A few weekends ago I went on the prefect little getaway trip to the north of Beijing in an area called XiangShuiHu 响水湖.
It was a company outing – I know, not normally what you’d expect to hear following that kind of statement – but it wasn’t my company outing. I tagged along with my boyfriend Buck and cousin David on the China Performance Group company outing. Incidentally and completely unrelated: For all your China sourcing needs, visit CPG here. With over 30 years of experience doing business in China, they really do know their stuff.
The trip took us north about 70km out of Beijing, Buck and I riding on trusty ‘Mafan’ 麻烦, his Chinese branded Jincheng 250cc bike and Dave on his CJ750. Once we got out of the city and off the main highway, we found ourselves on some great little countryside roads, experiencing some nice views and clean air, both a rarity in the city. After about 40km on these windy roads we came upon the village that would host our stay, and arrived at our home stay just in time for a delicious home cooked lunch.
There’s a lot of these types of Chinese style B&Bs in the surrounding villages outside Beijing. Wherever there is a site of historical interest or natural beauty, the locals will quickly catch on and try to cater to that sector of the tourism market, basically leasing out part of their homes over the summer weekends and during holidays. In our case, our village was very close to a section of unrestored Great Wall.
The place that we stayed in consisted of new courtyard style accommodations, with several bedrooms attached to other facilities such as dining room, toilets and showers and the all important ktv decked out living room (which, naturally, got a fair amount of use throughout the weekend). There were also two kitchens used to prepare our meals, using all locally sourced produce.
The afternoon was spent recovering from our meal and introducing our Chinese friends to an array of typically western games, amongst them; Murder, Flip Cup and Ride The Bus (they give us karaoke, we give them beer pong – a fair exchange in my opinion). As the heat of the day abated, we took a little hike up the mountain before sundown to partake in some fruit-picking, offered as an activity for free by the home stay. Once we got to the top the views were stunning. You can hardly believe that only 70km away is the huge concrete and glass jungle of Beijing, when all you can see as far as the eye can reach are lush, green mountains, dotted with fruit trees, and a clear blue sky.
The evening was spent feasting on another great meal, followed by a combination of drinking games (didn’t take much to catch on) with a healthy dose of karaoke.
Fun fact no.1: Chinese people can SING. All of them. Without exception.
Next day we got up nice and early so that we could beat the heat and trek to the wall.
Fun fact no.2: Chinese people can DRINK.
Seriously, I know we think of ourselves as these great drinkers, but I have now witnessed firsthand a Chinese guy drinking Buck under the table, continuing to drink well into the night, and then being the first one up at 7am, happy as Larry (his English name is actually Daniel), rallying everyone for the brisk climb up to the Great Wall.
A 30 minute hike later and we hit the Wall. Literally, the village road intersects it, and in this instance the Wall lost the battle, being split in half to accommodate the road. Seen in it’s original state and up close the Wall really is magnificent, with its weathered, overgrown appearance only adding to its sense of grandeur. When you stop to think about the sheer manpower needed to build a wall that size, sometimes virtually vertically along the ridge of a mountain, well, you can see why it’s called a Great Wonder of the world.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed exploring this historic relic, I can’t help but worry how much damage these little excursions are causing these unrestored parts of the Wall, especially in a country where the concept of preservation is still very new.
Then again, I console myself with the fact that, without tourist interest there would be no profit, no restoration work, and the relics would decay all the same, unnoticed. That is exactly what is happening to many sections of the Wall too remote for tourists to access… which provides a strange sense of comfort.