For my way back to Vietnam from Montreal, I found a cheap flight to Beijing. I decided to take a couple days in China, before using Aeroplan points to get to Hanoi. I got a 6-month multiple-entry visa, thinking that maybe I would want to take another trip to Guangzhou for another shopping spree someday.
Somehow I got a reputation at work now, where everyone thinks I love China. I don`t love China. But it's true that not many travellers in Southeast Asia (or Hanoi) choose to visit China, opting instead for the cheaper countries in the region. Despite the fact that China is about 3 hours from Hanoi.
Still a bit jet lagged from the 11-hour time difference and the 23 hour voyage, I spent the first day exploring the Forbidden City. Judging by the amount of people in this Forbidden City (photo above), it's obviously no longer forbidden! I walked around the site with one of those recording devices you can rent, where some lady with a weird British/Chinese account talks about the history in an unadjustably high volume. I still can't believe there is a city of 13 million people with a winter climate similar to Montréal. I always gave the smallish population of Montréal the climate-excuse. But this seems to defy that, so back to the drawing board (is the French language the next best excuse?).
The next day I explored the Great Wall of China with my Couchsurfing companion. It was much more impressive than I had originally thought. Also, much more dangerous. Some parts of the wall had a steep incline and no steps. I had to hold on to a railing and slowly slide my body down. I don't understand how the Chinese would have been able to run up these inclines to attack the invading Mongolians. At that point I couldn't even figure out how I would be able to survive another kilometre... with steeper inclines in the horizon, and being to far in to turn around (this, paired with my fear of heights). I persevered.