Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Great Wall

Our goal for our last day in Beijing was this: see the Great Wall. Seems simple, right? Nothing's simple in China!

We checked out of our hotel (this also proved much more difficult than necessary. I love the little shrug that Brandon does when someone is speaking to him in a language he doesn't understand.) Then we took the metro to the northernmost stop, where one of the front-desk people at our hotel had told us to go to catch a cab for the GW. We haul our luggage on the metro, make the transfer, and think we've almost reached our goal. Not so. Cabbies refused, or told us they would charge exorbitant prices and wouldn't drop us at the railway station to catch our train back to Shanghai.

We then went to the English "helpers," and one guy told us we needed to take the metro to the westernmost stop and get a cab from there. His name is Wang Peng. He accompanied us (and carried my bag--I love chivalry!) Then he escorted us out to find a cab and negotiated the price we wanted to pay. This took him a while. At first we were about to jump in a random woman's shoddy-looking car when an actual bonafide cabbie offered to take us. We were ready for the adventure, but felt more comfortable taking the cab. We got in and reached the wall in 40 minutes, ahead of schedule. Things were going to smoothly, so we knew something would happen. We get to the gate and guess what? Tourists were not allowed in. Because the opening ceremonies were later that evening? Who knows. So the cabbie drove on for another 10 KM to take us to another section. We then ran, literally RAN, up the mountain to reach the wall. It was stunning. Huge. Absolutely amazing. We had just enough time to stare in awe for about 50 seconds, take a few pictures, and run back. Time was ticking by this point.

After leaving the Great Wall I felt the negative side of China's disregard for labels/brand ownership/copyright. I was able to get several things for very cheap that shouldn't have been very cheap if they were genuine: Coach purse, two ipod shuffles, Brandon's Prada sunglasses, Gucci sunglasses. I also got a fake memory card, which screwed up about 10% of my pictures. Not cool. I had an awesome shot of B and me near the Great Wall that didn't turn out.

We rushed home, and then discovered that our cabbie wanted us to pay him an EXTRA 200 RMB! For having to drive 10 extra KM, and for some highway tolls. What! Ridiculous. See picture of Wang Peng fighting with him on our behalf: http://picasaweb.google.com/libertyhultberg/ChinaSummer2008/photo#5233220766323516514. What a great kid. I want to tell someone about how much he helped us.

Still, we ended up having to give the greedy cabbie 100 more than originally agreed upon (which I guess is only 14 bucks, but still) b/c we had to get on the metro to catch our train. This was annoying, and we were flat broke with no money to buy dinner. And because China has not jumped on the credit-card bandwagon (so inconvenient!), we had no way to get food. We didn't want to exchange a bunch of money when we were on our way out anyway. Luckily Brandon found an ATM that miraculously accepted his bank card and we withdrew the 100 RMB that the cabbie had taken from us.

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