Whack-a-Mole where the Great Wall meets the Pacific.
9:30 am – We met up to grab some breakfast and picked none other than “Popland” once again. The breakfast tasted almost as bad as the garbage dog looked.
We headed to the “First Pass Under Heaven” (天下第一门) which was right across the street from where we were staying. After a short walk to the ticket booth we found the “sold out” of tickets… at 9:30 am during the low tourist season. All that was available was the all inclusive tour tickets! We went to another entrance where we got our tickets hassle-free (we even scored some student tickets!).
The actual ‘gate’ was not very impressive of a structure unless you consider its history as an entrance into ancient China. However, the stroll on the wall that was connected to the Great Wall, was a lot of fun. The weather, air and views of the Jiaoshan Great Wall snaking up the mountain were fantastic.
Our next stop was the main attraction.
The Old Dragon’s Head 老龙头
It was a quick drive to the destination. We were a bit confused as to where the entrance was due to the randoms on the street offering different drives, tours, etc. We finally found it, got our tickets, and made our way inside. Again a lady offering to give tours said to follow her, but we decided to go in the opposite direction where apparently “there’s nothing up there”. We found a cool chest-height brick wall maze, which was actually quite difficult to figure out.
We eventually headed passed the tower along the wall to where the Great Wall meets the sea. It was quite a sight! On our walk down, we passed a small souvenir shop and stopped in for a peak. The storeowner suddenly launched into a monologue of how the original and oldest piece of the Great Wall was right in front of us, in arm’s reach! He was very jolly.
说 Hello, 活道九十九! (Say “hello”, live till 99 years old!)
Though the section was rebuilt in 1984 (since the Eight Power Allied Force destroyed it of course), it still felt ancient to stand upon. We took the typical tourist shots and enjoyed the view. It was low tide so the rocks around the base of the wall were showing. Couldn’t the Mongols just wait and attack during low tide if they wanted to get around the wall?
Our tickets somehow also included a speedboat ride. This involved putting on a bright orange life vest, then getting on a speedboat for a 5 minute ride out then turning around and getting off the boat. There was no dock, just a bunch of guys in waders holding the boats and hoping that it didn’t bash against the rocks too hard. For anyone who has never been on a boat before, it must be exhilarating. For anyone else it is quite dull. At least we had a view of the Dragon’s Head from the sea.
In the distance we saw what looked like ‘whack-a-mole’, two guys with wooden hammers beating down on something. Up-close we found they were making peanut candy. Greg and I had a chance to beat the candy for a bit until the storekeeper stopped us from ruining it. The candy was tasty too!
1:00 pm – We were all quite hungry since we hadn’t eaten since Popland. We headed to Qinghuangdao and picked a random Chinese restaurant for lunch. This restaurant recently opened so they had a special on free beer! Too bad I was driving… At least the food was delicious.
Arriving into Beidaihe we felt like we were in a beach resort town out of season… oh wait, we were! The town was completely deserted with most resorts closed. We were surprised to find Russian on all the street signs and many hotels. They must have a large amount of tourists from there. Besides our group, we only saw 2 tourists the whole time we were there.
After driving around a bit we stopped by the seashore to meet up with Buck and Amy who just arrived by bike. The beach was quite empty and reasonably clean. We checked a few different hotels and settled on a decent hotel that had adjacent rooms for us. Then, beers in hand, headed to the beach with bicycles built for two! They didn’t ride very well on the sand and definitely didn’t ride very well when we had 3 people riding the bike. We enjoyed the dusk with a good drink among friends. For dinner, we found a street which seemed to be the only one with open restaurants in the area most likely for the local residents. The specialty was “pipa xia” some kind of shrimp that looked like a large gray cockroach. It was quite tasty. On our way out, we had a good laugh with the strangely phallic water “worms” that squirted when you took them out of the tank!
*Update: Found the shrimp. It’s called Mantis Shrimp.
Playing pool at a local pool hall seemed like the most exciting thing to do considering all bars and clubs were closed. After a few games that took way too long due to our amazing skill, we walked back to our hotel and called it a night.