouldn’t. Either way.

When you climb the wall, you have to pass through these little shelter spots, where I guess they must have taken shelter in the rain or when being attacked or something, to continue your walk up the wall. Aside from the heavy crowd and the fact that the ceilings only rose to about Dad’s chest level, they were tolerable. And then we came to that one.

When Darlana and Dad read this, they know exactly the one I’m talking about. Let me preface this by saying that neither Dad nor I have very strong senses of smell. I can’t complain about this, because usually I can’t smell bad stuff, which suits me just fine, unless it’s me that stinks.

This I could smell.

Someone (and then someone else, and then someone else, apparently) had decided that this little pass-through was an excellent make-shift bathroom, and had therefore relieved themselves along the sides. Unfortunately, this spot had absolutely no air moving through it (but lots of people) so it was quite unpleasant. I thought Darlana, who actually can smell things, was going to be sick.

Shortly after that fiasco, we reached the end of the Great Wall (we figure since the wall is 3,000 km and we went to the end and back, we must have walked 6,000 km). Darlana got there before I did. When I turned the corner, my face must have conveyed how shocked I was, because Darlana burst out laughing when she saw me.

There, in the middle of the Great Wall, a little kid, pants at his ankles, was taking a poop. And I had walked in from behind.

He probably wasn’t more than 2 or 3 years old, and in his defense his mother had put a plastic bag underneath him. But you’re never expecting to see that.

In China, most of the little kids don’t wear diapers. They simply have a slit in the back of their pants, so when they have to go, they can. I had never actually seen any evidence of this system, so I figured it was pretty well-regulated and cleaned up by the parents, and it is, for the most part.

After he was done, the mom gathered up the bag, tied it up, and threw it over the edge. I guess that’s one way to do it…

After posing for several pictures by ourselves and with others at the end (one guy asked to take a picture with me, and when his friend tried to get into the picture too he said something firmly in Chinese and pushed his friend away so it was just us), we headed back toward the bears and the entrance of the wall.

Ki-hap! GET BACK!

On Sunday, we visited what can only be described as the king of all knock-off warehouses. It’s called Silk Street, and ladies, if you have any interest in inexpensive fake designer bags and clothes, electronics, real pearls, sunglasses, jewelry, accessories… you name it, bring your money.

The only downside with getting everything for insanely cheap is that 1) you’ll have to bargain for it, which really becomes a game more than anything, and 2) they are crazy aggressive when they’re trying to get your business, because there’s a lot of competition in a small area. This competition forces prices way down, and therefore I considered it a small price to pay to have to push a few of them down to get by them.

Actually, I didn’t push anybody down (Dad did once, but I didn’t). I did, however, have to use several of the self-defense techniques I learned in taekwondo to get away from them, because they do actually grab you. I think it would have made my mom and my Grandma Barbara nervous.

I bought 11 purses, for gifts and otherwise, pearls for my wedding, [censored - gift spoilers], and my favorite, a new Olympus 7.1 mega pixel digital camera to put in my new purse.