Wallwalking and the Duck of Doom

Today we go to the great wall. Since being unanimously unrecommended the Badabing (sorry, Badaling) section (jam packed with tourists) we go to the Mutianyu section instead. You ride a cable car up to the wall and then you can wander for approximately 500 m in each direction. Jacob and I choose the steep section (surprised? No, didn’t think so…) and set off. I’m wearing my five-fingers today garnering lots of smiles and comments from the locals =)

The first part is really steep, something like 60°, and it’s on shaky legs I clamber up the steps. But as you reach the first tower the rest isn’t very steep, I’m already dreading going back down though. Two towers later you cannot go any further, well you can, but it isn’t restored and more or less overgrown so there’s little point to it. There’s a great view from up there and we explore a bit before going back. Going down the really steep section I try and film a bit to get a sense of how steep it is. It wasn’t as bad as I thought going down though.

As for going back down to the village again you have two options: Either you can walk or you can ride the toboggan; a kind of sled going down what looks like a metal water slide (without the water). Naturally we opt for the toboggan and set off down the track. After a couple of turns I get the hang of it and really let loose. It’s pretty fast when you pull out all stops but every now and then you catch up to some slowpoke in front of you and is forced to brake. But if you wait a while to get some distance between you and the next guy you get some pretty fast stretches out of it. It’s great fun and well worth the 30¥ I paid!

Down in the village we poke around in the shops a bit and I find some more of those feather kicky-ball things and buy a bunch. Then we hop on the bus back to Beijing. There’s a food stop on the way back at a Cloisonné factory. They make those traditional pots/vases that I’ve always thought were made out of porcelain. Turns out they’re made out of copper with copper thread glued on in patterns, the space between the threads is then filled with enamel powder and burned. Polish, rinse and repeat for another coat until the enamel is level with the copper wire and the vase is smooth. We get a tour of the place and then some lunch. It’s a traditional Chinese lunch with a lazy susan covering almost the entire table filled with plates of different foods, most of it good, but the sugar coated lettuce didn’t have many fans… The rest of the drive back to Beijing is uneventful and a good chance to catch up on lost sleep. We have one more stop once we get to Beijing though: the Olympic “Birds Nest” arena. It’s kind of fun but nothing more. We also see the bubble building housing the water sports and the hotel shaped like the Olympic torch.

Back at the hotel I take some time to relax and blog before Jacob and Peter suggest I join them, Johnny and Matilda in a quest for some Beijing Duck. Of course you need to try that while in Beijing so we go out to find a cab to take us to an area where the guide book says they have good duck. Trying to hail a cab we’re approached by a guy wondering if we need help. So we tell him the we’re looking for some good duck and he tells us that there’s one just down the street. We figure that we go for his recommendation and start walking. After a while we find the place and head for the entrance, only to be cut off by another guy telling us that it’s closed (looked open from where we were standing though…). He says we should go to this other place, just down the street… He describes it as being one block down and then left, a really red place.

We decide to take his advice and resume walking. After a while the guy catches up to us and says he’ll follow us there, in hindsight a good thing since I counted more like three blocks down, a left and then another left before arriving… Seems like a nice enough place though and we go inside. The staff takes us past the tiny front restaurant area, past the kitchen, up a flight of stairs, past a storeroom, past another dining area to the end of the corridor where there’s a door. They open the door and to reveal a tiny room with a large round table seating nine. We sit down and get an English menu with pretty much only one item on it: a Beijing Duck meal. It’s rather expensive, 198¥ apiece, but we’re tired of chasing ducks and order. We also ask for a bottle of Chinese liquor so that we’ve tried that as well. After a while the starters are dropping in, we also get our Chinese booze, arriving in a fancy box. The food is great and the booze – not so much… In fact, it’s horrible! It smells just like scented acetone, if you haven’t smelled that it’s a sickly sweet synthetic strawberry smell that will stay with me to the grave. The thing is that it tasted exactly as it smelled! Johnny bailed out immediately and ordered some Coke to dilute the horror. Problem is that it only makes it even worse! We managed to drink two thirds before calling it quits. I took the bottle with me to show the others at the pub later (we’d made plans to join the rest of the gang at the same place as we were yesterday).

How was the duck then? When the duck arrived we were already almost full from all the excellent starters (Kung Pao chicken among others) but we manage to eat most of it before throwing in the towel. Beijing Duck tastes nothing like chicken and is served cut into slices like a pot roast. You take a slice, dip it in black bean sauce, salt, sugar and lemon juice, then put it on a tiny pancake that you roll into a spring roll before finally eating it. Deeelicious! Towards the end of the meal the staff bring in a huge bowl of soup as well. As far as we can tell it’s the rest of the duck, made into soup. We give it a sip before leaving the place with an unsteady gait.

Since we only have a vague idea of where we are anymore we catch a cab back to the hotel. There we find out that everyone but Sanna have already gone off to bed, scandalous! Being a good sport as she is, Sanna joins us for a Gin & Tonic before we call it a night as well.

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