Day 27: How The Brochure For Our Great Wall Tour Should Have Read

[brochure front cover:


great wall

great wall

[brochure interior:

Beijing Econotours offers you the best of Beijing.  Never mind that you could go to these places on your own where you would be free to explore at your leisure; it is too hard to negotiate with taxi drivers to take you there, you are tired and lazy, and you don’t want to have to deal with this yourselves.  Just use us!!  It is better to be saddled down with our tour guide and bus driver – free will and spontaneity are overrated, anyway!  Plus, you never know what might happen when you throw exciting variables like Chinese strangers into the mix.  It will be fun!!!

We will you pick you up at your hotel in a van!  It is better for us if you think we will then be on our way to the Great Wall, but really we will have several stops to make first.  But we won’t tell you that!

Expect your local guide, Angel, in the lobby of your hotel tomorrow.  But don’t be looking for a woman in hiking boots, no.  You will recognize her by the tiny white shirt exposing her stomach, tight black pants with fashionable suspenders, and three-inch heels.  The perfect tour apparel!

First Stop: Before experiencing the Great Wall, we will first experience a fascinating morning in Beijing while we wait outside a hotel for the other members of the tour to arrive.  It will be the same street you’ve seen a hundred times, but it’s better on a tour!  When Liz and Ursula, two young British students, finally show up, we will continue the tour.

Second Stop: We will spend fiftee-hhhrmgmg minutes at an authentic jade factory!  It’s really just a store with all the same expensive jade jewelry that you have already seen, but we’re hoping you don’t know that!!  If you are a student, please don’t tell the factory workers because then our tour guides won’t get credit for bringing in legitimate shoppers and we won’t get paid as much!  So please, walk around and see what you like for the next fiftee-hhrm*COUGH* minutes.  But beware – if you sit down instead of walk around, Angel will berate you and lecture you on your responsibility as a tourist to buy something at this store.  Oh, that Angel – she’s such a stickler!!  She will tell you “you have to shop for the next forty-five minutes.”  And then you will shriek “you said we were only going to be here for fifteen!!!”  And she will reply “no, I said we were going to be here for FIFTY minutes.”  So you will spend the next forty-five minutes wearing out a track on the carpet taking the same path around this room, eyes narrowed in suppressed rebellion, bemoaning this absurd task and plotting the demise of sweet little Angel.  It must not be hard to give her a push off the Great Wall, you will think.  However, this will give you a chance to get to know Liz and Ursula and bond with them over this injustice.

Third Stop: We will go to the Ming Dynasty Tombs.  There are many tombs, but only three are open to the public.  Our advertisements will tell you that we will see all three, including the Underground Mausoleum.  However, in an effort to save time for more shopping trips that get us more commission, Angel will only take you to one tomb.  It will only be a few minutes when she tells you it is time to leave and you will become more aggressive, asking her why you have to leave so soon and why you can’t see the other tombs.  You will attempt to make it sound like you merely want to get the most out of your tour, rather than the reality that you simply hate Angel and are rebelling against her every word.  She will lie to your face, telling you that everything else in this huge compound is closed.  You will ask her how it can possibly be closed when those other people are walking through that large, open archway into a different section of the tombs, and why can’t you go through there.  She will begin to raise her voice and tell you it is closed and it is time to go.  You will be willing to take a stand and walk across the courtyard to the open doorway, despite your concern of further alienating Angel and ruining the tour, but Liz and Ursula will seem pretty uncomfortable with this pseudo-confrontation and you will walk back to the van with the rest.

roof color

Intricate ceilings of the Ming Tombs.

please don't span

Please don’t span.  What could that possibly mean?

Back inside the van, the shit will hit the fan.

Angel will tell your squat, emotionally volatile van driver (we will call her The Bull) that she senses we are close to mutiny.  This will infuriate The Bull as she imagines all the commissions they will lose if you refuse to shop.  The Bull will begin to rant to Angel, screeching that they should just take you back to your hotels instead of going to the Great Wall.  Sam will hear this and start yelling back, telling The Bull that you paid for a tour it is incredibly inappropriate for her to threaten you.  The Bull will turn up the heat, turning on Sam and screaming at her, turning to Angel and screaming at her, gesticulating wildly.  You, unwilling to sit there and let this horrible woman yell at everyone, will want to get in on the action and so you start yelling yourself: “Excuse me.  Excuse me.  EXCUSE ME.   EXCUSE MEEEE!!!   EXCUUUSE MEEEEE!!!!?”  You will have to suppress your laughter at the absurdity of the moment.  When The Bull finally shuts the hell up, you will say, with emotion, “EXCUSE ME.  WE WANT TO GO ON OUR TOUR.  We want to see the wall!  We will do whatever you want, just take us TO THE WALL!!!”  You will be yelling again.  You are hoping that if she takes you to the wall, then she will no longer have anything to threaten you with and you can just blow off the rest of the shopping stops.

Liz and Ursula will sit in the back seat, silent and wide-eyed.

