Friday, 13 April 2012

a short story

It is five in the morning. The sun has yet to rise. I start to pack my haversack, loading it with food to last me a meal and enough water to drink for approximately ten hours. I am going to scale the Great wall of China.

I am in the heart of Beijing currently. I will be taking a bus to the suburbs of Beijing, towards the north, at 慕田峪 (Mu Tian Yu) - which is also the part of the great wall of China I am going to scale today. It is winter now, with a temperature of -12 degree Celsius. It is going to be colder and more windy up there, at the great wall.

Alighting from the bus, I took a taxi towards the Great wall. It was magnificent. It stood up tall, heading into the heavens. You could barely see the top at ground level. Occasionally, you could see heads bobbing up and down along the walls, like ants marching around energetically.

I wasted no time and started to ascend the Great wall. Though this part of the wall is rebuilt, the steps were still uneven-some narrow, some steep; some flat, some protruding; some slanted; some perfect.

It was a tiring journey from the stairs. As I ascend, I got more exhausted. It was made worse by the increasing altitude meaning less oxygen for me to take in. However it was not that bad. I finally got up to the higher point of the wall, where I could continue my journey.

To my astoundment, this is only the beginning. According to a map, the walkway runs 2.2 km wide. Though 2.2 km may sound short to you, in this case, it is not. The 2.2 km does not include the length of the steps, as specified on the map. There are two possible routes: one to my left, the other to my right. Since it was near lunch time, I decided to take the route closer to my left as it was shorter.

As I trekked towards the left end, I could see the Chinese characters: '忠于毛主席' in English-loyalty to Chairman Mao...Mao Ze Dong, carved onto the mountain, right next to the end of the great wall.

Then, I saw a long flight of stairs, very, very long. It had to be at least 400 steps long, without any stops to rest! Worse than my ascend previously. Still I had to climb it so that I would never miss this rare opportunity. It was exhausting. I panting hard, my breathing rate increase every time I ascend more. It was like the stair way to heaven.

Well, this was just the easy part. The challenging one is to descend! Mucous was literally coming out like water running from a tap as I descend, my head bobbing up and down. Soon I reach the end of the treacherous stairs.

It was worth while. From the top, I could see the village of Mu Tian Yu. Cars running along the expressways, smog coming out of the little factories.

The sun was high and bright in the sky, it illuminated the watchtowers and I could admire the architect of the Chinese in the past-6th century to be precise. Then, I began to head back to my starting point.

After having a meal, I started part two of the adventure-towards the right. I thought that this part would be more comfortable to trek, but I was wrong.

It was worse than the 400 flight of stairs I had encountered 2 hours ago. Halfway through, I saw another flight of steps. I could not see the top of the steps. It was like 10 times of the 400 flight of steps.

The stairs were more steep and uneven this time. Every step I made was executed with caution and care for fear of tripping. I wondered how I could possibly descend these stairs. Persistent still kept me on. I ascended the stairs. It was fruitful. I could see ancient cannons mounted on the stairs every 50 metres pointing towards the open air in the mountain. Then, I broke a sweat. It was so sweaty that I had to take off my outer jacket. I could not feel the coldness of the environment.

Alas, I have reached the highest point of the wall!

I saw the village again, This time too small to see the exact details. To my right, I saw cable cars. Cable cars? I am so silly! I should have taken the cable car up the wall and not waste my time walking up the wall! How silly of me!

But to be optimistic, I am able to take the cable car down the wall, instead of taking the route of peril again.

When I got down the wall, I flagged a cab and headed home. Just in time for dinner. On the cab, I conversed with the taxi-driver. From him, I learnt that an average China citizen would have taken only 4 hours to scale this whole stretch of wall! I reflected on myself. I am still young and energetic and healthy. The stark contrast of 4 hours and 8 hours. I am really weak. At this moment, pain started to settle in to my thigh and knees...

The above fictitious story was written by my elder son. I happened to open a text file with the filename 'story' when I was using a spare thumb drive which was lying around. I read it with great interest as the story sounds very was like an exact account of what we did when we went up the Great Wall of China (Mutianyu section) last winter. I asked my son where he took the story from, as I thought it was copied from some travel blogs, I would love to read the original post. To my surprise, he told me he wrote it. It was meant to be a March school's holiday assignment, but he didn't submit it as he wrote another one with the storyline 'how I forced my brother to eat soap...'???

Anyway, I took the liberty (that is, without his permission) to post his original work here since I have been wanting to write about our trips (we've been to Mutianyu twice, and Simatai once) to the Great Wall. The photos we took were able to fit in the storyline almost perfectly! (There were better pictures but since we were staring right at the camera lens, I am not allowed to post them.) However, I may remove this post if it upsets him, a lot. Do pardon the grammatical errors, awkward sentence structures as my son is very weak in his languages, be it written or verbal. No editing is done, except for typo errors he made, so as to keep to its originality.


Joceline said...


Yummy Bakes said...

very nice photos.

Anonymous said...

an enjoyable read, well done, son of HHB :)


Small Small Baker said...

Wow, I didn't realize this was written by your son until the very end. Very well-written and the style of writing is very similar to yours. Influenced by you huh? Nice! :)

mj said...

