Thursday, October 7, 2010

Great Wall Ends at Shanhaiguan

When I lived in Beijing in the 1990s, one of my favorite getaways was to Shanhaiguan, at that time a sleepy farming community that is famous for being the eastern terminus (or start, depending on your perspective) of the Great Wall of China.

I loved wandering through the town that was inside the city wall, as well as outside the wall where I once saw a farmer herding about a dozen pigs through dirt streets. I loved the city wall with its massive stone statues of Chinese warriors, philosophers and scholars. I loved the Sunday market.

They say you can't go home again. This was brought home on our recent trip to Beijing. My husband wanted to see the ocean and the Great Wall, so i suggested Shanhaiguan so I could kill two birds with one stone. Oh! the changes that have been made since I last visited. I spent the first few hours there in a daze, wandering out saying, 'Holy cow! What have they done now?!?"

Gone was the quaint sleepy town of 100,000 people. It was replaced by a bustling town of half a million people. Gone were my dearly loved statues on the city wall, only to be replaced by souvenir stands selling, among the shells, cigarette cases bearing pornographic pictures of Caucasian women.

Even the walls have been restored. Laolongtou, or Old Dragon Head as the translation goes, was still there, jutting out into the Bohai Sea. I was amazed at how much shipping traffic you could see in the distance; my husband counted 30 ships before giving up.

I was shocked at the changes, but then I realized I'm not the same person I was 15 years ago. Shanhaiguan still makes a great getaway from Beijing for a few days. The article, Great Wall Snakes Across Northern China to End at Shanhaiguan,  gives a better look at what was one time my favorite haunt.

Going to China?

If you're planning a trip to China, especially Beijing, my website contains some great information about things to see and do. And feel free to email me if you have any questions afterwards.

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