Fourth Stop: We will stop for lunch on the way to the wall.  The food will be good, and you will all drink a large beer.  This will settle your nerves.

great wall at mutianyu

Fifth Stop: The Wall.  We will go to a section of the Great Wall called Mutianyu.  You will have ninety minutes to explore.  Obviously Angel cannot climb around up there with her stilettos, so you will be on your own.  As Angel will remind you, over and over, you will have ninety minutes.  You MUST be back at 1:30.  12:00-1:30.  Ninety minutes.  If you are late we will leave without you.  Well, once you are at the wall, you will not really care if we leave you or not, will you?  You could easily find a taxi to take you back.  In fact, you will hope that we actually do leave you here, so you won’t have to deal with Angel and The Bull anymore.  So you won’t take that 1:30 deadline too seriously.

corporate umbrella on the great wall

Corporate America on the Great Wall

peeking over the great wall

Sam Peeking Over the Battlement

climbing the great wall

Kristy climbing up a guardhouse.

climbing mutianyu

Sam and Kristy Climbing

You will take a ski lift up to the wall, giving you inspiring views of the wall disappearing in the distance.  At the top, you will see there are very few people here.  For most of this time you will be totally alone.  It will be AMAZING.  A phenomenal piece of world history.  You will walk along the wall, climbing steps between guardhouses, watching it bound over the hills into the horizon.  Amazing.  It will be one of your favorite days of the whole trip.  You won’t even think about returning to Angel at 1:30.  Liz and Ursula will be impressed and grateful for the display in the van, and you all will have thoroughly bonded over the experience, so you will enjoy the extra forty-five minutes you spend climbing the wall.  The go-cart/metal slide you will take to get back to the bottom will be really fun.

great wall skylight


great wall

Great (Wall) Shadows

great wall

At 2:15 Angel will be pissed.

While she is scolding you, telling you how late you are, how you must all go at once, how she told you to return at 1:30, you might want to buy a few souvenirs to commemorate your experience.  Even if you won’t want to buy the souvenirs, you will be more than happy to pretend just to piss Angel off even more.  You will have become so good at pretending to shop at the jade factory that you might as well put those skills to use.  Chopsticks?  Hats?  Shirts?  It will be worth a look, won’t it?  When Angel will try to get Kristy to hurry up, Kristy will quietly inform her that we flew halfway around the world to see the Great Wall, we want to buy some shirts, and she can go fuck herself.  It will be awesome.

great wall

great wall

Then, when Angel thinks she finally has you ready to go, you will see an egg-crepe-thing stand and realize you are hungry.  That it will take several minutes for the nice vendor to make one for each of you is just a bonus as Angel gets angrier.  She will try to demand to Sam that you all leave at once, and Sam will continue to eat her snack as if Sam couldn’t hear her at all.  Again, it will be awesome.

Finally back in the van, The Bull will seem to have given up on you.  She, at least, will understand that she has no power over you now that you’ve seen the wall.  The threat to take you back to your hotels will sound more like an enticement than anything else.

Sixth Stop: Though your experience on the wall and the sweet, sweet revenge of tardiness will have put you in very good moods, you will be wary of another forced march through a tea house.  However, you will participate in an immaculate tea ceremony and will enjoy it thoroughly.  The lychee tea will be especially fantastic.  If only the tea house knew you didn’t have any money, they would have never gone through the whole service with you.  (You will be reminded of an American you met at the acrobatics show in Beijing who got duped into paying hundreds of dollars for the exact same tea ceremony, and marvel at how absurdly stupid that is.)

Seventh Stop: You will be wary of the silk factory as well, but will enjoy this tour immensely.  (If only we, your tour company, will have started with the tea and silk factories instead of the stupid jade factory, you would have all been so much happier in the morning.)  You will see how silk is made into carpets and comforters – you will not have known that they simply take the silkworm cocoon and stretch it out and that’s all there is to making a silk comforter.

By now it will be the evening, and Angel will try to make you feel guilty by saying she doesn’t want to waste any more of your time.  Rather than feeling guilty, you will be ecstatic to get away from her.

[pamphlet back cover:

That will be the end of the tour.  We hope you enjoy!  Don’t forget, look for Angel in the lobby tomorrow.  She will be the bitch with the high heels.


All of that drama was really pretty hilarious.  I’m convinced that it made the entire day much more fun that it would have been without it.  Plus it was good to help us make friends with Liz and Ursula, who we met up with later to go to a fancy massage parlor.  It was my first full body massage and it was pretty incredible.  I always thought it would be boring to lay there for an hour with nothing to do.  But sixty minutes goes by in a snap when you are spending every second thinking about how good this feels.

beijing night guitar

A Little Night Guitar on the Streets of Beijing

We meet Sam’s friend for dinner at a Russian restaurant, drink some beer, and go back to the hotel.  Good day.


7 Responses to “Day 27: How The Brochure For Our Great Wall Tour Should Have Read”

  1. 1 I would combat those she-devils again.
    August 13, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    it is a good think that it is friday, and i am reading this after work hours, because i am laughing my tush off remembering the absurdity of it all. how shocked we all were when we came down the steps and we saw angel sitting there….and how we ignored her commmands that we go right to the van because we are very late! and proceeded straight to the souvenir stalls. ha! oh my. and the egg crepe… mmm i would devour one right now. and massage time. sigh.

  2. August 14, 2010 at 5:34 am

    Just when I think you won’t be able to come up with anything more creative than you have, you post THIS! HILARIOUS story-telling of your experience punctuated with gorgeous photos of the great wall!! LOVE, LOVE, LOVED it!!!! Your honesty and attention to details is what makes it for me. I love that you weren’t at all intimidated by Angel or the Bull (your nicknames are priceless, too). Why weren’t they intimidated by the giant blonde??? Thanks for the Saturday morning laugh!!

    • August 14, 2010 at 7:58 am

      wow tracy! you’re welcome for the laugh! thanks for the awesome comment!

      rather than seeing the tall blondeness as something to be intimidated by, i think they have seen enough tourists to know that it is something they can take advantage of. but not on this day, my friends!! you’ll have to wake up pretty early in the morning!!!! (uh-oh. don’t get me started or i’ll get riled up all over again!)

  3. 6 i cant think of a funny name
    August 20, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    i’m trying to remember what’s next; was it day ‘o shopping? and HOT POT. yum. oh man, i want some hot pot RIGHT NOW.

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