The end of the wall in Jiayuguan

The end of the wall in Jiayuguan

There must be a beginning (or an end?) of the Great Chinese Wall. Don't look further and welcome to Jiayuguan.

15 June 2008

Visiting the most western point of the Chinese Wall was somewhat interesting. Located five to nine kilometers outside the city of Jiayuguan, the historic sites of interest are easily accessible by bicycle. Although the ride was very refreshing and the overall temperatures were nice, we soon discovered that this region suffers from heavy sand storms. Part of the problem cycling through a sand storm is the fact, that your eyes are constantly crying out the dirt. Another issue is the sheer wind force which - Murphy's law at its best - is blowing all the time against the general direction of our bicycle trip.

Small park near Jiayuguan

Aside from the touristic spots around the the city of Jiayuguan, I also liked the downtown area. It's manageable to visit by foot - and people are very friendly and helpful. Thomas and I tried our best to order food in one Uyghur restaurant. Usually, we would order the same dish that someone else already had ordered and which would look nice enough for us. But this time, we were the first guests. Therefore, we used a dictionary throughout the entire ordering process. The waitress was patiently waiting and writing down the various parts of the meals. Although we weren't quite sure whether she understood everything, we got essentially the food we ordered.

Northern End of the Chinese Wall

Also, the city has the usual park where locals meet during sunrise to dance or play music. It is always very peaceful to watch these crowds. The sports park downtown Jiayuguan was a perfect location for relaxing. Near the obvious and recommended visit of the Fort lie the extreme western points of the Chinese wall, called "The Hanging Great Wall". It's a bit over-restored and looks shiny and brand new. Also, there is no resemblance - from a pure size aspect - to what we've seen so far of the Great Wall in the north of Beijing.

This "Hanging Great Wall" is very small (or: not so Great). We jokingly speculated that probably any enemy would have died laughing about this ridiculously small mud structure. Moreover, the length of this "restored" wall was about 700 meters each side - the perfect length for a photo shoot. Thomas and I were unsure, upon leaving this site, whether we just fell into a tourist trap and whether we just had visited a bogus structure some local tourist bureau was making up. However, this didn't really matter to us, since we had a good laugh thinking of how difficult it would have been to spot this fence-sized structure from space.

Fort at the Northern End of the Chinese Wall

Although being at the edge of the Taklamakan Desert, the number of sand storms in China was still very surprising to me. Sand, dust and plastic shopping bags are whirling through the wind storms. Being hit by some flying plastic bags provides memorable moments of loosing sight in dense rush hour traffic. It is a funny and amazing experience to just watch the locals coping with the aerodynamic nature of plastic shopping bags.

However, China is eager to improve the situation: There is talk about a government law mandating to charge for plastic bags in stores in an effort to reduce the amount of non-recyclable waste. Therefore, the spectacle of flying shopping bags in the roads of Jiayuguan might be soon a thing of the past.

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