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  The Chatter Box : Travel
GREAT WALL OF CHINA by DOUGIE BAIRD on 1 December 2002 12:42am

Day Saturday 27 OCT 2001 CHINA HERE WE COME After a year of Fund-raising and a week of
worrying what to take with me it was time to set off on one of the biggest adventure of my life. Neil
turns up bang on time .A quick goodbye to my wife and wanes then we're off. As we travel along
Alderman road we notice a huge banner saying "GOOD LUCK IN CHINA DOUGIE". Harry one of
my work mates had got up early to place the message between two trees in the middle of a busy
round about. What a great gesture. I have been really taken a back with the response from my
friends . We stop to pick up Mark who is part of our group for China As we travel along heading out
of Glasgow my mind goes to whether I have every thing. Too late now. We arrive at Edinburgh
Airport with plenty of time to spare. A quick goodbye and thank- you to Neil for the lift . Bang on
time [11.00] we leave for Amsterdam. We have more than 50 in our party .All ages and fitness
from all over Scotland and a few from further a field. At 13.30 we arrive in Amsterdam . Brings
back memories of visiting there when I was touring Europe many years a go .Nae time to go
Windmill Bagging as I have a plane to catch to China. We have all to line up in alphabetical order
for the group visa which makes me get through departure fast. At 17.15 we fly off to Beijing .Here
we go then. OFF TAE WALK THE WALL wae 57 strangers .By now were getting to know each
other. Day 2 28 Oct Nihao to the "Barracks" Arrive in Beijing at 8.35 local time and we are
transferred to the Huangyaguan Resort Hotel This takes about 2 hours and gives us our first look at
China .I had been warned to expect the worse [WELCOME TO HELL] but I think it was a trick by
the group leaders to ease us into Chinese accommodation actually loved every minute of our stay
there. It was build in a valley with the Great Wall on either side. Fantastic setting. So we go to our
rooms .No keys . Find this strange having travelled a bit but it seem that China is very safe country
but I decide to carry my passport,money and important items with me. Cant wait to get out and
explore so I venture out for a wander round the surrounding area. The people seem to be very poor
in this area but very friendly. After that we end up having a small refreshment in Sandy and
Malcolm`s room. [actually a right good piss up wae about twenty folk in a single room] Then it`s
our first meal in China. No bad After dinner we have a quiz which my team does badly. Then off to
bed. DAY 3 29 OCT HUANGYAGUAN PASS We start the day by warming up by stretching and
bending coached by Paddy our fitness coach from Silk Steps. This was done every morning right
after Breakie. First day on the wall . Will I be fit enough I ask myself. We start by leaving the
Barracks straight after breakfast .We started by walking through villages which gives us a good view
of Chinese life. After 3km we arrive at a statue to some Chinese leader then on to the wall. The
views are magic here. We walk for a short distance then descend down into the valley. We take our
time as this is a very steep staircase. We stop at the bottom for lunch. The lunch is basic [egg, nuts,
and a double decker sanny] but it fills you up. Plenty of water. The weather is brilliant really hot for
Autumn .In the afternoon David one of our tour leaders points to a red flag at the top of the other
side of the valley. That`s our aim for the afternoon .Off we go .It is a lot harder than the morning
but at the top the views are spectacular .Back to the hotel for dinner and a few beers . DAY 4 Walk
from Siniatal to Jinshanling ME AND MY SHADOW Morning drive for two and a half-hours brings
us to one of the most spectacular sections of the Great Wall. We will walk from Jinshanling to
Simatai. We had been warned in the morning about aggressive souvenir sellers. As we reach the start
off the wall we see a large Group of Peddlers ready to pounce. I squeeze my way through to be
followed by a young girl not much older than Yvonne my daughter .She looked very poor .I thought
to myself I had paid £80 for a pair of Salomon Super grip Hiking boots and here she is walking the
wall everyday in her plimsolls. She didn't speak much English but she did know the aproperate words
.We were told if we chased our Shadow away another would turn up .So just go along with it as if it
was part of the challenge. So I introduced my self to my Shadow. My name is Dougie I said what`s
your name .She mumbled something . I christened her Fran as I was sure an Anna would turn up
soon. She offered to carry my bag for me but I said I would buy a book of her at the end of the walk
.I looked about I see that a lot of our group had taken up the offer of help and that every person
had a shadow. Fran found it funny that my name was similar to a four legged animal which was
probably part of her diet. This was the hardest but most rewarding day of the walk, following the
wall as it snakes over the high mountain ridges. Jinshanling has 67 watchtowers with each one an
example of different architecture. These remote areas of the wall are fantastic; there are high ridges
