The great firewall of China

Day 46
Beijing, China

Our G.A.P Adventures “China Express” orientation meeting was only about an hour after my arrival here last night. The group is less of an international crew than on my Intrepid trip in Egypt, although there are a couple of solo folks who should make for some good travel companions.

Not surprisingly, we were up early today. After breakfast at the hotel, Beijing DongJiaoMinXiang (best named accommodation yet) — in a café that continuously plays the harmonious tunes of America’s pop sensation, Backstreet Boys — we loaded into a van to visit the Great Wall of China.

On the drive out of Beijing, a hazy sun attempted to break through the cloud of smog that hangs over the city. We passed countless specialized rural factories (for “Tin Printing,” “Flour” and “Beer Bottle Lid”) before arriving at Mutianyu, a restored section of the wall. The Great Wall, as most everyone knows, was originally built about 2,200 years ago to protect the Empire from northern invaders. It winds through the mountains and is surrounded by lush vegetation.

With uneven steps and a less than flat plane, the Wall makes for an uneven walk.

Surveillance towers that dot the wall provide the perfect vantage point.

We took the “slide” — a terribly touristy but actually quite fun luge — back to the bottom before heading to the Temple of Heaven. This is China’s answer to Palm Beach, a peaceful spot where old folks play cards, meditate and dance with ribbons in the shadow of some very impressive and colorful ancient temples.

Our last stop was an acrobatic show, where the Chinese demonstrated why they consistently take the gold medal in gymnastics.

Back at the hotel, with the state-run English news channel blaring in the background, it was time for my daily website update. Unfortunately, as I’d soon learn, all blogs (WordPress, Blogspot, Moveable Type) are off limits in this country, including! My only option was to climb into a rock hard bed and dream of how to defeat the Great Firewall of China — a digital wall that was preventing me from broadcasting my travelogue to the world.

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