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I know I’ve been neglecting the blog shamelessly, but lately I’ve been feeling like I’m in the throes of the Southern Demon (ie. laziness). No inspiration whatsoever, I spend all my time attending music gigs and doodling. I’ve watched the whole series of “Firefly” (why is there only one season?!) and am halfway through the weird awesomeness that is “Arrested Development”. My only remotely productive activity is drawing naked people in a bar (don’t ask). Figuring it wouldn’t do to force it, I’ve decided to put chronology aside and write a short post about something random – this is why we’re going to jump now from Hangzhou and into the middle of my trip round the Big C. Ladies and gentlemen – the Great Wall of China.

To be honest, I wasn’t too keen on seeing it. As with most big touristy attractions, I was expecting to be disappointed (I’ve no doubt the Wall is amazing if you can actually get to the solitary places, but it wasn’t an option for me). The only reason I went at all is because I knew people would be asking about it (“What? You were in Beijing and you didn’t go to the Great Wall?!”). I’ve decided to cross it off the list once and for all, so the next time I can do something more interesting.

But you know what? I actually enjoyed it a lot. For one thing, getting there is quite convenient. I was planning to see the Ming Dynasty Tombs on the way back, so I decided to go to the most crowded spot, which is Badaling – all you have to do is to get yourself to the Beijing North Station and get a ticket for the massive sum of money which is 6 yuan (there is no separate window for the Great Wall and they only start selling the tickets half an hour before the departure, therefore you’re allowed to jump the queue – really!). Then you wait for the train, which may or may not arrive on time. Then, the minute the start letting people through, don’t be surprised when everyone starts running at full speed. No, the train will wait for you. It’s just that the tickets don’t have seat numbers, and an hour on a spotlessly clean and modern train is such a drudge that you obviously can’t make it through without a chair. Anyway, whether you’re sitting or standing, another big advantage of taking the train is that you can start admiring bits of the Wall during your trip. When you arrive, go forward for some 10 minutes, pass all the touristy stalls and shops and walk to the ticket booths. The bit open for tourists at Badaling is actually quite short: you can decide if you want to go left or right. The right leg is longer, but also more popular. If you choose the left one, it will be shorter, but if you’re lucky, like I was, you’ll actually have the Wall to yourself for a few minutes.

Thou shalt commit no nuisance!

This tower was past the fragment open for tourist. We did consider climbing down there, but we quickly realised there’s always a guard nearby. The reason we knew it was because every time he came closer, a bunch of locals selling walnuts and snacks had to climb over and hide in the bushes, only to return a few minutes later.

Yup, pretty steep.

But quite amazing, despite the cloudy weather and the people.

Love Passageway, or in other words, the entrance for the disabled. That’s on the Beijing-bound railway station. And let me tell you, love doesn’t come anywhere near it. People almost died in the crunch while trying to push their way onto the train. Not kidding. A mother with a baby in her arms? Get out of my way!

All in all, much more entertaining and impressive than I’d have given it credit for, so I can definitely recommend it. Even that most cliché, people-ridden bit that is Badaling, and that’s saying a lot. And yes, the train too. Now forgive me, it’s Monday, naked people in the bar waiting to be drawn.