Donkey Crossing

Welcome to Donkey Crossing! Donkey Crossing is an on-line account of one Limey and one Yank living one Dream. From September 2006 until the end of 2007, we plan to visit friends and family on five continents and immerse ourselves into various cultures, natural phenomena and ways of life. We hope you enjoy our tales and visit often! Cheers, Jason and Rachel Napoli

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Braving the Heat and Mania
of China's Forbidden City & The Great Wall

A trip to China is not complete without a visit to the Forbidden City and The Great Wall. The two most popular attractions in the Beijing area, we braved the high season crowds and spent a couple steamy days immersed in ancient Chinese history.

The Forbidden City, named so because it was off limits for over 500 years, was the luxurious residence for the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is located directly across from Tiananmen Square, in the heart of Beijing. The Forbidden City is home to dozens of ornate palaces and impressive halls which kept us occupied for an entire day.

Taking a break from the crowds with the Hall of Union in the background.

The classic Chinese architecture never failed to impress with every corner we turned.

No matter which attraction we've visited in China, the number of Chinese tourist groups has been overwhelming. Observing the herds of Chinese on vacation, in all their cigarette smoking, pop-sock wearing glory has been interesting and even mildly entertaining at times. Every group has a leader equipped with a megaphone and easily recognizable banner on a short stick. Some leaders get creative attaching flowers, kites or umbrellas to their banners. We certainly won't miss the banner toting tour groups when we leave China.
This guide was charging ahead with his group before a storm drenched the Forbidden City.

Look! Look! Who is it? Brad Pitt? Yao Ming? No,...'s an ancient Ming throne!The unique masonry surrounding the halls and gorgeous yellow roof tiles make the Forbidden City's physical characteristics just as impressive as it's historical significance.

We spent a sweltering day at the Forbidden City, walking through the former temples, libraries, gardens and living quarters of the former dynastic rulers of China. Not unlike the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, we would recommend checking out this attraction in the crisp and cool low season, rather than during the sweaty days of summer.
Although just as popular as a visit to the Forbidden City, The Great Wall offers more options for getting away from a mainstream tourist site. Most visitors on a package holiday to China visit the Badaling section of The Great Wall, which is 70km from Beijing. We were told this part of the wall is overflowing with souvenir stalls and touts offering guide services. Looking for something a bit more adventurous, we opted to hike 10km along the wall from Jinshanling to Simatai.
We didn't find ourselves completely alone, but were able to enjoy the wall without too many distracting crowds or touts.

One of the most impressive aspects of The Great Wall is the gorgeous, green countryside in which it resides.

The grandiose structure careens around the highest part of each mountain it covers.

The day we chose to do the hike along the wall was well over 90 degrees with blazing sunshine. It was the first time we saw blue skies since we arrived to China and a welcome change from the smoggy haze of Beijing. It did, however, make for a fairly challenging trek through the midday sun. We thoroughly enjoyed the sweaty exertion!

Here we are before another steep ascent on the Jinshanling-Simatai route.

The ruinous condition of the route on this particular part of the wall can be quite treacherous. The steep, slick terrain is certainly for those accustomed to a hearty walk.

At the end of the four hour hike all we wanted was a cold beverage and...
...a ride to the bottom on "The Flying Fox"! Here's Rachel all strapped in and ready to fly.

There she goes!

The couple days we spent at the Forbidden City and The Great Wall certainly lived up to all childhood visions and previous expectations. While the intense heat and ubiquitous high season crowds convinced us to come during a different season next time around, they also assisted in making our visits very memorable experiences.

Next on Donkey Crossing: We finally leave Beijing after two weeks and head toward some of China's most important Buddhist sites: The Yungang Caves, Hanging Monastery and the five holy peaks of Wutai Shan.


Anonymous Emily said...

Weeeee! Yay! It is so fun to read your blog. Of course you rode the Flying Fox down the Great Wall of China. You guys crack me up.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Here it is a again: a zip line on the Great Wall, the old with the new. Also interesting to note that most of the tourist groups you describe are Chinese, not foreign. Just as much people watching as building watching--another strength of your blog. How many foreigners did you actually see in Beijing? Good shot of the steps on the Wall.

4:46 PM  

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