Hi hhb, yr boy has written a gd account of his trek up e great wall. I can actually feel the pain he felt in his legs at e end of it!

Yan said...

Stunning scenery and beautiful shots !
Thanks for sharing!

CY said...

I thought it was beautifully written, you can imagine how he felt climbing the stairs and not knowing when the trek would end. The photos though are the highlight, captures the beauty of the surroundings. Really well done, you must be so proud. :)

Ronni said...

Same with SSB, me too! I didn't realized it was your son but frankly the writing style seemed a bit different but can really feel the persistence and strain involved. I was thinking perhaps you were trying a new approach in writing. Also, I was about to ask too, why you keep going to Beijing?!

Chrissy said...

Just a curious question, how many restrooms did you pass by on your long hike?

Happy Homebaker said...

Joceline, 慕田峪那段长城风景非常美,司马台那段非常壮观, 不过那段是野长城带小孩不好走。。。

Thanks Yummy Bakes...most of the photos are over exposed...we didnt have the luxury of time to take better pictures!

Orangejuice, thanks for the encouraging words :):)

SSB, oh really?! maybe it is the way I slot in the picture composition ;)

Happy Homebaker said...

mj, it was very tiring...we covered the entire section that is opened to the public...some parts were very very steep...going up was very straining, coming down scary!

Yan, thanks!

CY, thanks for the kind comment :)

Happy Homebaker said...

Ronnie, my husband was posted overseas for the past 2 ~ 3 years...he was living in Beijing, so we visited him during the school choice... since he saved up his leave for his home trip, we didnt have chance to go to other countries for holidays...

Chrissy...there are 3 restrooms along the way, but we only used the main one near the cable car station. We hiked from station 14 (cable car station) to station 23, came back down to station 14, had some refreshments, and went up from 14 all the way to station 1 and came back down to station 14 again to take the cable car down to the mountain to the car park area. So in fact, we covered the entire stretch twice!

thecoffeesnob said...

I've climbed a part of the Great Wall of China when I was in Beijing a couple years ago so I can truly relate to your son's emotions in his short story.

Thanks for sharing it, HHB- I'm sure he'll be thrilled to know of all the positive feedback he has gotten from your readers :)

Judit and Corina @WineDineDaily said...

Thank you for the lovely story! We hope to climb does stairs one day soon.
Greetings from California :)

Ronni said...

Oh dear, must have been hard on you for the past 2-3 years! Amazing. Salute you.

Christine said...

Very well written - hopefully one day, I will travel to Beijing and climb the Great Wall.

The Experimental Cook said...

I want to congratulate you. When a story such as this is able to make you pant with exhaustion from just reading about the climbing, it is already an awesome piece of work!

The story has flair and I think you have a gifted writer under your nose. Do consider getting him to write for the commonwealth essay, closing this May.

Cosy Bake said...

Very beautiful pix!!

Anonymous said...

HHB, your son wrote very well...wait till you see my eldest writings then you will know why I say so..she simply don't read. I cannot understand how she score A for English and A* for Chinese in PSLE...from your blogs I think you are a very successful stay at home mum, you feed your kids well and they seem to be good good boy...thumbs up to you :)

Happy Homebaker said...

thecoffeesnob, the first time I climbed the walls, I could barely walk the next day! My son is just like a mantou, that is, with no filling (feeling)...he has no response when I told him there were some positive feedback on his writing ;)

The Experimental Cook, thanks for your encouraging words...but my son is quite weak in his languages, as long as he can pass both his lang subjects I will be very happy, I've never expect him to be able to write. The commonwealth competition is too high a standard for him ;)

Thanks Honey boy!

Emily, my elder son got the same grades (2 years back) as your daughter, I still find it hard to believe ;)
Nah, I am just like any other typical mother, but I am really blessed with boys that are both easy to raise ;)

Anonymous said...

Wow. initially, I thought the article was written by you, till i read the last sentence. Your son and you have the same writing style, like mum like son :)

how old is your son? i thin he writes really well and the story is very entertaining too. He must be a top student in his school. Good job!


Ola said...

wow, the shots show how monumental the wall is! good job! and nice to discover your blog

Life and travelling

Sonia ~ Nasi Lemak Lover said...

Oh, after read till end then only know it was written by your son .wow, good job! I was enjoying reading the whole story and enjoy all nice photos . So far I am not too keen to visit China except Great Wall and Forbidden city. But last trip to Xiamen and Shanghai, both places were not too bad actually . Have a nice weekend.

Gracey said...

I was just reading about China recently in school, thanks for providing a visuial aid!

Deby Suwito said...

Ow boy, your son writes way much better than I do....LOL.for me, it's well written..nice picts too.

Caca said...

beautiful photos

Jayne said...

wow! I've never commented before but this post compelled me to write something. Your boy is a very engaging storyteller. Shame he chose not to hand this in. I taught in a Chinese school for about 2 years. If I were his English teacher, I'd give him a good score!

Happy Homebaker said...

Thanks Jayne for your kind comments, I wouldn't say his writing is good as I would expect more from a 14yr old ;')