Saturday, 26 April 2014
Dragon’s Head & The First Pass Under Heaven
April 21, 2014: Tianjin port – Tanggu
This was the day I’d been waiting for, a day filled with anticipation, expectations and excitement when we would journey by private tour to Laolongtou, where the Great Wall’s eastern most section enters the sea, the Dragon’s Head. Legend has it that the path the wall takes across China was determined by the foot steps of a Dragon. The truth is that the Wall was never planned in totality but rather was build in sections by several dynasties. It was not until the Qin dynasty that the segments were joined together.
Some twenty years ago my late mother travelled to China. She loved the Great Wall and was proud to have climbed a section of it near Beijing. Mom also loved the sea. On this morning as I left the ship, I once again tapped the vest pocket over my heart, feeling for the small red box that contained the Buddhist prayer charm Mom brought back with her. “Okay Mom, here we go…”
A delay in getting off the ship due to Chinese Immigration inefficiencies, all carefully monitored by a drone circling the ship, nearly scuttled our plans, but we managed to snatch triumph from the near jaws of defeat. By 11am, nearly 3 hours late, we were on the road headed for Laolongtou. Due to the late hour, we stopped for lunch at a roadside cafe before arriving at the Wall. We were treated to a colourful and very tasty feast of soup, rice & corn, grilled squid and snow peas, sweet & sour deep fried pork, egg & green peppers, chicken, peanut & veggies and of course jasmine tea.
Then it was onto the Wall and the sea.
What can I say about my first encounter with The Great Wall of China? Words do not come easily, but some tears do. I was thrilled, enthralled, a bit like a kid on Christmas morning. A new wonder lay around every turn. And then there was the wall and the sea together, the one reaching out to greet the other.
I wanted to wander and wonder my way around here for more hours than we had but that piece of heaven was out of reach and another bit awaited us: The First Pass Under Heaven at Shanhaiguan. This very first passage way west of the sea, through the Great Wall was originally built in 1381. A city grew up around the pass including markets, temples and of course fortifications.
As luck would have it, the main watch tower was undergoing restoration work today, its grandness obscured by scaffolding and screening. Still we were able to appreciate its importance and grand views.
With some reluctance we obeyed our guide’s command to get back into the car for the 3 hour journey back to the ship. It was a tiring but absolutely priceless day and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world! We will visit the Wall again while in Beijing in about 2 week’s time. I can hardly wait!
©2014 April Hoeller