Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston
Monday was the first official day of the tour and we met our Viking guide, who went by the English name Jack. All the Asian Viking staff both on the tours and on the boat all had an English name which was so helpful to us. We later learned there was another group, led by Leo, doing the exact same tour we were so our groups were often at sites at the same time.
Our groups were kept to reasonable sizes: 31 for our group and probably 26 for Leo’s group. This made it easy to fit one guide’s group on a motorcoach (except in Tibet but that’s a story for later). We got to know each other over the course of the next two weeks and all-in-all we had a pretty good group. While there were certainly some folks we got along with better than others there were no really obnoxious folks in our little band.
After an early breakfast we boarded the motorcoach and drove about 1.5 hours northwest of the city to the area of Badaling where there’s a well-preserved section of the Great Wall as well as all of the tourist shops. It rained the whole time on our drive out and it rained most of the time we were climbing the wall and I do mean climbing. I was surprised at how steep it was in sections – and some without stairs so it meant walking up steep inclines on slick, centuries-old stones. The only good thing about the weather is that it kept the tourist traffic down. I’ve seen photos where the walkways were so crowded you could barely move but that was not the case during our vist. Unfortunately it meant our photos didn’t come out great but it was definitely a thrill to get to see it.
I didn’t realize that different Warring States had built different sections, some as early as between the 8th and 5th centuries BC, continuing all the way into the 12th century AD. It was apparently Emperor Ming who stitched the various sections together in the 14th century to help prevent Mongol raids.
This display welcomes visitors. It’s along one side of the walkway up to the entrance.
On the other side of the road is this retaining wall with amazing artwork about the wall carved into it.
Even the trash cans and recycling bins reminded you where you were!
Here’s the section where the wall crosses what is now an “official vehicles only” street yet the archway is still wide enough for modern vehicles.
The plaza area had a number of shops and the turnstiles area was painted bright colors.
There were small towers every so often.
Some of us hiked out fairly far while others of us didn’t stray too far. It’s hard to tell from this photo but this is a fairly steeply-inclined section of the wall.
Here’s a view of that section from the plaza.
And a slightly longer shot.
Like every other old public place, the wall has graffiti!
The towers offered a little protection from the rain though the windows were, of course, just holes in the wall and the rain could blow in. But it allowed us to take a shot of the plaza below.
The Great Wall is, of course, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the first of several we got to visit on this trip. Contrary to popular myth, the wall is not visible with the naked eye from outer space. There are disputed claims that it is visible from low Earth orbit but it is said the weather conditions must be perfect and the viewer must know exactly where to look. As the coloring of the wall tends to blend in with the surrounding area when seen from orbit, even looking through a camera’s viewfinder makes it hard to discern.
While I knew some sections of the wall were in hilly portions of the country it had never crossed my mind that we wouldn’t be on a flat section – not that I’d really given it any thought. I would like to re-visit on a day with better weather though I know it might be more crowded. Perhaps a different section would be nice as well but either way, I’m glad to have seen it.