Monday, April 06, 2009

Pai Dui!

We decided, this past weekend, to take a trip out to the Great Wall and hike along some parts where we have never been. Our decision to do this at this specific time boiled down to one factor...The weather! The forecast was for temperatures up into the twenties, which meant that it would (finally!) not be too cold for extended outdoor time in the mountains. Nor would it be too hot, as it surely will become in the months ahead. So a perfect time to hit the road...Or so we thought!

It was only after arriving at Dongzhimen long-distance bus station that we, somewhat belatedly, remembered it was Qing Ming weekend. Qing Ming weekend?

Qing Ming is an ancient Chinese festival that has been translated as "Tomb Sweeping Day." Essentially, Qing Ming is when families make pilgrimages back to their home towns and honor their ancestors. This honoring takes the form of everything from sao mu (the sweeping off of grave sites) to the offering of food, tea, money, and other gifts.

In practical terms, Qing Ming meant for us that there were hordes of people heading out of Beijing city and returning to their family homes in outlying villages...Many of which are, as it turns out, precisely in the direction of the Great Wall! This was a recipe for disaster...Or so we thought!

As we wandered through the station, we slowly but surely came to realize that things were not as bad as they appeared. Somewhat surprisingly, each long-distance bus appeared to have its own pai dui (orderly line). On top of that, at the end of each line, there was a young woman holding a sign on a long post. The signs had the numbers of respective buses on them. In other words, these signs marked the end of each pai dui. All you had to do was locate the sign for your bus route, join the queue, and you were good to go.

So twenty minutes later, there we were...Sitting on the 980, heading out to Miyun, a small town (of five hundred thousand!) located near the Great Wall. Don't worry, though...It's the Ballas...There was sure to be a misadventure eventually...



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