Phenomenology is the new black

Shentangyu Natural Park & The Great Wall

In this city of vastness – urban sprawl about 80 km – it is advisable to do a dry run before embarking on a journey that requires one to be on time for an excursion. Hence my Sunday jaunt via the subway, Liangmaqiao Rd, to find the whereabouts of the China Culture Centre in Anjialou, Chaoyang District, nestled amongst the numerous embassies. As one walks in the cool of the afternoon the Deutsche Botschaftsschule Peking (German Embassy) looms on the left – looking more like a French Chateau all terracotta paint with fine long rectangular wooden shutters. There is some fine artwork in the court-yard and huge steel fences surround the compound continuing that Berlin Wall feel to the Embassy. Crossing Maizidan Road the French Embassy appears on the left looking defiantly germanic/bauhaus in style – but wait, they have nice sconces at the entrance!!  Is there more humour lurking within? Further on the Japanese Embassy with its Changi like walls and seemingly bereft of character – merely functionality.

image of graffitti

Graffiti Beijing

Once again my map reading, sat nav and guide-book have sent me on another shenanigan and after some time I find the China Culture Centre, a building looking most dilapidated and very cultural revolution – I may have made that up – A charming well spoken young lady informs me that this is the right place and I duly pick up every piece of freebie literature and boot-scoot it back to base feeling very proud that I now know its exact location and tomorrow should be a doodle!

image of moth

Even the bugs are RED!

I kid you not!

image of CCC

China Culture Centre 29 Liangmaqiao Road


So with my heavy backpack holding my camera and video equipment I embarked on the excursion to Shengtangyu alongside an international group of sightseers from Germany, Spain, Denmark, Finland and of course Australia bringing up the rear! Such a relief to have someone drive us into the countryside some 60 miles from the city centre so we could sit back and enjoy the ride – well, still no seatbelts and the occasional gasp from the front seats or what is the driver? Our three guides were wonderful, spoke exquisite English and were well versed in their knowledge and conveyed much information and mirth on our journey. The drive was very pleasant and there was much to see so the time passed very quickly. Soon, we veered into the area where the Great Wall could be viewed writhing its way up and down mountains like some giant serpent – quite majestic. There is a lot of building going on and I’m sure not all for the better for the resident farmers – there is a huge conference stadium and hotel complex being constructed right over where I am sure families have resided for generations but I was duly informed alternative accommodation was being supplied and all would end happily. Hmmm? The road changes to a little lane which meanders into a small village skirting a river gushing down the valley with people fishing and generally looking very happy and relaxed. We leave the confines of the bus and await instruction. Before I know it we are off like robber’s dogs and climbing up one of the tiniest steepest paths known to man – Up and up we go and in the heat we are all sweating profusely as we arrive at Watch Tower no 1

image of The Great Wall

Looking up at The Great Wall from Shentangyu


And here is the delightful path up……


image of pathway to Great Wall

The pathway to The Great Wall –  Shengtangyu


– crikey! not only is this a ruin and jolly high up but where-ever you step the chances of plummeting are pretty high – Oh no! Just what have I got myself into? CCC had stated it was an easy hike and anyone should be able to take part – what! Now those that know me well are aware of my issues with heights and vertigo had stepped in with a very big V!! I tried to scamper up towards Watch Tower 2 but my legs were trembling and the drop down to earth just got a lot higher – stop whilst the going is good – exactement mes amis!! So I informed my charming guide that this Pommie Sheila was not going to make the grade and would be found grazing by the nice river in the valley until lunch-time! Yes! I bottled out but seriously the chances of my paragliding to a sticky end were most probable and I’ll go back to Mutianyu section where the walkways are indeed manageable and there are no promises of sudden death!

image of sign Shengtangyu

Hmm! Should have read this before ascending!! And I know why!

Again – I repeat…… I kid you not!!!

So whilst the international set strode on I made a hasty retreat, relaxed and watched the geese chattering and swimming and counted endless fish in the crystal clear waters.

image of ducks and geese Shentangyu

Ducks and geese Shentangyu

Lunch was sublime! The crew arrived back looking suitably dishevelled and said it voiced that it was indeed a fantastic hike but very challenging. Much chatter over lunch and many wonderful stories – the food was heavenly – nothing like eating outside under a grape-vine and sampling the dishes synonymous with the region. You will all be delighted to note that my chop-stick acumen is indeed improving!!

image of rainbow trout

Lunch! The famous Rainbow Trout of Shentangyu

image of looking up at the Wall

view from the valley of the wall

After a superb lunch – we were all full to the brim – what we really needed was a nap!

image of Shengtangyu N Park

hike along Shentangyu Natural Park

A 10 minute bus ride took us to the entrance of the Shentangyu Natural Park which skirts the river and ends in a shallow lake where we rested our weary feet in the ice-cold water. Of course all my Northern Hemisphere compatriots were most unimpressed by the size of this lake – well image all those fiordic lakes I mean to them it was a lovely puddle!! I loved it and thoroughly enjoyed releasing my toes from my Doc Martens and having a soak – had one known you could also swim here I would have done so!

image of the author enjoying the waters at Shentangyu

The author enjoying some R&R at the waters in Shentangyu Natural Park

The whole area was scattered with families enjoying all the park had to offer, fishing, paddling, boating, sleeping or just plain walking – a little paradise far from the madding crowd!!

image of food & beverages

Food and Beverages cooling nicely at Shentangyu


image of no 1 watch tower

number one watch tower – The Great Wall

The return journey to CCC Beijing was pleasant and quiet – all exhausted by the hours of fresh air and blue skies.I managed to buy (CCC have a fascinating collection of English translations of Chinese Classics) a fascinating account by a lady in waiting to Empress Dowager Cixi – it gives a fascinating insight into life in the Royal Household circa 1900. The book was first published in 1911 and later republished by Earnshaw Books in 2007. There is, I am sure, a certain amount of artistic license but Princess De Ling’s memory for detail is extraordinary and it makes for great reading. I fully intend to take the boat (as the Empress did) down river to the Summer Palace and see for myself the majestic beauty of the place and its long gone traditions.



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  1. dolorescupcake
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    i love the bug!!! is that a moth?

  2. Warren Maynard
    Posted August 17, 2012 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    This is looks amazing. S o beautiful. I am amazed to watch you walk through the history of a nation with such a history as China. I like the fish in the blue box. They must have been very tasty.

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