China Tour was truly an amazing, inspiring, awesome experience. Majority of my travels take me to ruins and old civilizations. In China, even the ruins (the Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors) are not totally in ruins or are in various stages of restoration. That progress is everywhere. Skyscrappers doting the skylines in major cities point to architectural beauty and something fundamentally progressive. China has literally taken its billion people and housed them. Compared to India (I hate to say this but without acknowledging, how is India going to progress, where there are indeed huge pockets of progress), China has made huge progress in infrastructure and in improving the standard of living. In India, many of its billion people are sitting, squatting, living on the streets. Indeed in China, there are the “ghost cities” (fully constructed empty cities indicative of a housing bubble). But apart from that, people are in homes. You rarely see crowds or trash (with the exception of roads clogged with auto traffic). And with the exception of shoving (which seems to be culturally ingrained), people are disciplined and follow rules and put trash in trash cans. Compared to India, China is squeaky clean, and it is addressing the smog problem. What amazing progress!
Just to be fair, let me mention that India is perhaps the only country in the world that has maintained a lively, engaging democracy, throughout all the ups and downs, after the colonial powers left, in 1947. As one of the four SICK (Syria, Iran, China, N. Korea) countries, China on the other hand, blocks Facebook and curtails freedoms of social expression. I will discuss in another blog some thoughts on democracy, socialism, ability to vote versus having a roof over the head, what truly may define progress and give a nation competitive leverage. But for now, I am sharing below, a little about the incredible Great Wall of China.
The Great Wall
Climbing the Great Wall of China is a great experience :). The Great Wall built from east to west across the northern border of China was meant to protect the Chinese empire against intrusions by hostile military or nomadic groups or to keep track on transportation of goods and for collection of taxes for goods traveling along the Silk Road, and to keep track of immigration and emigration. Several walls were built and later joined together and made bigger and stronger. Most famous one was built between 220-206 BC by the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang who united China. Most of existing wall was reconstructed during the Ming Dynasty. According to one estimate, the entire wall measures up to 21,196 km or 13,171 miles.
The day we toured this site, it was incredibly cold. I climbed half way past post 9 (it goes to no. 13). The climb is arduous, steep and when there are steps, they are high. Besides being so cold, the wind was so ferocious, you almost fear that it will pick you up from the climb and throw you down into the valley. I decided (very wisely) to not push it and to turn around at that point. At the base there are curio shops, coffee shops, and a little museum like place, or one can walk to the other side of the wall, where there is Lop lake. The Great Wall was a major highlight of the tour. It is enormous, gigantic, well maintained, and beautiful vistas all around are breathtaking.