The Great Wall and a Phenomenal Duck
A group from the hostel went to the Great Wall. It’s a little know fact that the Great Wall is very long. So, to be more precise, we visiting the section of the Great Wall about 90 minutes outside of Beijing at Mutianyu.
One of the reasons we selected this section of the wall to go to is because it is farther away from the city and so less touristy. Also, there are both restored sections and unrestored sections. So, we would have a chance to take a real climb and see what the wall in this area looked like before it was spruced up.
I took the above-picture near the beginning of our climb. The unrestored section began a little before the Chinese characters on the hill. So, that is where we were headed.
To say the climb was intense is an understatement. While probably only 3 miles or so, it was a constant procession of ascending and descending stairs, sometimes going for hundreds and hundreds at a time. There were two athletes in the group who kept bounding ahead. Luckily, there was a group of normal people as well who had to take regular breaks.
The unrestored section is reached by walking around a sign forbidding tourists from entering and warning of danger. It was an even greater challenge as the stairs were even steeper and even less uniform. In some sections, some people sat on their butt and scooted up and down them like a little kid.
While I may have suffered several mini-strokes during the climb and forgot who I was for a second at least once, the climb through the unrestored section was absolutely worth it. So many times when you are traveling you build something up in your mind and, when you are finally there, it fails to live up to your expectation.
The Great Wall was the exact opposite. My expectations were very high and the experience absolutely blew me away. Words simply did not do it justice and so, to celebrate the climb, and mark the moment, I had a smoke.
That evening, some friends and I celebrated the event my eating the traditional Peking duck at Chef Dong’s (Ha!) Restaurant. It is very famous and has been written up in Time magazine as the best place for the dish in the city. While there were plenty of very nicely dressed people in the restaurant, they still let us in despite the grungy traveler looks we had going for us.
There were three of us and we ordered the duck as well as the condiment platter. The platter had sugar (for dipping the duck skin), ginger, two types of melon, a soy syrup, and several things I couldn’t identify (but still ate).
Our duck came out with buns and something like a tortilla. The carver attacked the duck with surgical precision and completely dismembered it, making piles of skin, meat, bones, joints, and the head.
Then we ate it with various combinations of condiments. I could not find one that was not absolutely delicious. And, if you were wondering, I ate the brain myself.