What do China and Kings Cross have in common? You can’t visit either of them without checking out the wall. Unfortunately, the Chinese version didn’t have any heroin-addicted blokes to root, but it was plenty of fun just the same.
I wasn’t keen on visiting the main tourist part of the Great Wall ‘cos it’s crawling with people and has been rebuilt in the last few years and so isn’t authentic, so I found out about a quieter part a little bit further out of town. The problem with this was that I had to get out there by myself and, like everything else in China, it was bloody hard work. First I had to make my way to DongZhiMen Station (which I, of course, called Dog Semen Station) which was a challenge in itself because no taxi drivers here speak English, and once I got there the place was so yooj and infested with people that I had a hell of a time finding my bus. Finally, after dodging a bunch of dodgy scammers, I finally found the right bus, and started out on a trip that was supposed to be 90 minutes but was actually closer to three hours. With a full bladder. Just as I was about to embarrass myself on public transport for the second time in a few days, I saw the wall scrambling down a mountain and it was actually breathtaking. It really is an amazing structure when you see it with your own eyes.
I got out, bought myself some bizarre processed meat for lunch, and headed out to explore the wall. I first had to walk through some sort of water fun park complete with bungee jumping and speed boats, and it didn’t take long to notice everyone was staring at me. I was the only white person in a crowd of thousands and stood out like a person with a full set of teeth at a Souths game.
I took a chairlift to the top of the mountain and the view was simply incredible. Rivers, lakes and cliffs opened up below me as I zipped along far above the ground. And best of all, upon reaching the top, there was a cold beer waiting for me. If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing with beer.
It didn’t take long before the Chinese stopped merely staring at me and started asking to have their photo taken with me, leading to the unusual situation of being at one of the world’s most famous attractions, yet having everyone wanna snap shots of me. Take that, Great Wall, you glory-hogging bastard.
I took a stroll along the ridge towards a big, brick turret that was part of the wall and then… the walk stopped before it really started. I was pissed off, because I didn’t really get to see anything, and there wasn’t really any wall to walk along. So, in the spirit of adventure, I hopped a barbed-wire fence and started exploring the place by myself, away from the crowds. And didn’t I have a time! After scrambling down a cliff I found myself on a long-abandoned part of the wall on my lonesome. It looked nothing like the bit of the wall you see in the photos – it was little more than a pile of rocks, really – but that’s exactly what I was after. Authenticity.
I bush bashed a bit, stood on the edge of a cliff and looked straight down on a 200m vertical drop, and felt like the last man on Earth, a wonderfully refreshing sensation in the most populous country on the planet. The only thing that could’ve made it better is if I could’ve seen more than a few metres through the fog. Oh, and if there was a chick there begging for a root that would’ve been cool, too. Just sayin’.
All good things must come to an end, so I finally ran back through the bush, over the wall, through the barbed-wire fence, down the chairlift and onto the bus for another epic journey back to Beijing. By the time I got back to my shitty little room I was stuffed and debated staying in and watching TV, but what would be the fun in that?
I grabbed a massive can of German wheat beer and strolled back to the Bell Tower district while smoking a durry and feeling like king of the world. I don’t usually smoke, but they’re cheap and the air quality is horrendous anyway, so why not? In my search for dinner I found a wonderful little hutong (that’s Chinese for alley… I think) full of restaurants, clubs and street food. Taking a break from Maccas and KFC, I went for something a bit more exotic – deep fried scorpions, cicadas, grasshoppers and silkworm crysalises! And they were actually pretty nice, even if they didn’t provide a lot of meat to murder my hunger.
Not that it mattered too much, because that just left more room for beer. I found a fun-looking bar full of hot chicks and good music, and ordered myself a massive jug of beer for the grand price of 20 Melmac Bucks. As usually happens in these situations, it wasn’t long till I was having a mag with a bunch of strangers – in this case a couple of Aussie filmmakers in town for the Beijing Film Festival. They were good blokes, and it was a relief to hear an Aussie accent and be able to carry out a conversation in proper English.
We got absolutely shithoused and, of course, I ended up picking up the best-looking sort in the place, a gorgeous little brunette from Goulburn called Sara. At 29 she was many years older than my usual cut-off, but I forgot all about that because she was hotter than a Pakistani’s lunch. Go, Row!
It really was a great night, one of the best I’ve had in a long time (which is saying a lot, because I’ve had some killer piss-ups lately) and things just got better when I sprayed the footpath with half-digested insects on the way home. You can’t buy class like that.
I wrote this on May 1, 2012, which was International Pumpkin Pushing Day. Push those pumpkins!