Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Great Wall..and some great bargains-- by Eric

So I’m going to skip talk about breakfast (with Milano’s help, I acquired some cold milk and had Cheerios – China has Cheerios!) and all that and skip to the important parts.  The Great Wall:  We left the hotel at 8am and drove for an hour and a half.  We parked the van at the base of the hill and took a vote on whether we’d walk up or take the tram.  Adam pointed out that since we’re only at the Great Wall of China one time in our lives, we couldn’t possibly look anyone in the eye and tell them that we opted to take a tram to the top instead of climbing.  We climbed that darn mountain.  Kelly – our tour guide – wasn’t thrilled with the decision to climb the mountain (apparently most tour groups opt to take the tram), but she survived (albeit barely from what I hear).
                We started our walk up the mountain.  The sides of the road were absolutely lined with people selling random souvenirs, but we didn’t want to carry things up with us, so we passed them by for the time being.  Climbing the mountain itself was actually quite an endeavor.  There were stairs, but there were a LOT of stairs.  For some reason, I opted to ditch the group and go at my own pace, but by the time I hit the top, I was sweaty and out of breath.  Surely, I’ll be feeling it today in my legs when the morning hits me.  When I got to the wall itself, I took a seat on a stone ridge and waited for everybody else to arrive (which wasn’t long at all).  This was the first time I used my inhaler this trip, but it was more for the sake of the pollution than the exercise (so much smog!).
                Next to arrive were Adam and Conner, followed closely by Caitlyn.  A short while later, Milano came trudging up the path (while making another video of his hike).  The rest of the group came a bit  after Milano.  When everybody caught up, we started our walk along the top of the Wall.  “Walk” doesn’t really do justice to the trek – it was more a climb.  The Great Wall snakes over the mountaintops, so it’s constantly changing slopes and changing to stairs.  We walked for around an hour before heading down a guard tower and to the exit.  Truly, the Great Wall is worth the climb up the stairs and then some.
                When we got back down the stairs, we separated to do a bit of shopping.  I seem to have developed a talent (and addiction) for haggling on this trip.  My first attempt was for a set of ceramic chopsticks.  The woman started out asking for 185RMB, but I got her down to 20.  Next, I tried my luck on a dragon statue at another stand.  The woman started out asking 285RMB and after some lengthy haggling, I got her down to 100.  I’m sure I could’ve gotten her lower, but I was tired and bored with arguing over the same item for so long.  My final attempt of the day was a purchase on Milano’s behalf.  Milano had his eye on a chess set that one stand was asking 240-something RMB for (if memory serves).  We found the set at another stand just before we left and he asked me to help him out.  This woman was only asking 85 for the set (considerably cheaper than the 240 starting price of the other stand), but I figured we could talk her down a bit.  We only asked for 50 because we didn’t have the time to work her down to 30.  She was reluctant, but in the end we won out.  By the time the group was leaving, she was chasing me down saying “ok, 50, ok ok!”
                After we finished with the rest of the day’s events and got back to the hotel, I unloaded my recently-acquired souvenirs (including one ceramic of chopsticks, one dragon statue, and several small chunks of the Great Wall.  Oh haggling, I shall miss you.

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