Thursday June 2, 2016

No record of our Mad Midlife adventure in China would be complete without a paragraph or three (plus pix) about the world’s longest security fence. So here goes:

With just 48 hours left in this mind-boggling ancient/modern land, we drove through mountains north of Beijing in search of the Great Wall of China. This awe-inspiring structure was first erected 2000 years ago by order of Emperor Qin (yes, the same Buried Army guy).

Why did he do it? To protect China from invading Mongols and Huns.

How long is it? Well, we saw just a tiny section, snaking and twisting its way across peaks and ridges like a monster dragon – but the Wall’s total length varied throughout the centuries as successive dynasties added bits of their own. Researchers now reckon that its true all-up length is more than the often-quoted 8000 kms – much more – with some claims as high as (hold onto your hat) 21,000 kms!

Unbelievable, right? (By way of comparison, New Zealand from top to bottom is a mere 1600 kms.)

We Kiwis did our level best to “knock the bastard off” (if I can quote Sir Edmund Hillary). And, after puffing and panting up the steep, oversized steps, we were glad, later, to partake in a much-less-strenuous Tea Drinking Ceremony … eyeball some jade and cloisonné artists at work … and, later still, browse a long line of novelty ethnic food-stalls in downtown Beijing. (Fancy some barbequed grasshoppers … or snakes … or frogs … or tarantula spiders … or 20cm-long centipedes … or a crisp, crunchy starfish? Crowds of smartly-dressed locals, predominantly young people, were snacking happily on these treats – I kid you not!)

We wrapped up our Beijing sojourn with a last-day visit to the famous Temple of Heaven (where the emperors used to pray for good harvest, and where Beijing’s happy citizens now unwind) … a cycle-rickshaw ride, including lunch with a local family, in the cramped, tangled alleyways of the Hutong (the old living-quarters of Beijing) … and a delicious Midlife Madness ‘Farewell Peking Duck Banquet’ in the evening.

These past three weeks have been a BLAST (just ask anyone in our group) … and we’ve witnessed more EYE-POPPING ASIAN WONDERS than we could ever have anticipated.

“Xi Xi!” (shay-shay) – “Thank you, China!”

PEOPLE-NEWS: We’ve given away one more of our world-famous Quacky Yellow Ducks …

  • It went to a stern-faced, uniformed Customs Officer at Beijing Airport, who pulled me aside to search my bag. He pulled out my leftover duckies, asking (in broken ‘Chenglish’) what they were. I took one out and showed him, making it quack and light-up in his face. He jumped back, startled, then broke into a wide grin. I gave it to him, urging: “Take it home to your baby!” … and, with a polite nod of his head, he accepted.

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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