Last Two Days in Beijing
It was back to Beijing after a long and lazy time in Wuhan. It felt good to be back in Beijing. We decided to go to the Beijing opera in the evening despite the ho-hum reviews from friends. Since we didn’t know how and from where to get the tickets for the opera directly, we took the tour organized by the hostel we were staying in. The price was 150 Rmb per person and I suppose this is the standard rate across hotels. The van came at 6 to pick us up for a 7:30 show. An awful waste of 1 and a half hours I must say! The van picked a few other people from other hostels as well. We reached quite early and kept waiting for the show to begin. The rest of the people trickled in slowly at first and then by hordes. Not many Chinese in the hall. I suppose they know what a humbug it is! But anyway, the Chinese really know how to make money. Apart from the ticket cost, they also charge for the program cost, the headphone rental etc. Didn’t have much use of either unless you plan to take the former as some kind of souvenir. The opera started with some kind of musical recital. Thankfully, few lines were flashed across the hall in English. Though there weren’t many lines spoken, the translation helped set the context and understand the opera better. Surprisingly, it wasn’t all that bad. In fact, some of the acrobatics on stage kept us engaged. The first piece was about a military soldier disguised as a civilian to protect some exiled general and how he meets with the villain who wants to stop him. The second was about a nymph who falls in love with some scholar and fights a battle with the Gods who are angry at her for falling in love with a mortal. Or at least this is how I interpreted it. Not bad at all, but nothing to recommend either!
The next morning we had to get up early to go to the wall. We chose to go to the Mutianyu section rather than the closer and more touristy Badaling section and I’m glad we did. Since the Mutianyu section is not greatly frequented, its not easy to get there either. We had two options: Either take the tour organized by the hostel (which does not allow flexibility and needless sight seeing you’d want to skip) or take the public transport. This was the nth time I thanked God that Panu knew Mandarin. We took the subway till Dongzhimen and got onto bus no 916 till Huairou International Conference Centre) and then a cab to the wall. To get to the wall (which is at quite a height), one can either take the slideway or the cable car. Having already experienced the toboggan in Moshan, we took the cable car this time. It was a short ride and most times Panu was petrified that our cable car would snap or topple or some such thing. We reached at 10 and there were only a few tourists around; hardly 50 I reckon.
We were free to walk around without elbowing our way ahead and no hawkers trying to sell you wares. Sure we came across a couple selling water and cold drinks but they just let us be when we didn’t want to buy anything. We walked towards the steep section of the wall which took us about 2 hours and a half. The fact that we were walking on the Great Wall was exhilarating! I mean its not everyday that you get to see one of the wonders of the world. But all the talk of being able to see it from the moon is all hogwash. You could hardly see the distant sections of the wall; they were so tiny even from a few kilometres away.
This was the second last day of my stay in China and it was time to go back home. The thought wasn’t particularly enticing. Most Indians crib about the food in China, yet mercifully I had no problem at all. Maybe because I’m not a vegetarian. Some of the poignant memories I have are that of the people I met during my travel: Lien Cheng, the Han Chinese we met in the train to Tibet, the Tibetan lady who gave us shelter in her tea-house during the riots in Lhasa, Andy who I met in Lhasa during the curfew hours in the hostel, and the Kham woman with turquoise in her hair.