Today I walked on the Great Wall with my husband and Bil (my Brother In Law), who lives in Beijing.
I should probably mention about now that, on Saturday and (especially) on Sunday, Beijing had the heaviest snowfall it’s had in sixty years (you can read more at http://felicitybloomfield.wordpress.com ).
So we caught a train (10 points for awesomeness) through the countryside (10×10 points for awesomeness) after heavy snow (10x10x10 points for awesomeness). The day reached maximum awesomeness before we even reached the Wall.
Beijing is a beautiful urban landscape made even more beautiful by the snow. I woke up at 7:30, with the sun, and saw a perfect blue sky. By midday the sky above still looked good, but every horizon was hazy with pollution.
I realised today that the reason I keep coughing when I go outside is that the pollution outside is even worse than inside the house (because the outside pollution is refreshed daily, and the filthy stuff takes a little while to really get inside – which, of course, it does. It’s the same air). The air of Beijing is so bad it irritates my throat. Yet it still has blue sky.
As we rode the train to Badaling we passed several industrial places belching smoke into the bright blue sky. Over the course of the day, the pollution grew visibly worse. For the first time, I realised that pollution isn’t something that makes things worse over decades and generations – it makes things worse minute by minute. I saw it with my own (swollen and irritated) eyes.
But it was still a beautiful day.
My partner has never been overseas, so the sudden change from flat Beijing land to instant sharp mountain peaks blew him away. Me too 😉 We saw several small structures perched in unlikely places on the way.
We were hungry and cold by the time we reached Badaling, so we had lunch. I remembered having “thousand year old eggs” in China when I visited many years ago, and how it looked like boiled egg that was turning black with age, but tasted just fine – so I ordered something translated as, “Preserved eggs”. I thought it’d be the same thing (and maybe it was, just a regional variation).
It was a little like egg-flavoured jello, and I barely managed to finish a single bite (the yolk part left a green residue on my chopsticks, too). Fortunately the boys were fine with it.
And then we went to the Wall. Because of the bitter cold Winter, there weren’t many people. We walked to the highest nearby tower (leftward, for those who’ve been there) and it was very very cold and very very hard. My legs shook with exhaustion, and breathing hard just brought Siberian wind into my lungs. Being in the mountains meant it was much colder than Beijing. Being ON the mountain was much worse. Wind hits the mountain and flies up it, gathering friends along the way, then BAM it rushes straight over the wall and then (presumably) wanders off at a more sedate pace. Many snow scrapers were at work, and we saw several trucks taking away loads of snow (to dump in the next province over, I bet).
Bil’s drinking water was increasingly solid (he says that “usually happens at around -15 degrees”), my pen stopped working (not that I attempted to write anything until we were back down at Badaling), and although I’m usually comfortable in just my voluminious skirts in Beijing, I was very uncomfortable today in my thermals, tracksuit pants, AND voluminious skirts. Much urg. My super-powered down jacket didn’t stop the wind any more.
But it was utterly stunning, and worth every second.
Every day I’m in China, I try to eat as much interesting Chinese food as possible, and blog about the most delicious one. (So far, the preserved egg is the only thing I haven’t loved.)
Today’s taste of the day is actually Vietnamese. Although my partner and I are SOMEWHAT excited about the huge and delicious variety of Chinese food on offer (most Australian Chinese food is very Southern in style, which leaves out a lot of excellent stuff), Beijing is truly a world city, with spectacularly good food from. . . everywhere. (Bil’s Chinese housemate is becoming an Italian chef, for example.)
I ordered a dish I unfortunately can’t remember the name of. But it was a deliciously thin, crispy pancake (my absolute favourite kind) wrapped around mushroom, shrimp and shredded chicken and served with lettuce, crispy bean sprouts, and a sauce (which I also can’t remember the name of, but it was like honey and lemon with chilli pieces). The menu instructed me to cut up the crepe, wrap the pieces in lettuce, and dip them in the sauce. I did, and it was excellent.
A random man wandered by and asked about our food. We swooned a little, and said it was delicious. “Oh good,” he said, “because I own this restaurant.”
When we were on the wall, I kept an eye out for Jimmy Bind, but didn’t see him. I hope for his sake he was taped to the lee side of the wall. Wherever he was, he was freezing his shapely arse off. (But is just too darn heroic to whine about it like I am.)