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China, Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day: Great Wall of China

Tuscany

Dream Trip 2009 is well underway! For inspiration, here's a new entry that caught our eye:

Almost as iconic as the Great Wall of China itself are the massive crowds who descend on crenellated structure that snakes over the mountains. That's what makes mfogard's "Great Wall of China" remarkable. Not only does it frame the World Heritage Site in all its recognizable glory, from its vantage point, it hints at the idea of a journey to come -- and it does so without picturing a soul.

"It was a rare occasion just before the Beijing Olympic games that I was able to feel like I was the only one within a country of billions," writes mfogard. "On one of the most famous places in the world, it was incredible."

Share your travel photos and memories in our 2009 Dream Trip Contest. You could be just a few clicks away from a $25,000 trip to anywhere you choose.

China, STUNTS, Video

Video: More from the Great Wall

Editor's Note:  More scenes from Mark's journey last week to the Great Wall.

China, Mongolia, STUNTS

Train to Ulaan Bataar..."Wow"

Davidfilming_80days

Days 30-31: I took a gamble on the train to Ulaan Bataar. The first class berths have two beds, and I only bought one of them. Most people will tell you to buy both, if you can afford it, because the risk is high that you could get stuck bunking with some fat businessman from Hubei Province who chain smokes and sweats garlic oil. At first, my prospects didn't look so good. There was a mad crush of people to get on the train, most of whom had half their worldly belongings stuffed into cardboard boxes or white plastic bags.  When they opened the gates to let the people board, the people stampeded.

Continue reading "Train to Ulaan Bataar..."Wow"" »

China, Food and Drink, STUNTS

Avoid the Display Pancakes at the Raffles Beijing

Day 29: For my last two nights in Beijing, I stayed at the Raffles Hotel, a big, colonial-style spread right on the main drag where Western business people like to stay in China so that they can forget they're in China. But the hotel has one thing going for it: breakfast. You can get whatever you want--porridge, bacon, fried rice, dumplings, eggs, noodles in broth, waffles. I opted for noodles and fried rice, for the simple reason that I wasn't interested in pretending that I wasn't in China. But then an unusual thing happened. I came down with a craving for pancakes, which, to be honest, isn't all that unusual.

Continue reading "Avoid the Display Pancakes at the Raffles Beijing" »

China, Food and Drink, STUNTS

More Stories About the Great Wall

Mules_china_80days
My alarm clocks in Water's Head village

Day 28: Chinese roosters, like roosters everywhere, crow to announce the arrival of day.  It is the best kind of alarm, and in Water's Head village, a crescendo of mules and goats figure into the mix, a brazen and undeniable call to action.

We got up, washed our hands, and rolled our sleeping bags. The toilet was situated in a shed out back, and was nothing more than a hole in the ground to squat over. It worked just fine, so long as you could tolerate the thigh-burn.

Continue reading "More Stories About the Great Wall" »

China, Gear, STUNTS

My sleeping bag

Readyforbed_80daysMountainbiker: The sleeping bag you asked about is a Feathered Friends Hummingbird. Grandfather Han was right to appreciate its quality: it's the nicest sleeping bag I've ever experienced.

China, STUNTS

At the Great Wall(s) of China

Greatwallofchina_80days_2
 
Day 27: Contrary to popular belief, the Great Wall of China is not one big, long, continuous stretch of unending wall. It is several pieces of wall, with many gaps. It is also many different walls, though they all run roughly parallel to one another--east to west--separating China from the lands to the north. The Great Wall of China was not a raised highway used to transport goods and people across the country, it cannot be seen from the moon, there are no dead workers buried within its bricks, and no one knows how long it is. The Great Wall was built with a single purpose in mind: to keep out Mongol raiders.

Continue reading "At the Great Wall(s) of China" »

China, Food and Drink, STUNTS

Taking in Beijing's Culinary Delights (and the Odd Fist Fight)

Beijing_bus_80days
Is there room in the back?

Day 26: My first night in Beijing, I bathed in an eighteenth-century palace, rode on a bus more packed than I thought possible, and ingested the spiciest cabbage in existence. This was before the fight broke out.

Let's begin with the palace. It was built as a residence for a Ching dynasty prince, and later turned into a Sichuan restaurant, which was something the prince never saw coming. According to lore, it was Deng Xiao Ping's favorite place to go for dinner, and in 1995 it was fashioned into the China Club Hotel. The China Club is something all too rare: an expensive hotel with character. I'm not sure my room was the prince's actual bedroom--you probably need to own a Gulfstream for that--but that was okay with me. My room, I thought, just might have been the quarters of the prince's favorite concubine, and that her spirit would visit me during the night. (No such luck, as it turned out.)

Continue reading "Taking in Beijing's Culinary Delights (and the Odd Fist Fight)" »

China, STUNTS

Lost...Then Found in China's Multitudes

Beijing_bound_80days
My Beijing-bound train

Day 25: We aren't more than a few minutes out of Hong Kong's Hong Hum train station when the music starts. Hey, it's that Billy Joel song, I think to myself and begin to hum along to "My Life," which is being sung in Mandarin. At the chorus, however, the song takes a turn towards the uplifting and majestic, as though it was written to inspire brigades of fresh troops, and I'm left wondering if someone should tell Billy Joel, but then imagine how a phone call between Billy Joel and the Chinese train authority would go. Plus, it's unwise to make assumptions of guilt. This is a culture that's 5,000 years old. They invented gun powder, they invented paper, they invented the compass, and, I presume, chop sticks. They've come up with a melody or two in that time.

Continue reading "Lost...Then Found in China's Multitudes" »

China, STUNTS

Farewell My Lovelies

The bunny suit
Greta.  My bunny.

Today is the saddest of these 80 days. Laura and Greta left on a plane to fly back over the Pacific Ocean.

The morning was long and heavy.  We ate breakfast, then undertook the painful process of packing separate luggage. Greta was wearing her bunny outfit, which is my favorite. At around 10 a.m., it was time to say goodbye. I lifted her up, kissed her warm, tender head and tears were rolling down my cheeks as she smiled and made googly noises at me, which was a 180-degree role reversal for us.

(For all you male readers, I realize this wasn't terribly manly of me. But I plan on steer wrestling a yak in Mongolia to make up for it.)

Continue reading "Farewell My Lovelies" »

China, STUNTS

If Liberace Lived in Hong Kong...

Ourroom_hong_kong

Check out this room

From a design point of view, the cruise ship was conservative tacky. It looked like it was decorated by a team of Hungarian-coffee-shop grandmothers with a dream budget--lots of chrome and brass, smoke crystal sconces and chandeliers, and plenty of glossy marble surfaces. You know the look.

Continue reading "If Liberace Lived in Hong Kong..." »

China, Cruising the Pacific, Food and Drink, STUNTS

Hong Kong: Halfway Around the World

Watch in Hong Kong
My watch is correct again (+12 hours)

As I write this, it is 5:20 p.m. here and 5:20 a.m. on the Eastern Seaboard. My watch is correct once again. I am halfway around the world.

Here on the other side of the world, no one seems to think I'm dressed very well. Every second man I pass in the street wants to make me brand new a suit. So great is their alarm over my appearance that they assure me that one can be ready in just a few hours.

Hong Kong.

Continue reading "Hong Kong: Halfway Around the World" »


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