China 1999

Written by Al Wong (Write to me)

This is my experience in Beijing, China in the Summer of 1999. If you came to this webpage first, it's better if you start from the beginning of the story.

Wednesday, July 14th
The Great Wall of China

Last night, Cathy turned off the washing machine at 11pm but didn't unplug it. Sometime after 12 midnight someone turned it back on. Of course, this eventually woke me up again. At her request, I woke Cathy up at 1am to turn the machine off again.

Hey, they fixed my toilet today! It only took them over two weeks to do it. There's no leak around the bottom of the toilet anymore. They put all kinds of extra sealant around the edges. They also fixed the toilet handle. Sort of. The handle now points outward and you push it down to flush, but the handle is attached loosely and fell off last night! Talk about shoddy workmanship. I had to open the tank to re-attach the toilet handle.

Today's activities include:

    [Great Wall]
  • The Great Wall of China. We visited the Mutian Yu entrance which is a two hour drive from the language academy. Cathy thought this entrance would attract less tourists. We left early around 7am. It was a long drive.

    When we finally get there, we had a choice between taking a gondola directly up to the Great Wall or taking an hour hike up a trail to the Great Wall. I chose the gondola ride as I wanted to maximize my time on the Wall for pictures and just to walk on the Great Wall itself.

    [Tower on Great Wall] It turns out you have to buy three separate tickets to do everything. One for the gondola (round trip), one for entrance into the Great Wall, and one for entrance into this park-like place with a cave.

    First we walked through this park-like place called, China Fancy Stone Work Town, with unusual rock formations, a minor waterfall into a pond with goldfish, a rock garden and into a cave with stalactites(sp?) and colored spotlights for picture taking. It was OK. We found a vendor who sells those ceramic dolls that pee when you pour hot water on them. They were funny and only cost $3.00RMB each so I bought a couple.

    [Al at the Great Wall] I took lots of pictures of the Wall. I was kind of disappointed as the Beijing smog was also here and you really couldn't appreciate the beautiful landscape. The smog covered the area like a blanket. There weren't many tourists up here because of the distance of this entrance from the city and because we arrived here on a weekday.

    As we were walking back, the little stall vendors near the entrance accosted us like crazy. I guess this is low season for them and they need the money. I ended up getting a pretty hand sewn quilt with panda bears on it and a cool fox fur hat quite inexpensively. The hat fits me a little tight though. I wonder if I could stretch it out.

    It was already 1pm by the time we left the Great Wall and too late to go back to the language academy for lunch so we stopped by a local restaurant to eat. The tables had tablecloths but had a thin plastic above this and the plastic kept sticking to your arms or blowing up with the breeze. Also, the cups and bowls were chipped. However the food was good. It was a feast!

  • Cyber Cafe Run. I had about 3 hours of free before we go night shopping so I decide to make a cyber cafe run. For the first hour I rested a little and then wrote the above entry for the Great Wall, copied it onto a floppy and took a taxi to the cyber cafe. Traffic is bad so it took longer to get there than I figured.

    Now I have about 1.5 hours. First a stop at the Kodak place to drop off 4 rolls of film I need developing. They say it's going to take 3 days. I know I have free time on Saturday so I OK it. Then I ask for 4X6 photos (si chung liu or liu cun) with a matte finish (bu mian). They say they can only produce 4X5 photos and they have to be a shiny finish. I'm a little disappointed but I go for it anyway.

    At the cyber cafe, I finally discover their real charges. I know you need to deposit $20.00RMB to use their computers. What I didn't know is the charge is actually $8.00RMB per hour of usage with a 15 minute minimum! Now I know.

    I manage to upload my new daily entries and send 4 email messages before I have to go. I spent 43 minutes there and the charge was $6.00RMB. A bargain.

    I take a taxi back to the academy. The driver saids he knows where to go but had to stop twice to ask for directions. We finally end up driving through that same long and narrow dirt trail to get to the academy! The taxi stops in front of the academy just in time to see the minibus pulled out of the front gate. Just in the nick of time! I tell the taxi driver to follow that car! We drive behind the minibus for several blocks, honking the horn and flashing the highbeams before the driver, Zhang shi fu, finally stops. It was hilarious.

    So I thank the taxi driver and board the minibus to...

  • Night Shopping. We drive to this place called Wang fu jing da jie. There are all kinds of food stalls and little shops on this street. The food looked good and smelled great but it is advisable not to eat anything from the street vendors or you might get sick. I wish I had more time to spend here just to look around.

    On one end of the street, behind the street construction, is a major mall that is own by a Hong Kong corporation. Cathy gave us an hour to go shopping and advised that we try the mall first.

    I thought the mall was a waste of time. I spent over 20 minutes wandering around looking for a pair of shorts before I got smart and decided to go to the other shops. I'm glad I did because I found a pair of khaki shorts in another shop that fit me a little too big but were quite acceptable for $40.00RMB. Another bargain.

    We were supposed to meet at the McDonalds' entrance at 8:45pm but Andrew came late to meet us. Then we walked through the market again one last time to meet our minibus for the drive back to the language academy.

The Next Day China 1999 My Writings Al's Wild Web Page

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Last updated : November 8, 1999
Copyright 1999 Al Wong, Los Angeles, California, USA
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