Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Great Wall, Ghengis Khan, and a Forbidden City

And so my adventures continue!  This time: Beijing, The Great Wall of China, and the land of the Khans: Mongolia.

When I tell my local Chinese friends here in Shanghai that I am going to Mongolia, they invariably tell me it's beautiful.  But in fact, they don't know where I am going.  You see, in China, there is a province called Inner Mongolia.  This is where my Chinese friends think I am going.  But I am not going there.  No, I am going to THE Mongolia.  The country.  A country where the capital city of Ulan Batuur is officially the world's coldest capital city.  It's fascinating: I was talking to my Chinese teacher today, and I told her I'm going to Beijing and THE Mongolia.  She asked what type of winter coat I was bringing.  Winter coat?  It's September!  Well, silly me: Beijing is over 1500 KM to the north; and Mongolia?  Even farther.  I checked the weather: Beijing is in the 40s; Ulan Batuur?  Freezing and subfreezing temps.  Already.  On September 30th.  THIS is the crazy place I am going to.

So I leave tomorrow morning on a 7am bullet train to Beijing.  Going over 250km/hour, it will still take about 5 hours until I arrive in China's capital city.  Then I am taking subway line 12 for one hour, to the end of the line where I will meet my driver.  He is from www.GreatWallFresh.com where I will be staying for the night.  Most people visit the tourist trap version of the Great Wall.  Tomorrow is National Day here in China: a three-day holiday begins.  Swarms are already marching on Beijing and the wall.  Not a Mongol horde, but rather, one of the tourist variety.  They are a far more fierce and ruthless clan indeed.  Well, I was determined to find a place on this wall that was not going to be crowded.  And I did: this charming little farm/B&B about two hours away from the re-built and modernized touristy great wall.  Where will I be?  On a farm in the middle of nowhere, sitting right along miles and miles of the wall, untouched and unrefurbished for hundreds of years.  And the best part: no tourists.  Just beautiful views of mountains, rolling hills, and I am hoping beyond hope: no pollution in the sky and no rain coming down from it either!  

So my driver will pick me up and drive me about another 90 minutes to the farm.  There I will have a late lunch, and then a guide (for 100RMB, about 20 US dollars) will take me on a 3-hour hike along this untouched wild portion of the Wall.

The next morning at 5am, I will wake up and my driver will drive me two hours back to the Beijing airport, where I will catch an early flight to Mongolia---a country for which I need no visa because I am an American.  It's a strange oddity: every country but five or six need a visa.  US Citizens are one of the exemptees.  This explains, perhaps, why so few Chinese have visited Mongolia, and why so many of them are so interested in hearing all about my visit: few of them have ever been there.  I'll arrive around noon, and if all goes well, I will be able to grab lunch, and then find someone to take me to the country and rent me a horse: I am determined to gallop along the Mongolian plains as my Mongol ancestors once did (apparently I have some Mongol blood in me)(Though apparently almost everyone has some Mongol blood in them because Mr. Ghengis was quite the prolific progenitor indeed).  

I plan to also walk around the capital city a bit too.  And see those Yurts I keep hearing so much about. The Yurts that still burn coal, thus making this city one of the world's most polluted.  We shall see.  

Then, the next day, it's back to Beijing, where I plan to see the Forbidden City, Tianeman Square (spelling?), and time permitting, the Palace. 

Come evening, I will jump on a slow night train back to Shanghai.  It will take 12 hours, and I booked a sleeping car (i.e. I will have a bed) so I'm hoping to be able to get some sleep, since come the morning, I have to race home to my apartment, shower, change, and get to work by 10am.  I may be tired, but I will certainly have some exciting tales to tell for sure.  

On that note, it's bed time for me.  11:20pm and I have to wake up at 5.  Sweet dreams world!  A 3-day whirlwind adventure is about to begin!

Monroe Mann, Esq, MBA
www.EnoughExcusesAlready.com <--my consulting and coaching firm
www.WhatIsMonroeDoingThisWeek.com <--my travel blog