Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Great Wall

I may have paid $20 to get my underwear and socks dry cleaned. Communication was a problem in China.

On my last full day in China I went on a hired bus to the Great Wall. First we stopped at the obligatory Jade factory tourist trap. It was beautiful but extremely overpriced. I decided not to get any jade on this trip. If I buy too many wonders of the world I'm going to get jaded at 23. (see what I did there?) Better to savor one treasure per trip and this trip it was definitely my pearl necklace.

My group was 3 Canadians, two Egyptians, one Scottish and one Irish. And all of us were so excited to see one of the 7 wonders of the world. (This will be my 3rd wonder, but who's counting.)

The Great Wall was very long.

I hate to be a hater but that was my main observation. It took over 2000 years to build and every few meters there is a watchtower or a signal tower. Today with satellites and infrared technology we would never think of making such a rudimentary defense system. China built a wall to keep out a country. Millions died making the Wall and it didn't even work that well. It is beautiful though.

We head back to the city after 2 hours of climbing up and then down the Wall. At night I met up with the Scott and Irishlady and went to Hou Hai for a last dinner: duck of course. Hou Hai is an entertainment district with old chinese houses converted into bars. We settled in someone's upstairs living room, ducking under the roof beams and settled on a couch near the window. We were the only people upstairs. We drank White Russians and watched China pass by below.

Before leaving on my jet plane the next day I went to the Forbidden City. Mau's face loomed over the entrance 2 basketball courts high. I rented an audio guide and wondered around the rooms and hallways of the great palace. The halls had fantastic names: Hall of Literary Glory, Hall of Tranquil Longevity, Hall of Abstinence (which was right next to the courtesan quarters.) My favorite was the vast courtyard used for the strict morning meetings. I pretended I could see the Emperor addressing row upon row of rapt soldiers.

I ate one last lunch of dumplings and went to the airport. The Kunming-Dhaka part of my trip was cancelled so I would have to spend the night in Kunming. When I landed at 2am in Kunming no one knew who I was or how to take me to the hotel. Finally a bus came and drove me through a part of Kunming where police were posted on every corner and a homeless person was seriously perched over a garbage can fire. (An image I thought was made up for Broadway plays like Rent.)

The hotel had cigarette butts on the floor of the lobby, no elevator, people screaming at each other in other rooms, stains on the crumbling walls and most crucially no internet. No one in the world knew my flight was cancelled, no one knew where I was. I needed internet to reach people. No one at the desk understood me. I stood there at 3 am and started to cry. Got in touch with someone on the phone from China Eastern to pick me up again and take me to a hotel with internet. When the bus driver came all he kept saying was "You go to sleep now." And pointed at the hotel. I couldn't communicate and it didn't help that I was now laughing and crying at the same time. It was attractive. At 4 am I was in a new hotel and at 6 am got up to go to the airport to get on my flight. Rinse and repeat for 2 more days of cancellation.

I am now back at home in Bangladesh. Until next time China!

1 comment: