The Great Wall of China, MAR 11 2024

We arrived at the port of Tianjin, China for an overnight stay. The cruise terminal is 110 miles from Beijing, China.

The first day we booked an excursion to The Great Wall, outside of Beijing. We knew when we booked the tour that it was a three and a half hour bus ride each way. But we also knew this was our chance to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World. We had to bite the bullet and endure the ride. 

But first, a delay getting off the ship. Chinese regulations require cruise ships to use their gangway. Problem was their gangway had an electrical problem and they had to wait for a mechanic to arrive. As time passed and tour buses waited, they refused to allow Holland America to use their own gangway. As you can see in this photo the wheels are pointed in opposite directions to what was needed.

Then Chinese officials had to come onboard to clear the ship. Their rigid, strict regulations meant this took longer than most clearances in other countries. This is also the first port that had a strict overnight curfew that required the gangway to be dismantled at night. During the hours of 11:00 P.M. and 5:30 A.M., no passengers or crew would be allowed to enter or exit the ship. This was important because we were staying in the port and some people taking private tours could arrive back late.

Finally we were on our way. Near the Cruise Terminal is many apartment complexes that were built for people to move to, but our guide said people don’t like it because there is no restaurants or other normal city amenities.

Many Workers in China Use Branches to Sweep

Don’t Throw Banana Peels

If you ever wondered where some of the shipping containers come from, we think we found the factory that makes them.

Brand New Empty Shipping Containers

They Are Waiting To Be Delivered To The Owner Companies

We would pass around Beijing along our route. There were twenty Holland America buses on the road, some going to the Great Wall and others headed to Beijing for a tour of the capital city. As we reached a police checkpoint, we were pulled over. We could see the other Holland America buses had already been stopped and more followed behind us. Our tour guide got off and we waited an hour before our guide came back onboard and said the police wanted to see our passports. Evidently in Beijing they were having the second session of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and therefore security was very tight. The ship had everyone’s passports, so we gave him our passport copy with the official immigration stamp their immigration officials on the ship had given us. The police didn’t seem to know what to do with these passport copies given to us by their own officials. A supervisor had to be called. After another 30 minute wait we were wondering if we needed to call the ship’s emergency number for help, but just then our guide came back with our passport copies and we were again on our way But this delay of 90 minutes made an already long trip even longer.

Very Large Windturbines

We Saw two Power Plants

This Very Tall Building is in Beijing City Center

After what felt like an endless ride, we arrived at The Great Wall of China, 31 miles from central Beijing. This section of the wall is located at Juyong Pass, a mountain pass. The Great Wall is a series of fortifications built across the northern border of China as military protection against nomadic groups such as the Mongolians. It is not really a wall but a series of fortifications. The total length was 13,171 miles, making it the longest man made structure in the world and half the length of the Equator! The height ranged from 20 to 23 feet with the highest being 46 feet. The average width was a little over 21 feet. The construction lasted over 2,300 years from 680 BC to 1681 AD during more than nine dynasties. More than 1,000,000 laborers built the wall. Of the Seven Wonders of the World, it the largest and took the longest to build. Due to natural erosion, earthquakes and other natural disasters and human activity, only 10% is still standing today and 30% has vanished with no trace. The part that we visited, and the parts seen on television and those that tourists see, was rebuilt in modern times.

The Cloud Platform at Juyongguan is a mid-14th-century architectural that was repaired in 1961.

Cloud Platform

We had a little less than two hours here. In an attempt to make up for the late arrival due to the police checkpoint, our guide bought each of us a Snickers bar to snack on before our walk. Nice of him since what happened was not his fault and out of his control. The guide warned us several times about the steep, unlevel steps of varying heights. He told us many people fall here, especially going down the steps. We had our walking sticks with us and we took his warning very seriously. The last thing we wanted was to get hurt and end up in a Chinese hospital! I did not walk up as far as Bill. Our guide told us we were very lucky as there were not big crowds of people today. The Great Wall has 50 million visitors a year.

After leaving the Wall we went to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. A very late lunch since it was 3:30 instead of the planned 12:30.  We were seated at tables of ten with a Lazy Susan in the middle of the table with many beef, chicken and fish dishes, as well as soup. We were given the choice of water, Coke or beer. Dessert was orange slices.

The restaurant was part of a large jade store, so of course after lunch they wanted to show everyone their large collection of expensive pieces of jade for sale. 

With the three and and a half ride back to the ship, lengthened by rush hour traffic, most buses arrived back at the ship three hours later than expected. It was 9:30 P.M. and everyone was tired and hungry. Usually the dining room and buffet closes at 9:00 P.M. and we wondered what we would find to eat. Imagine our surprise and joy when we found the buffet open with a full menu and service. The ship knew we would be arriving late and rearranged the buffet schedule. How nice! On mornings when excursions are leaving very early, they open the buffet at 5:00 A.M. rather than 6:30 A.M.. It means the cooks and servers need to get up at 3:00 A.M. to have everything ready. And yet, they always have a smile on their faces. 

What a day! 

Next up: Visiting Tianjin and Bill almost gets hurt

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