Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Weird Museum

One of our strangest adventures in Shanhaiguan came when we took a rickety old bus from the center of town out to the beach area by the Old Dragon's Head. When we stepped out onto the road at the Lao Long Tou stop, we quickly realized that not only was there no one around, but also that we were not at the beach and seemingly not particularly close either. Several large signs pointed us in one direction toward a fork in the road.

As we walked down this road, a woman emerged from nowhere to coax us into these gates on our left. She repeatedly told us that if we went her way, it would only cost us thirty kuai per person, whereas if we chose the other path, fifty kuai would be the cost. Finally, we agreed, having no idea what exactly we were entering.

An old, dilapidated imperial-style archway welcomed us, and as we walked up the steps of what we presumed to be a museum, another woman popped out of a small door camouflaged into the background of the wall. She ripped our tickets and led us up a dark ramp that made me feel like I was in Hershey Park's Chocolate World. She took us into an open room and turned on the lights.

As soon as our eyes adjusted (the lights weren't very bright), we realized we were on a pathway above a model of the Great Wall. There was another dark room at the end of the pathway that obviously didn't have any lights at all.

By now, the four of us were pretty puzzled. If the fake Great Wall didn't confuse us enough, the next part really befuddled us. The room had a path around a large model in the middle of life-sized mannequins working to haul bricks and other supplies. The next rooms all held mannequins as well, each with a different scene.

With each turn we made, Z and I were whispering to each other that this would be the room where they would turn us into sausages (Sweeney Todd). One room had a scene with an emperor, the next one with a war between Chinese people and foreigners (there were lots of mannequins lying dead in this room).

By the time we reached the last room, we had gained five other tourists (all Chinese) in our "group." The ladies who had guided us through the "museum" now took us to see a Buddha. However, the Chinese people were kept in this room while we were shuffled out. One lady quickly told us we should turn left out of a very large parking lot to find the Great Wall. I guess we payed thirty kuai to find out the "secret" way to Lao Long Tou.

I don't think any of us have a clue what the purpose of going through the old museum was, but it sure gave our afternoon a twist.



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