Often visitors provide the best opportunity to play being a “tourist at home”… exploring familiar sights with new eyes. A few years ago, I was fortunate to benefit from the reverse phenomenon in China.
During my first trip to China, I was battling a nasty cold. Undeterred, I still planned to see the Great Wall and enlisted the help of a dear friend from Canada – a bosa nova diva based in Beijing. She suggested we take a motorcycle tour – in theory a great idea. However, morning came and neither of us were in any shape to make the trek. The cold, dreary, overcast day didn’t help, however truth be told, we were just in no condition to do justice to one of the Seven Wonders of the World!
So the next time I travelled to Beijing, there was no way I was going to miss the Great Wall! Alas my musical enchantress was away… However I was ever so fortunate to find a new partner – a lovely young colleague took it upon herself to do the honours of introducing me to the Great Wall of China.
Naturally, her friends thought she was nuts – why bother going?? That’s the kind of day trip only tourists make – not someone from Beijing! However she was game, I was game and off we went.
After an amusing introduction to GPRS in China, and its rather remarkable lack of ability to find a much-needed petrol station, we made it to Badaling, nestled in Yanqing County.
We elected to walk up rather than take the cable car and certainly weren’t alone in our desire to pant up the steps. There were tourists from all over the world – and universally even those who started the climb briskly were doggedly lumbering up by the end. There really is a sense of achievement in making it up and wonder meandering along the wall.
We had a merry time and got a kick out of the paraphernalia sold. While amused by the Panda hat, the Mao cap made it to my nephew in Winnipeg, Canada.
The Great Wall conquered, our next priority was food – ideally something that reflected cuisine of the region. We weren’t disappointed and feasted on the most amazing meal. Even now, I can taste the eggplant, fish, corn bread, tea and more… Mmm…
So fabulous that we lost track of time and suddenly realized needed to dash to the airport lest I miss my Hong Kong flight.
I soon realized my friend has an inner “race car driver” that she unleashed on the highway to such success I reached the airport early! I’m convinced my speed demon friend beat a previous experience on the German autobahn when the father of my friendly family hosts decided to demonstrate just how fast their zippy car could go!
My great wall companion continues her adventures in Barcelona where she is studying. I can’t wait to return the “tourist” favour when she comes to India.
When was the last time you were a tourist in your own town?