Saturday, 29 November 2008

The wall

Yesterday we went to see the Great Wall of China. It is great.
How it all happened was: Iva arranged for a minibus and struck a deal with the man who runs the company (Kevin) to get us all there for 700RMB. A bargain.
First of all, the minibus was almost half an hour late, also it was not the vehicle Kevin had shown Iva AND it didn't have seatbelts even though she specifically asked for them. The answer was: "we're not going very fast anyway, so it's ok".

Then the guide said she would take us to a jade gallery first, but as we needed to be back in time to get some rest before the show, we all said we wanted to go straight to the wall.
Big problem. We HAD to go to the gallery. So Bob phoned Kevin and was very firm with him, explaining that unless they took us straight to the wall, we'd all get off the bus and go with another company.
The phone got handed back and forth between Bob and Sophie (our guide), and eventually the deal was that if we didn't want to go to this gallery (for which they obviously got a commission or something), we'd have to pay 200RMB more.
So we stopped the bus and all got off.

More phone calls resulted in an extra 80RMB to go straight to the wall. Sophie kept saying 'more or less', and we kept saying 'no, not more or less, 80 exactly'.

Anyway, we got to the wall in the end.

On the bus.

Arrival at the wall.

Going up to the cablecar.

In the cable car. Great wall in the background.

And there it is, in all its glory. It is the most spectacular sight.

Sasha thought it was like a dream.

After the trip, we got back into the bus and started driving. Sophie seemed to have a plan to take us to a restaurant somewhere, but as soon as we said we wanted to go back to the hotel, she stopped talking. Then, as the driver was about to get on the motorway, she shouted something at him, he stopped and reversed and took another route. Tom asked Sophie why we weren't going on the motorway, and we all got back into revolt-mode. So she said: "we will in a few minutes". She shouted something else at the driver and 5 minutes later we were on the motorway (which has tollbooths). But not after there was another moment of stopping in the middle of the road and reversing back onto the tollbooth lanes.

When we arrived back into the city, we decided to get off because traffic was horrible and it would be faster by underground. Sophie then tried to raise the fee again, claiming we had to pay for parking and the toll road and god knows what else.
Bob and Iva are very strict negotiators though, so I think this time they didn't manage to pull a huge tourist scam.

After the show last night we were introduced to some young directors from Beijing. One of them explained to us that in the whole of Beijing, there were only 20 young emerging artist (in theatre, that is). The strange thing is that he used the term 'emerging artist' as an official title, which I guess could very well be the case. The difference about them was that they are the ones who want to make theatre their own way, possibly influenced by western theatre, but definitely not following the rules of traditional theatre.
It was a very interesting evening, and I asked them a lot of questions about what they thought about all 4 Edinburgh shows that have passed through Beijing in the past 4 weeks.

We met about 8 of these emerging artists, and they each have their own style and don't necessarily have very much in common other than these organised events.

One of them invited us to a party tonight, where there will be live music and young Beijing artists or art students.

Today David and I went shopping, and stumbled on a street full of shopping centres. Yes, not a street full of shops, but a street full of 8 floor shopping arcades. One of them was incredible: a maze of tiny stalls selling pretty much anything you might want or need. With ample opportunity to haggle.

For lunch we had a very special crepe, and joined the Chinese who were having their lunch sitting on a wall.

My feet hurt.

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