Natalie Goes to Japan

40 year old very married blonde woman having a midlife crisis who heads to Japan alone to follow her dreams. Be careful what you wish for ... you just may get it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Coolest Thing Ever!

For my last day I chose to the 8 kilometer hike from Jinshanling to Simitai on the Great Wall. The van picked 6 of us from the hostel at 6:30, and we picked up another girl from another hostel. So it was a crew of 4 German kids, an adorable Italian girl who was excited about everything, a male model turned photographer who lives in Hong Kong and me. It took an hour to get out of Beijing and another 2 hours to get to the starting point. But as it was my last day I just absorbed everything I could and enjoyed the journey. When we got to the parking lot I seriously considered abandoning the whole thing. The wind and the cold were so bitter and nasty I just didn't think I could do it, but I buckled down and decided to try. And ye gods am I glad I did! Along the trek just to get to the wall a group of Chinese people joined us, trying to sell us stuff. Eventually, as we drifted apart (each going there own pace) a single one would attach themselves to each group. I adopted a lovely lady with just the sweetest face. She tried to sell me the book and postcards in the beginning, but I said I didn't have room in my backpack. I really didn't. Once we started really hiking the wall, it got pretty tough. The first bit was really steep and took my breat away. So I had to switch my heavy coat, for my lighter jacket, and the big coat barely fit in my backpack (with my bottle of water, bottle of orange Fanta and 2 Snickers bars). But I agreed to buy the book at the end. The group got quite strung out, and there were times I was really alone, except for the Chinese lady. At the halfway point, she turned back and tried to get me to buy the book. I didn't want the book, so I just gave her a couple of dollars and said thanks for her company. And then I walked the rest of the way by myself. And it was so totally amazing and beautiful. The blue sky, white clouds, chilly breeze, this amazing stucture built among a stark piece of earth and me. It was like walking on the spine of a sleeping dragon, the way it twisted and turned. I ended up walking the last few towers with this couple from Britain, and we all felt like we didn't want it to be over yet. I have never done a hike that I didn't want to end. Eventually I made it to the group meeting spot with just enough time to go buy a sweatshirt. On the 3 hour ride back in the Italian girl just glowed with happiness, until she and everyone else, excluding the driver and I fell asleep. When I got back to the hostel I had to much energy to sit down, so I decided to catch another cab and go shopping again. When I went to the common room I hooked up with Mr. Male Model again, and a dweeby boy from Kansas, who also wanted to go shopping. The hostel recommended we go to the Silk Market. They probably used to sell primarily silk, but now they are just another indoor market selling knock-off clothing and bags, and lots of jewelery. I wanted to pick up some more tacky souveniers to give to friends back in Japan, and just maybe find some TV DVDs. First we decided we needed to find somewhere to eat though, as Male Model and I hadn't eaten a decent lunch. But as we were walking around we were approached by a guy trying to sell DVDs. I asked if he had TV DVD's and he said yes, follow him. We walked a dozen yards over to a van. He asked me to get in the back. EXCUSE ME? I don't get into the back of strange vans, especially seedy ones in a foreign country. He could show me the DVDs from the side or no deal. We walked away. We walked into the Silk Market building to see if they had someplace to eat, but the directory didn't say anything about food, so we walked out again. We were approached by another guy selling DVD's. I asked if he had TV DVD's and he said Yes he had lots, just follow him. So we followed him, only he kept walking and walking. I told him I wasn't getting into no van. He kept just saying a little farther. Really we only walked a block, up a busy, well lit street. And then he directed us into a very nice little restaurant, where we were given a center table and immediately lots of TV DVDs were brought to the table. They had a TV and DVD player, so I felt a little better about the whole situation. And they guys were having a ball with the whole situation. I was especially looking for the second season of Six Feet Under and maybe a season of Scrubs. Well, these guys were really hooked up. They had the complete series of both. Plus I picked out Deadwood and Heroes. I ended up with 86 DVDs for $70 bucks. They played one of the DVDs I picked out to show they were okay, and the owner of the restaurant gave me his business card. The DVDs came in these huge velvet coated boxes, which I didn't want or have room for, so we unboxed everything and I left with them in a plastic grocery bag. So we went looking for someplace to eat. First we tried one restaurant, but Mr. Geek from Kansas thought the place across the street looked better, so we went over there. We sat down and looked at the menu, and he hated everything. So we got up and walked around the corner, and never did find anything. When we asked the employee at Starbucks where they liked to eat around here, she said TGIFridays. Well, that didn't sound good, so another employee suggested we go to floor four of the Silk Market. So we trudged back to the Silk Market, and floor four only sold jewellery. But on floor six we found a couple of restaurants. One was a pizza buffett place, which didn't look appetizing, so we walked over to the Duck place. Normally at a restaurant I found that asking for a Tofu dish was always a good way for me to eat, so as we looked at the menu that's what I did. They said yes, look here. Tofu in ducks blood. Okay guys, that's where I draw the line, I just couldn't eat there. So back to the Pizza place for us. The pizza turned out to taste just like microwave pizza, and the tables were really grimy. But the view was lovely. When we finished we headed back down to the Silk Market, to be completely shocked that everything had closed. Well, almost everything. There were a few stalls on the first floor still open. Mr. Picky Geek wanted to go check back on a jacket he had seen, and the place was still open. I popped into another stall and bought a little spring skirt and sleeveless top. While Mr. Picky was bargaining with his vendor, she turned vicious on him and started calling him an idiot, a pig and used the phrase "you people". This did not entice him into buying a jacket from her. So we left. Mr. Picky never got his jacket, Mr. Male Model never got his gift for his girlfriend and I never got tacky souveniers for the Japanese. So we headed back to the hostel. I took a shower and went straight to bed, cuz I had to leave at the crazy hour of 5:30. Yikes, and still no souveniers!


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