Our departure from Harbin and transit to Shanhaiguan was one of the best we have ever had. The train was clean, quiet, fast and without the usual dramas associated with Chinese transits. No spitting, no yelling into phones, no standing room sold between the seats, no kids peeing on the floor or women vomiting. The trip lasted 7 hours but was entirely uneventful and was peaceful and truly pleasant.
We got off in Shanhaiguan to find ourselves in the google maps limbo that sometimes happens…this means our hotel was somewhere between 200 metres and 6 kilometres from the train station. We were near the main drag and our hotel number was at number 118 of that drag…how far could it really be…especially when we get to the road and find we are at number 36. So we started to walk…for no known reason it ended up being another 5.4 kilometres before we reached the hotel. All of this with Jill carrying an 18 kg backpack plus 6 kilo day bag while recovering from her cooties…while I was hatching my own personal batch of cooties and carting a 23 kg backpack and 5-6 kilo day bag.
The location where the wall meets the Bohai Sea is nicknamed Old Dragon’s Head. Since arriving in China this was one of the main things that I wanted to see as I had been told how stunning a sight it was. While the wall was spectacular the experience however was not. The old dragons head is a relatively small place but with a huge number of visitors all fighting for room on the peninsula of wall over the water. Add to this the ignorance and belligerence of most Chinese tourists and the experience was hellish that just needed to be got through so you could get the cool photos.
Having left the wall meeting the ocean we hopped a bus to the old walled city which was built as a tourist thing but really never got developed beyond the central streets running N/S and E/W. The rest was pretty much run down, vacant and dishevelled. Having walked through we got to the other side and started climbing the hill as the other thing here is the first mountain pass of the wall.
Unlike the ocean end the mountain pass on the other hand was fantastic. It was on the opposite side of the city and the Chinese tourists generally do not believe in hiking to see anything…If you cannot be delivered to the door in an electric cart, then they will not go… This meant that we had the place largely to ourselves as opposed to the hoards at the dragons head. There was the odd bus load of Russian tourists but they were easy and hassle free.
Alas the next day my cooties had taken full effect and I was the one in need of a day laying up. A down day and then hopped the bus to the train station for our return to Beijing. We had almost reached the end of our China odyssey…Two weeks in Beijing and we would be leaving.