Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ticket to ride

I found out only last weekend that this weekend is a strange sort of holiday (for an American). We have Friday, May Day, off outright. It's a communist country, after all. But then Monday and Tuesday are borrowed days — not outright holidays, because we must pay them back by working the following weekend. This sort of thing would never happen in the States, but I kind of like it. I'd rather get my days off all in a row, so that I can spend them traveling.

So, as you may know, I decided to take a trip to Shanhaiguan, where the Great Wall dips its head into the Bohai Sea.

This is the easternmost part of the Wall, so it's known as the Dragon's Head. And actually, it kind of resembles a dragon's head. Shanhaiguan itself is a smallish, walled village with a handful of hotels and hostels of varying levels. There is reportedly a small Great Wall museum, and one can hike the wall for many miles from there. This is my plan.

I don't have a proper backpack, yet. Hopefully I can get mine from America before I start my big adventure this summer, but for now I've bought a fairly comfortable day-pack. I'll take enough clothing and equipment to last a couple of days, I'll throw in my super-powered water filter in case I can't find bottled water for sale — and of course, there will be a camera. Expect some fun stories and pictures!

It was not an easy thing to get a ticket for the train to Shanhaiguan. Everyone travels when there is a holiday like this. Serena, the foreign faculty "handler" for my Department, tried several options before she finally got me a sleeper on the 12:45 train Thursday afternoon. It cost twice what I would have paid for a simple seat on the same train, and it's going to be tough to get to the station in time for that early train (class ends at noon). But I'm lucky to have a ticket at all.

On the plus side, this is a high-speed train, so it will only take about six and a half hours to travel almost 400 miles.

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