My only mistake with booking that Great Wall Hike is doing it on the first full day of my trip. I had underestimated on how taxing the trip would be, with its steep inclines, and continuous slopes. That, or I had overestimated my level of fitness (insert witty, sarcastic remark here). My BMI may not be ideal (yet), but I'm not frail nor lampa, so I expected a good workout. So, having said that, be prepared for the Jinshaling-Simatai trek, it's a tortuous ride, but an fantastic exhilarating one.

My knees!

With that out of the way, here's how the trip went. I signed up a group trip in CouchSurfing and that effort netted 9 participants, including my 2 roommates. Transportation cost 115 CNY and entrance fees to the park totalled 85 CNY for Jinshaling, Simatai and the Simatai suspension bridge. Our driver dropped us off at Jinshaling, and picked us up at Simatai 5 hours later. Some things that you need prior to the climb: it's a 12km walkathon, so bring good shoes. There aren't any food stops, so make sure you have enough sustenance. Vendors will hound you as usual, and the prices aren't so bad to be honest. 40 Pesos for a bottle of mineral water may be expensive, but it'll save the 67-year old lady (and her knees) from following you. I didn't buy, as I brought 1.5 liters of water.

There will be 32 awesome towers on the trip spread across some 12 kilometers. The weather was fantastic when I got there, the wind was breezy, sun was shining, and the temperature was a reasonable 3 degrees. It was a nice crisp walk, but I was sweating buckets due to the physical exertion of climbing the steps.


So enough of the chatter, I'll just let the photos do the talking. Don't forget, this is the Jinshaling/Simatai portion, which is different from the touristy Badaling section, replete with *I Survived The Great Wall* shirts. Don't go there if you want an intimate, rustic memory of the Great Wall. The sore hamstrings, quads, knees, ankles and calves are truly worth it.

Can you see how small the people are?

See ya there!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Day 1: Starting With Temples

Tropical Manila has yet to taste the wonders of a single digit climate, but don't deny it - you can barely take a bath at 6am two months ago without shivering. I liked that. I must say that I like the cold far more that the hot and humid climate we have, and not because I'm suffering from a 'grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side' syndrome. That brought me to Beijing, China where according to Google, has max/min temperatures were 8/-3. Yahoo, freezertime! If I had written this while I was in Beijing, my fingers would've fallen off, and pieces of my chapped lips would've been littering the keyboard. Yuck.

Before I gross most of the readers out (apart from showing my self-shot photos, all 174 of them), Day 1 started with an early flight to Beijing, landing at around noon time, then I proceeded to meet my host Aaron. I must say that Beijing exceeded my expectation in terms of ease of navigation. The road signs are easy to read, the city is laid out on a perfect grid, and the orientations uses the NEWS standard. Directions are absolute - bei, nan, dong, and xi. You'd never get lost as long as you now which direction you're headed. Street names are descriptive too, so that helps.

The may may be small, but the city is massive!

Having said that, English speakers for locals are still scarce. Good thing that I played a lot of Charades when I was in high school. I knew those board games were worth cutting class for.

More on Day 1, I decided to take it easy and just drop by the Yonghegong Lama Temple, a Tibetan lamasery (it's a real word, seriously) in NE Beijing. There were pretty cool corners in the sprawling courtyards, and I ended up taking quite a lot of solo photos. I'll spare you the agony of that, but I'll be posting some photos at the Temple Of Earth. The park may not be as impressive as the others that waited for me, but it surely gave a good preview of sights that await.

Lama Temple in North Beijing

Yonghe Temple, which is the same as the picture above

Altar Of Earth. One of 5 altars scattered in the city. Wee!
Monday, March 23, 2009

No Time To Blog Yet...

But here's what's going to be large this summer on my music player:

Frankmusik's debut album fighting off the return of Calvin Harris and Just Jack. Rounded out by indie-altronica from Owl City. That Saltwater Room is just darned cute!

In the next issue: Breaking a promise, then breaking legs.