Planning and Day 1 of the trip!
The Mighty Dragon’s Head
Tomb-sweeping day is a national holiday for families to get together and visit the graves of their loved ones. It is called Tomb sweeping because traditional families would tend to the tombstones, which included sweeping, cleaning, and bringing flowers or gifts.
For me, it meant three consecutive days off. So road trip it was! We planned a trip to the old Dragon’s Head, where the Great Wall meets the sea. Only 3 hours of driving from Beijing, it was the perfect short road trip.
We were a group of 6. Betty, Annie, Greg and I in my car and Buck and Amy by bike. We planned to meet up in Beidaihe and for the rest, we’d wing it.
April 2, 2012 – Beijing to ShanHaiGuan – Day 1
2:00 pm – Having picked up the group, we drove to QinHuangDao 秦皇岛. Driving on Chinese highways is always an adventure. We saw a three-car pileup that took up two lanes and also a truck’s bed in a blaze on the other side of the road. The driver was frantically trying to fan out flames with his hands, but everything on the truck was already consumed by the flames. We called and reported it to the fire department. Hopefully the truck didn’t explode.
5:30 pm – Arriving in the Qinghuangdao near dusk we found it to be a typical midsized city lacking any discernable character. Poor roads and bad drivers made it even more annoying to drive through. We stopped in the center at a park to have a look. Then made our way to ShanHaiGuan where we were going to spend the night.
We passed through a tiny single lane alleyway, which looked like something out of a movie. Piles of garbage littered the street and small fires were burning in random places. Then we drove to a bridge when an old man crept into the middle of the road, blocking our path. I stopped and waited for him to move forward, but he just stood there leaning on his stick. He didn’t move for what seemed like an hour. Then he slowly turned as if just noticing a car was waiting there and started raising his stick and pointing at us. His expression was of terror and madness. He started yelling something while hobbling towards the car waving his stick.
Just then a cab coming from the other direction sped by and clipped the ragged man with his side mirror, spinning him around. This only enraged him more as he turned and hobbled to the cab, which didn’t even slow down. This was our chance. Car still in gear, I accelerated passed the distracted man. We nervously laughed about the experience and got out of that hutong.
8:30 pm – ShanHaiGuan 山海关
We drove towards the center of town and stopped where we found some cheap hotels. Planning to rise early, we had an early night with a long hotpot dinner followed by ice-cream at an amazing Chinese chain restaurant “Popland”. We also encountered a well camouflaged garbage dog.