with both ruined and restored watchtowers, with some of the wall overgrown by vegetation and in
it's natural un-repaired state. At Jinshanling the wall zigzags up inclines and straddles between peaks
like a suspension bridge, the staircases on the wall here can be very steep, especially at the Simatai
end where there is an option to climb another 2 km further up steep stair cases. About half way
along the wall another Shadow [Anna] appears coming towards me from the Simatai end . I
explained that Fran is my China for the trip. I had been set up as we go on a few hundred yards and
Fran tells me she has to return to Jinshanling to look after her kids. Being a big softie I buy a book
of her and wish her well . Then Anna moves over to greet me with hello hello. Here we go again
.She walked close by offering to help at awkward parts of the wall . When I stopped she stopped
when I walked she walked. When we reached Jinshanling I gave Anna a few quid which brought a
huge smile to her young face .Today had been very long walk but a day I will never forget. We are
staying at Jinshanling guest house tonight. About 5.30 p m we walk back up to the Wall to watch
the sun go down .There's music coming from one of the watchtowers .It's our group doing a bit of
highland dancing. The Dashing White Sergeant is getting big licks. Nothing I like better than
standing on people's toes. After dinner we have a bon fire and some Chinese firecrackers and swally
some more beers .[Why not] Then it's off tae bed chinese crackered. DAY 5 31 st Oct Mutianyu
After breakfast I wander out for some fresh air to clear the head to be met by Anna trying to flog
me some more souvenirs .I quickly retreat to the hotel .We Drive to the Mutianyu section of the
Great Wall located in Huairou county, this is one of the more popular sections of the wall, where
President Clinton and other VIPs are brought to. After a three km pre-walk I decide to take the
optional hike up the side of the mountain. This the hardest walking of the week. We have to wait
while our guides bargain with the local farmers to let us carry on their land. Once on the wall we had
an unobstructed view in both directions of its great length meandering along the mountain crests. In
the afternoon we take the toboggan slide down to the market. Where we are met by eager vendors.
That night we stayed in Changping. We have dinner in the friendship store then it's back to the
hotel for our Hallowe'en party. DAY 6 1ST NOV The Wall at Jurongguan Pass This is a short but
very vigorous walk that loops along the mountains either side of the pass. The wall here is
reconstructed and in good condition, starting with a steep haul up a staircase of some 1600 steps
.This was quite hard walking up so many steps but the longer the week goes on the fitter you get. I
meet a few expats here from Australia and Canada . It's was quite strange talking to people that had
left Scotland many years ago at the Great Wall of China. Is the pictures in Gascube road Glasgow
still there. I tell them it was in Cambridge St and it was knocked down about 25 years ago. They
laugh and say their going to go hame someday and check out my information. We shake hands and
we are off again. Finally at the bottom Roy buy's us all a "WALLS ICE CREAM". Just what we
needed. Back to the hotel to freshen up for our train trip down to Xian. Then stop off at KFC for
with supplies for our 16 hr train journey from Beijing to Xian. Around 5 `o Clock we leave Beijing
main train Station. We are booked in Soft Class which means we have a bunk to sleep on .Later on I
had a look at the other classes and was pleased where we were staying. We had a nice private
compartment with four beds in it. I take the top bunk .As we leave Beijing the views from the train
are very interesting. We pass through many villages and land is very flat.[ farm land] .As time goes
on the darker it gets. The party starts . Fifty-odd Scotsmen together for hours on a train means the
drink will flow. Flower of Scotland, I belong tae Glasgow, the northern lights are all belted out from
different carriages. I was in a compartment with another 12 squeezed in. One of the staff on the
train comes in to see what going on .Hey give the man a drink .NO REPLIES from the guard . Take
a small whisky. He leaves in a hurry but returns five minutes later with a jam jar Which he receives a
large one in. We all introduces ourselves and he says his name is Coco. After a few halves he leaves
the worse for wear never to be seen again. A few hours later a member of the transport police is
offered a drink. Which he declined and lifts his jacket to show his pistol. We don't offer again..
Time to catch some sleep.
We arrive in Xian bang on time and transfer to the Orient hotel. In the afternoon we walk 10 km
which will take us through typical peasant villages. We pass the Weihe River and bamboo trees,
which spread like a green blanket over the hillsides. We walk to the Zhongnan Mountain, a site
famous in China as the place where Taoism originated. We walk a further few km up to the top of
the mountain (about 500m above sea level) where the views over the Shaanxi Plain are spectacular.
In the evening we go out to the Shaanxi Grand Opera House to see a recreated of Tang-Dynasty
