Friday, September 15, 2017

The Fort at Jiayu Pass

There are various sites, museums and attractions in and around Jiayugaun. I had one day so my focus was the The Jiayu Pass/Fort and the  Hanging Great Wall. Taxi's are for tourists and will cost you 50¥  so I caught the number 1¥ city bus near the train station which cost 1 rbm (about .20). Sure the ride took 45 minutes but you also went through the city neighborhoods and hung with locals going about their day. I love the double take when they saw me. More often I heard then say laowai (foreigner) to nobody in particular. When two young kids came on the bus they stopped and looked at me confused. Blurting out the standard "laowai" to which the entire bus became quiet. I looked around and said back "loawai? zail na li, zai na li" (foreigner, where? where?). Their eyes widened as I spoke in Chinese and then asked "wo de, wo de loawai?" Bu shi, bu dui. Wo shi zhong guo ren" (Me, me? its not right. I am not a foreigner, I am Chinese). There was a brief pause and then everyone on the bus started laughing. Friendly and funny is the only way to travel.

You get off at the last stop to get to the Fort. It is obvious but if you get confused follow everyone else of the bus when they leave and then follow the English signs. As I mentioned travel in China has been easy enough.

Ticket to the fort was 120 ¥ but if you tell them you will also visit the Hanging Wall they will give you a special ticket that is 120 ¥ that includes both. If you don't ask you have to pay a separate price for each site. Don't ask me why, that is just China.

I bought my ticket and entered through the standard gate and lazy security. I could see the fort right away and I was excited. "I am at the Western start of the Great Wall, holy crap". It was eerily quiet and the lack of other people was an unexpected bonus. The very first thing I did was walk up to the fort wall and run my hang along it. This bad boy was over 2000 years old and held more historical stories and adventures than any wikpedia web site could handle.

There was a period musical greeting everyone when we arrived. It was great to see two older woman on stage performing instead of bored teenagers. The singing, well the screeching as I have come to expect in China was fun to listen to and you start enjoying it when you embrace where you are. There were various people dressed in period costumes wandering the fort. Yes they were selling but whatever, it was cool to envision these people living, working and protecting the Fort thousands of years ago.

I sat in the courtyard for about 20 minutes and took it all in. My location, the physical Fort and drifted into thought (as I do in situations like this) as to what has been lost through time and how so many people have no interest in any part of history no matter what country. I know very little about China and sitting here, at the Western start of the Great Wall re-affirmed that. With that, It was time to explore.

The place was designed so that if an area was breached the attackers would be funneled into a "kill zone" without an escape. There were quite a few of these courtyards that lead nowhere and were surrounded by high well protected wall from where soldiers could fire down on the enemy. If you were lucky enough to escape to the ramps leading up to the fort wall a level would be pulled and the ramp, which was made of logs, would come crashing down on whomever was trying to attack. Simple and brilliant in it's design.

Once inside the main courtyard you felt a sense of calm and security as strange as that might be. Of course there were vendors trying to earn a living. I walked in and around the fort for about 3 hours however it was at the North East corner where I settled in. I sat staring, allowing my imagination to wander.

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