With the land-based portion of my adventure through China nearly over, I realized that I was still missing a significant piece of what I wanted to see before returning to Japan. Kung Fu. So, after wrapping up our one day of souvenir shopping, my dad and I took a cab across Beijing to see a show called “The Legend of Kung Fu.”
God, Kung Fu is awesome.
While far more commercialized than the Thai boxing matches I saw on the streets of Chiang Mai, The Legend of Kung Fu was everything I could’ve hoped for and more. The basic storyline of this highly choreographed production followed the training of a monk on his quest to become a Kung Fu master, demonstrations including everything from the various animal styles to weapons to “iron body” demonstrations where a guy would place his full weight on the tips of spears that had just been used to slice fruit, bending them with his bare skin. All I kept thinking was how much Noz would love to be seeing it. Maybe someday, ‘eh buddy? 🙂
First thing the next morning my dad and I hired a car from our hotel to drive us three hours out of Beijing to the beginning of a five-hour hike over a completely original section of the Great Wall of China. This was truly astonishing. The Great Wall is one of those things that you just have to see to believe. My dad, who has hiked the Grand Canyon, Machu Piccu, volcanoes on several continents, peaks in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, and Rockies went so far as to say that it was one of the five most magnificent hikes he’s ever been on.
Snaking up and down the highest, most craggy mountain peaks dividing China from Inner Mongolia the Great Wall stretches farther than the eye can see in both directions. Which makes sense, because it stretches for over 3,000 miles. It gets so steep that at certain points you can put your hand out directly in front of you while standing vertically and touch the path that you’re standing on (if you can keep your balance on such a steep grade).
The length that we walked spanned thirty guard towers and a rope bridge across a river. Some of the towers still stood almost unharmed, with only a few holes in the walls here and there, while others had decayed nearly completely. Many of the towers would house a small old Mongolian lady selling bottled water or “I Climbed The Great Wall” T-shirts, but because there were virtually no tourists on this segment I didn’t find them to be frequent enough to cause a particular problem.
During the climb a pair of Mongolian farmers befriended us, chatting about life as a farmer while we walked together. They were very nice, but unfortunately when the climb came to an end they turned out to be nothing more than a pair of guys out to make an extra buck, just like everyone else – they’d simply developed a new scheme to do so. We gave them a little tip and moved on.
During our climb we also met the interesting-looking man pictured to the left. Climbing up a very small, dark staircase and emerging into a roofless guard tower, he was waiting at the top to greet us with a huge toothless grin and an excited thumbs up. He offered us both a taste from his five-foot long opium pipe which we politely declined, handing him a few cents in exchange for this photograph.
After descending the wall and being transported back to Beijing by our 400lb stern-faced driver, we popped across the street for a delicious $1 meal of meat skewers and noodles before hopping on a bicycle-taxi (like the one shown in my previous post) through Tiananmen Square on our way to the most interesting night market I’ve ever seen.
But before I continue, a brief unrelated topic. My dad brought up an interesting point while the two of us were discussing my blog the other day: I’ve recently got into the habit of posting huge entries with long delays in between. I’ve never really thought of it this way, but he suggested if I were to instead produce shorter posts with greater frequency it might be easier to hold my readers’ attention. I think that’s a fantastic idea. Whenever I check my daily reads I love it when there’s a new entry, so why not break mine up so that they pop up more often, and aren’t too overwhelming to read in a sitting?
Of course this isn’t always possible (particularly while on the road) but I’m going to do my best, especially once I get back to Japan and have more regular internet access.
So, stay tuned for tales of food that will give you nightmares!