Wednesday, April 3, 2019

China memories, part 4 : the Great Wall at Badaling

We were up and out early today because we had an early train to catch! Stopped in to pick up dumplings at the Q -- egg, black fungus, and mushroom? Yes please.

We walked to Jiushutan, the subway station around the corner, for our first Beijing subway ride. And once we had worked out that we needed to put our bags through an x-ray machine before going into the station, we were fine. We stared at the ticket machine for a minute, wondering how to purchase the reusable card and load money onto it, but an attendant came out, showed us a carefully hand-written explanation in English, and then sorted us out.

The stations and trains were spotless and -- as it was still pretty early -- not overly crowded. We giggled as we noticed that everyone had fancier, newer phones than we did. We even transferred lines -- excellent signage!

We reached Huoying station in under 40 minutes, and easily spotted the signage to the train station:

As there was construction in the area, we wondered if we would have a hard time getting there -- until we reasoned that this is the public transport to the most-visited section of the Great Wall. Yep, signage was good:

Then into the station, where we discovered that the schedule had just changed over, and we had missed a train by 12 minutes. Oh well, that just meant we were early for the next train!

The station was undergoing renovations, but had plenty of seats so we settled in to wait a while. As we waited, the station filled up around us, making us wonder if there would be a struggle to get on the train. 

As we neared the departure time, people started lining up near the platform entrances, and there was a bit of a push when they opened... but then the train felt really empty. Again, this is off-season, even for locals! We picked a table in the snack car, which meant we could watch lots of people come in to buy pot noodles. 

Pretty uneventful train ride -- apart from counting the number of snacks one particular passenger consumed -- and then we arrived at Badaling. We followed the crowd from the station and were amused to be the only non-Asians on the train. As we walked up the hill I saw a sign for "funicular" and we turned off ... the only people to do so. It made us wonder if, somehow, it wasn't open, but we rode an escalator up to a plaza and a woman at a ticket window sold us tickets to both the wall and one-way up the funicular. 

Have I mentioned I love a souvenir ticket???

Then up another escalator to a building ... still no other humans in sight. We wondered if we had somehow been ... not tricked, but not told the whole truth. As in, sure, you can *buy* a ticket, but the train isn't running for another 3 hours...

This wasn't reassuring:

But we went in, handed our tickets to an attendant who punched them, and then waived toward a shiny, empty funicular. 

We had no idea if we would wait until the train filled up, or what would happen. Still, I eagerly stood at the front because I am a transport nerd.

I am 100% genuinely excited in this photo. Damn I love weird transport. I think Wil has a "my wife is insane, let's just humor her" look in his eyes.

 After a moment or two, the doors closed and the two of us were taken on a private ride up the hill.  Note the way the track worker waves at 0:19 -- yeah, I waved at him first.

Then we arrived at the station at the top, just below the wall

Heartbreakingly, the Commodity Department ("Gift Shop"?) was closed for the season.

Then up a flight of stairs, past a sadly unmanned "certificate" booth (!!!!)...

and, bam, GREAT WALL.

Badaling is the most restored stretch of wall, one of the closest stretches to Beijing, and the most visited stretch of wall. It often has huge crowds, but early this morning it wasn't crowded at all. Our only downside was the heavy fog/smog limiting views. But that's okay -- we'd had great weather on Monday at the wall!

Empty on the south side of the wall.

Note the guardians on this watchtower -- this wasn't just for storage but probably housed an officer.

We came to a wall across the Wall ... past which one isn't allowed to go.

Looking over the little wall, we could see that there was miles of highly restored Wall, all bristling with surveillance cameras.

This stretch has sturdy medal rails on either side -- I wonder if they want to take those out and rebuild the stone edging?

We turned around and headed to the north part of this section... but not before Wil played with the selfie stick...

This probably isn't really what the Wall looked like -- Mutianyu is probably more authentic -- but it sure is lovely.

You can see the north side of this section stretching off into the haze -- along with the visitor center in the valley below.

Though the wall here is wide and very restored, it doesn't mean it is a gentle stroll. This isn't some weird trick of the picture -- this stretch is so steep you can't see the bottom from the top.

Seriously, this is crazy steep.

Here's a shot back up the stairs to the top. So steep!

We continued on toward the north side, and the wall got a little more crowded. 

We started up the slope to the north towers. 

No stairs, just a hill ... no wonder they have handrails! I was surprised how steep it was.

After enjoying the north side, we decided to continue our "weird modes of transport" tour ... and take the SLIDING CAR down!!!

We paid our fares and joined the short line next to the track. 

This "sliding car" probably used to be a toboggan like at Mutianyu -- the cars have individual brakes on them -- but they have now attached them into a chain behind a motorized cart. They probably used that to bring the cars up the hill, and figured they could control things better on the way down. So now it's more like a child's train.

Here comes our "train"! As we waited in line a man pushed past the lady behind me -- who gave the interloper A STERN TALKING TO. I couldn't understand the words, but I knew exactly what was being said! (And the interloper slunk back to the back of the line...)

These translations are always good for vocabulary building. Trochlear???

I didn't follow *all* the instructions ... I took a video of part of the ride. Okay, it's not particularly exciting...

Still, amusing.

Less amusing was the piles and piles of extra cars at the bottom, some of them totally destroyed.

Then as we were walking out I said, "I wish someone just had a sign that said, 'MEDALS 10 YUAN' and I would freakin' buy one." Wil said, "Like that sign for 5?" #winning. So we had a medal engraved, and we are Very Proud.

Then some wandering up to the entrance, where we considered more dumplings from another chain of "our" dumpling shop, but skipped. We made our way back to the train station, got some snacks, including CUCUMBER FLAVORED CRISPS, which were a revelation, and waited a bit. We joined the queue but sorta messed up by trying for a space in the club car. Still, we found nice seats and had a relaxing ride back to Beijing.

When we got back to Huangtudian station there was an odd crush to exit, and then a long walk to the subway. We decided to get out in Gulao -- the cool part of town -- and walked to Punk Rock Noodle for a proper, sit-down meal. Really nice food -- Wil ordered a fried noodle, I had a fresh noodle with veggies -- both delicious. Two local beers too; also nice, if not very noticeable. 

Then another walk through the shopping street, stopping to admire some beautiful Lord Rabbit figures. But where would we put them?

Then around the lakes to home, and bourbon in the courtyard. Another perfect day!

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