music and dance. I nearly fall asleep . EVERYONE ELSE SEEMED TO ENJOY THE SHOW. [the
wee drummer was quite funny] DAY 8 Sat 3rd Nov The modem city of Xian was once the site of the
mighty city of Chang'an, the capital of 11 Chinese Dynasties, and was also the starting point for the
great trade caravans of the Silk Road.
In the morning we were driven out to see the amazing Terracotta Army. Although there is no
historical record of the thousands of life sized armoured soldiers and horses, it is believed that they
were intended to serve as bodyguards for the ghost of Qin Shi Huangdi, the famous Yellow Emperor
who first united China and reigned from 22 1-20 BC I shake the hand of the old farmer who
discovered the Army . He was paid a few yuan for his land but is making more now signing
autographs. Until you actually stand with the whole Terracotta Army in front of you. You realise
that this is the Eighth Wonder of the world. The light is very poor so it is very hard to take a good
picture. We then watch an 360 degree film. As we leave the hall and travel back to the bus we come
to another stall with a old man claiming he discovered the army. Back at the bus. I ask our CTS
guide which one was the original? He laughs and shrugged his shoulders. In the afternoon we do our
walk along the city walls with the Aberlour banner.
We travel back to our hotel by Taxis . I was in the front wae my fingers cross. At night we have our
Gala dinner to celebrate our achievements. Everyone has been asked to do a turn .I get roped into
being the legs and arms of an backpacker in a crazy sketch. Happy with that better than singing. A
lot of effort had been put into the show . When we go into the room we are handed a glass of
champers and a "Back to the wall medal" . Which was a nice gesture from the charity. As the night
goes on I find out there are many talented people in our group. The whole show was very well
organised by Jane .One of the group leaders. George one of the older members of the group gets up
to sing which seems to bring the show to a finale. After the show we head out a bar along the road
till the wee small hours. DAY 9 Sunday 4th of Nov Flight to Beijing in the morning . Flight was fine
. Then transferred to The Exhibition Hotel for two nights .It was great travelling from the airport
to our hotel .Great to get our first real view of Beijing .Beijing was a lot more modern and we see the
odd English signs. In the afternoon we go on a rickshaw tour of the the Hutong Area [ancient city
alleys] and visit a typical Hutong family and finish up in the local Tea house for a cuppa. At night
we go out for an Italian meal .EXCELLENT DAY 10 MONDAY 5 TH OF NOV MALKY`S TOURS
The last full day in China but the best. I decided not to take the official tour of the Forbidden city
but take Malky`s Tour of Beijing. [Around Beijing in 80 minutes] We scoffed down breakfast and
met in the Lobby. My guide for today was Malky a retired Architect and his assistant Sandy . Malky
had been on a previous trip to China. So he knew the sites or so I thought. Sandy was to do the
commentary .[he had great difficulty remembering the names of anything]. A quick head count and
the 3 off us we're off .First stop the Beijing Zoo . Straight to the Panda house .First time I`d every
seen a Panda. MALKY SHOUTS TIME UP and we are off . That was some zoo 2 PANDAS, 4
SPARRA`S AND A MAGPIE. Taxi for tie me doon square shouts Sandy. Tian`anmen Square is huge
.Little prepares you for the experience of being in the square. First thing you notice is the giant
portrait of Chairman Mao. This is what travel is all about seeing famous sites for real. Take lots of
pictures here. Now to the Forbidden City What a place .The Forbidden City is the largest palace
complex in the world. 9999 rooms.Over 491 years the residence of 24 emperors of the Ming and
Qing dynasties The ordinary Chinese were barred from entering. What a place. A Quick head count
and we're off. Next stop Starbuck cafe for a coffee stop .Strange being in China and hearing the
Eagles record Hotel California playing. After that, Silk Alley for some serious shopping for gifts for
the long suffering family at home. Taxi back to the hotel . A quick shower and out for dinner.
Seeing this is the last evening we go for a Peking Duck Banquet.
Brilliant What a day. Day 11 Tuesday 6 th Nov FLY HOME VIA AMSTERDAM THANKS AGAIN

Re: GREAT WALL OF CHINA by MattD on 1 December 2002 8:29am
Wow, sounds like an extrodinary trip you made. Ive always wanted to travel to China, esp the Great Wall :)
Re: GREAT WALL OF CHINA by DOUGIE BAIRD on 1 December 2002 10:30am

Yes Matt it was a trip of a lifetime .Small compared with Michael Palin`s trips
but as good as Iwill ever get .If you would like to see the photo`s from the
trip click on--------

Thanks for your coments
Re: GREAT WALL OF CHINA by montyfreak0234 on 25 March 2006 4:15pm
people say there are dead bodys burried within the walls, and people take bits and pieces off of it'
Re: GREAT WALL OF CHINA by tucsonmike on 25 March 2006 4:42pm
Wow what a trip! How cool is that? I'll get there eventually when I

1. Have the money.
2. Am not on deadline.
Re: GREAT WALL OF CHINA by arty_farty on 27 March 2006 11:51am
i'll go when im married with kids aka never.

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