The Angelic Villas of Bidadari (Bali)


Bidadari Villas at Ubud is a Balinese destination in and of itself.  It is, at once, a physically amazing place.  Lush, beautifully landscaped grounds surround opulently appointed private townhomes, perfect for a romantic stay or better yet a honeymoon.

Setting Sun from Our Villa

Artistic Accents Abound

As its name implies – “Angel,” Bidadari certainly holds a lease on a little corner of heaven here on earth.  As a high-end resort, it is a unique place by which the remote nature of Bali can best be experienced.  The amazing panoramic views, the unique, spacious and private villas, and an overly attentive staff make these accommodations worth every penny of a costly stay there.  Time melts away as guests are pampered and relaxed.  A stay here is a time of elegance.

Evening Views from our Villa

Balinese Doorways

Drama in Stone

Jody and I quickly fell in love with not just our Villa, but of the place.  Bidadari is mystically located, nestled in a jungle ravine, where rice farmers tending their terraced fields can be enjoyed from each room’s private infinity pool, all overlooking the jungle canopy of the river valley below.  The property is beautifully constructed of the finest materials, situated vertically along a steep ridge, giving each room almost 100% privacy and unadulterated views.  Be forewarned though:  the spa is located all the way at the property’s bottom, and after one of the best massages you’ll have in your life, the climb back up to your room can be a challenge.

In-Room, Private Dining

Private Chef

Surprise Birthday Celebration

The bar for service at Bidadari is set and held to the highest standards, with a personable staff all around and private butler for every room on-call 24/7.  As corny as this may sound, the employees really do seem to possess a genuine desire to provide an exceptional experience at every turn.  Mr. Rana, the site’s manager, makes you feel as welcomed as family, and having our own butler, driver and maid which we personally got to know made us feel completely at home, even in the midst of such luxury.  Each detail of our stay at Bidadari was simply a perfect balance of extravagance, relaxation, and service.

Delicious Room Service

The staff at Bidadari arranged for a diver on multiple days for us, an employee of the resort who was local to the area and spoke very good English.  The vehicles provided are well maintained, and the driver provides welcomed cold bottles of water between stops and sarongs which are required at most temple visits.

Open-Air Breakfast

Breakfast is served each morning open-air in a shaded living area by your secluded pool, and featured fresh fruits and a menu to order set the evening prior.  But it was the “special” meals we ordered which were so unforgettable.  On one occasion, we requested the local grilled sampler of local fare and favorites.  For this meal, a formal dining area was set in our villa, and a grill and private chef actually cooked out meal there not far from our table-side!

Romantic Dinner for Two

The food service at Bidadari will surprise and delight.  Personal and friendly Butlers provide gracious service for each room service menu.  All dining is private and luxurious, delivered to and served in your private villa.  Dining is open-air, complete with stunning vistas of the Ubud valley spied over your private pool.  The chefs at Bidadari source their produce, delivered daily, locally from Ubud Markets, and the room-service menu includes a wide array of Indonesian specialties and a fusion of other international foods.  To compliment the food, a wide array of wines is also offered, including selections from Australia, South Africa, Chile and New Zealand.  And, of course, to help pass the time, a full range of cocktails are just a phone call away.

Dinner in our Room

On another occasion, we decided to pamper ourselves (and to help celebrate Jody’s birthday) and ordered their romantic dinner for two.  Coming “home” after a day of touring we found our villa decorated with rose petals and candles, which really set the ambiance for the rest of our evening.  Needless to say, the food at Bidadari is exceptional, personal, and hand-crafted to order.

Romance

An amazing aspect of a stay at Bidadari is that you truly can feel like the only guests on property.  Given the private dining and pools, limited number of rooms (6 total), and the gated nature of each villa, only on very few occasions did we see anyone else…besides the staff.

Goodnight Desserts each Night

We stayed in Villa Melati.  Entering through iconic Balinese-inspired doors, and passing a fountain providing a soothing sound of splashing water, the main living areas of the villa are encountered.  To the right is a large couch, perfect for napping and watching TV, one of which we did hardly any of (you can guess which one…I hope).  To the left is the private infinity pool and dining area, both with wide views of the ravine across and below.  Passing this area and going downstairs, a fully appointed kitchen is found; moving upstairs the master bathroom and bedroom are found.  The only air-conditioned area is the bedroom, but AC is not really required anywhere else.  The furniture and decor all are designed to complement a stay and highlight the unique culture of Bali.

Napping Couch

But it’s not just Bidadari that makes a holiday here so fantastical.  The Villas are located just outside the mystical Bali village of Ubud, our favorite locale while in Bali.  The property runs a free, on-call shuttle to the village center, about 4 kilometers away, and around a 10-minute drive (or so).

Upstairs Master Suite

Artistic Accents Abound

Ubud’s specific collusion of its particularly beautiful surroundings and gracious way of life have historically made it a haven for celebrities and artists.  But since being spotlighted in the famed book by Elizabeth Gilbert and movie of the same title Eat Pray Love, it has become a destination of choice for peoples from all over the world.  It seems that Ubud, at least for now, has maintained its traditions despite the onslaught of tourism.  Here the Balinese still place offerings gracefully on the side of the road and at every temple.  While they may now ride scooters everywhere (there seem to be about 6 billion motorbikes in Bali!), the Balinese still maintain their traditional beautiful dress.

Balinese Beauty

Ubud is the meditational heart of Bali.  Many come here purely to recharge and recover from the damages of suffering the unsustainable pace of western life.  Private yet open-air yoga studios and schools abound, surrounded by dense green jungles, myriads of rice fields and beautiful tropical gardens.  The village has a very relaxed vibe to it, and seems to actually physically resist those who are rushed in their lives.  Rather, it is a place to relax and live in the moment.  Have a casual meal on one of the many street side cafes or restaurants.  Slowly stroll around and do some window shopping and perhaps a big of haggling.  Or, better yet, just sit idly by with a good book and ingest the colorful and delightful Balinese life that passes you by….

