Monday, July 13, 2015

Miscellaneous notes about our Great Wall Trek

We are all back in New Hampshire now.  Good memories were made in China, and I'm glad we took the trip.

Here are a few notes I did not include in the other posts.

1) Beijing is hot, humid, and polluted.  It was difficult for me to breathe there -- I didn't walk around gasping, but I could feel the air thick in my chest and lungs.  Our day exploring Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City was precious and I am so glad we visited -- but one full day walking around Beijing was enough for me.  The city has many beautiful and historic sites, but the air quality and heat make it difficult to play tourist.

2) There is no patiently waiting in line in Beijing.  From the airport to restaurants to tourist attractions, the Chinese pushed ahead and paid no attention to who was there first.  Do not take this personally if you visit.  I believe this is the culture -- they are not trying to be rude, it's just the way things are done.  You walk up and make your voice heard, you don't stand there being meek and polite.

3) Knowing how to say please, thank you, and no in any foreign language can take you a long way.  Speak as much Mandarin as you're able, even if it's just a word or two.  The attempt will be appreciated.

4) I felt safe in Beijing.  Police were everywhere.

5) I loved seeing the original, non-touristy Wall.  Jinshanling was nice too...not all that crowded, not all THAT many people.  I've been told the Wall right at/near Beijing can be a zoo.

6)  Hugh and I highly recommend World Expeditions.  Neither of us use guide services as a general rule...we prefer to get wherever we're going and then figure it out for ourselves.  That's not so easy in a country you've never before visited, where English is barely spoken, and where the culture can be so very different from your own.  We reluctantly hired a guide service -- and now we are so glad we did.  World Expeditions was fantastic.  Allie, the lady who arranged the reservation for us, was informative, easy to work with, and personable.  Their local tour association in China, China Adventure Tours, was wonderful.  Our personal guide, Jimmy, could not have been better.  He was truly perfect.  He made everything go smoothly, he got us the top meals, seats, spaces, etc. for everything,  Not only was he a top-notch guide, but he was friendly, intelligent, and fun to talk with.  We trusted him completely with everything, and we had a wonderful experience.  I am so glad we went through World Expeditions.

7) World Expeditions' Great Wall of China Trek is not usually for children.  When I asked Allie if their managers/doctors would look at this blog and assess my kids' hiking ability, they did.  After they saw we had done the John Muir Trail and El Camino de Santiago, and that the girls can hike 20 miles a day over tough terrain for days, they agreed to allow Alex and Sage on the trip.  They requested we book as a private family party instead of going with a group that included strangers.  We agreed, and I understand their request since they didn't know us personally.  It all worked out perfectly.  However, I echo their sentiment that this trek is not for the beginning hiker, and it's not for kids who don't love to hike.  Alex and Sage hike like adults, and they've both been hiking mountains since they can remember, so this trip was well within their capabilities.  I wouldn't book this with kids who don't already hike on a regular basis, though.

In sum, the adventure was enjoyable and memorable.  World Expeditions is great.  The girls, Hugh, and I are grateful we were able to have this experience.


michelle said...

I have enjoyed your hikes since you did the camino. I was behind you by a month then. It is unusual to follow a mother and 2 daughter adventures but you are experts in my eyes.
Thanks for this last posting. I am planning to go to China in the near future and this tips are valuable.
I'm going to hike in the Dolomites, Italy, next month.

Patricia Ellis Herr, Alexandra Herr, and Sage Herr said...

Hi Michelle,

Thanks so much -- and I hope you had as much fun on the Camino as we did!

We have been to the Dolomites twice, but both times were before the girls began hiking (Alex was 3 the last time we were there). It's a beautiful place! You are going to have a great time!

Glad this blog was useful for your trip to China.