Tobogganing Off the Wall

Sunday, March 16, 2014
Beijing, Beijing, China
Yesterday's blog was a bit rushed, sorry about that but we were both a very tired. All this excitement is a bit much for us elderly folk.
Just to rub in our old age, twice now we have been offered seats in the metro from people who look older than us (in my opinion anyway) .
Beijing is a great deal warmer than we expected, definitely tee shirt weather although to avoid too much hassle at the security scanners I have been wearing an anorak so I can carry water, camera lens, guidebook etc without the need for a rucksack. I then get a bit hot and grumpier than normal.

The authorities are paranoid about bombs, at least I assume that is what they are scanning for (see * below) You are scanned as you enter the metro, at the entrance to any public building and to Tiannaman square. It was a similar setup in Moscow although there no one took any notice as you walked through a scanner even when it set an alarm off.

We had a great disappointment today - Chinese Driving. Some time ago I read a very good book by Peter Hessler (Country Driving) which among other things talks about the awful driving he experienced in China, he includes extracts from the driving exam such as:

If approaching a level crossing you should;
A) accelerate and cross
B) accelerate only if you see a train coming
C) slow down and make sure it is safe to cross

So having booked a car and driver for the day we were looking forward to some exciting driving . A real disappointment, a few ambitious overtaking manoeuvres, a lot of lane swapping, but generally all the drivers seemed to follow some sort of code, it was not as bad as Athens and certainly not up to the excitement you get in India. We didn't meet a single car coming the wrong way and almost all vehicles were in good order.

The aim of todays trip was to visit the Great Wall. The guidebooks all warn of thousands of tourists, long queues, lots of hassle. We had none of that, the wall had plenty of people on it but it certainly was not over crowded. We went up by cable car, walked along the wall for about a mile, took about 100 out of focus pictures and then tobogganed down. They have built a bobsleigh type run down the hill which, whilst very touristy was great fun.

The wall is exactly as it appears in all the brochures, just as impressive, some of the pointing could do with a bit of work, I did put in a word for Keith Jones in case they need any help.

We expected to come straight back to the hotel but the driver had other ideas, we drove through some lovely countryside to the site of Dingling, a Ming Dynasty tomb which is buried deep inside a hill and quite extraordinary. As this was not mentioned previously we had to do a bit of quick reading of all the information on display to see what we had been brought to, but it was very impressive and a good way to finish the day. What was even better the driver did not at any point suggest going to a shop or restaurant where he could "get a good price" or some such nonsense, another improvement on India.

* Scanners - I remember about 15 years ago that all passengers from the UK entering the Netherlands had their luggage scanned. It seems the scanners were adjusted to scan for milk products due to some sort of farming scare, my colleague had some Belgium chocolates confiscated because they were bought in the UK! I don't think the scanners are cleaver enough to spot propaganda!
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