Wednesday, June 25: Chengde, China
7:30 The free hotel breakfast consists of various pickled vegetables, miso soup, other items that might go down well late at night but which I cannot get too excited about at 7:30. I grab two small steamed buns and head to the truck. They’re pretty good. I should have taken more.
8:10 Mark and Beck get on the truck with a take-out breakfast from McDonalds, or Macca’s as all Australians would say.
9:00 Our first stop is the twin pagodas of Chengde. We climb to the top of a mountain and do a long loop around both pagodas. And by “top of the mountain” I mean the base of the large protrusion on which the pagodas sit. It’s not possible to reach the pagodas without about 300 feet of rope.
12:00 Lunch is at a restaurant adjacent to the hotel – which is adjacent to the Great Wall but quite a ways from civilization. Jason orders 10 dishes for 8 people. We all get a chance to try everything, the vegetarians are happy, and nobody is stuck with a large plate full of something they weren’t expecting.
13:30 Some of the others head to a more remote section of the Wall but since there were absolutely zero tourists near our hotel, I opt to hike up the mountain that is just outside our door. Within an hour I’m on the wall. For most of the next five hours I’m the only person in sight. There are times that I can hear voices in the distance but I only see four people before it’s time to head back to the hotel. This would not be possible if we weren’t 300 km outside Beijing.
19:15 We return to the restaurant where we had lunch and are treated to an even better and bigger dinner. This cannot go on for 7 weeks.