Natural Relaxation

The vision behind the design and construction of Bidadari was focused on private relaxation within the natural foliage and fauna of Bali.  Plans insisted that each villa be totally autonomous, private, and secluded; once the gated entrance is enclosed, guests should be able to relax and indulge their every desire…without ever having to leave.  Nestled into a ridge meandering down to the River Wos, the six multi-story luxury villas are surrounded by breathtaking lush tropical gardens.  The villas have been constructed to artistically blend into a landscape of coconut palms and exotic foliage, undisturbed as much as possible.

Spa Staff

The on-site Bunga Matahari Spa is a captivating and casual stroll down meandering steps deep into the tranquil atmosphere which permeates Bidadari.  The spa is totally secluded, fringed by the running waters of the ravine’s river, and surrounded by the vibrant tropical rain forest and lush gardens that it nourishes.  Relaxing spa treatments and blissful massage unique to Bali are relished while your senses soothed by listening to the rush of the river below.  After your treatment, a warm soaking flower bath for two is drawn so that you can continue to relax while overlooking the river and the hidden valley of Ubud.

Our Spa Room for the Afternoon

To date, for me and I’ll go out on a limb and say this for Jody too, our stay at Bidadari remains our most luxurious holiday, and probably the most enjoyable and memorable.  We stayed for just over a week, and not only was our time at the Villas the highlight of that trip to Bali, it’s one of the highlights of our lives.  If you are wondering if the price of staying there is worth it, yes, absolutely it is.  When we return to Bali we will stay again without a doubt, with much love and eternal thanks.

Check out the Bidadari Villas at Ubud for yourself, or find them on Facebook here.

“Dear Cat-Sitter”


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Cat sitter (black text) and cat owner (blue text) correspondence (both raw and unedited), along with a few musings of the cats (green text) left behind during our recent 9 day vacation to Cambodia….

Day 1

Hello, Kevin san, how are you? I could enter into your house, so I was relieved! ^^; Kurio chan & Mayonaka san are fine. Kurio chan is ok but Naka san is so cautious. But he ate his wet food for me, hide now but he will be better day by day. Kurio chan looks sad but plays fine! So don’t worry! Takeyo

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Takeyo-San, thank you so much! We are in our hotel in Cambodia. Naka will warm to you; Cleo is friendly but aloof. I’m glad she played! Thanks for the pics and update. Cheers, Kevin

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Dear Cat-Sitter, Who the hell is this “Kurio” of which you speak?? Sad? Sad?!? I’ll tell you about sad: the doors to this prison never open and the windows stay closed. I take only the mildest of pleasure in playing “fine,” which serves to mask my own feeble attempts at gaining access to your jugular…and the keys to my freedom. The Little Black One appears so strong as he hides, in stark contrast to my lack of will power when confronted with those damned new toys. I vow to join the kitten in his clear acts of civil disobedience during your next visit. Cleo


Day 2

Dear Kevin san, Cleo chan and Naka san are very fine. Naka san also starts to play. I’m so happy (^_^o) Have a nice trip! Takeyo

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Great! Thanks so much!

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Dear Cat-Sitter, Finally, you got my name right. And as my captor, I must object to you continuing to taunt me with the damaging psychological torture of the little red dot that’s impossible to catch. At least the Little Black One has lowered himself to our level now, giving up his campaign of civil disobedience, so I’m no longer alone. I’m glad someone is “so happy”…. Cleo

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Kevin san, Hi, how are you? We are doing well! Cleo & Naka san are getting used to the situation, and the amount to eat dry food increased. They are very fine! Have a nice day! Takeyo. PS I give to a plant every day, don’t worry about that!

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Dear Cat-Sitter, I object, once again, to the forced rations of tasteless dry cereal, and surely we are to starve with only two rationed meals a day. “The Situation?” No, sorry, “The Situation” is some jack-ass from New Jersey on reality TV. What is happening here is just plain sad. Hey, here’s an idea: let me outside and I’ll take care of the plants for you! Cleo

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Day 3

Hello, Kevin san, They are very fine this morning too! They ate all dry food for me last night, and all wet food this morning too. They are interested in a new toy that I have and excited very much. I wonder whether I can park in the parking #501 while the sitting. Is the # 501 yours? The street is very is crowded very much during the G,W holiday. Thank you. Have a nice day!

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Takeyo, Of course park in 501!! I’m sorry we didn’t talk about parking. Please leave a little more food out for the cats. We always leave a bowl of dry food put in the kitchen. Naka is still growing and very hungry! And thank you for bringing new tots to share with the cats! Thanks, Kevin and Jody

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Dear Cat Sitter, With only two choices of food we starve. This is the only reason we eat for you And the Little Black One is…just plain gluttonous. I continue to regret the mildest of pleasure which I cannot resist given your harassing new playthings. Holiday? It must be “Take Great Pleasure in Cat Confinement” week. Enjoy your rock-star parking in our Beloved Warden’s spot while it lasts. Cleo.

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Day 4

Kevin san, Thank you for an answer about parking. I’m just in your house. Yes, I will add dry food for them when I go out. They are just eating wet food now. Have a good night! Takeyo

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Dear Cat Sitter, Thanks be to our Beloved Warden who cares enough to see that our basic food needs are adequately met. We may survive this week after all. Cleo

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Day 5

Kevin san, Hello, How are you? It was a pretty day today, I think Cleo chan & Naka san spent very comfortable. But they looks miss you, so sweet day by day. Cleo loves brushing and Naka san loves play with a new toy everyday!

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Thank you so much! We miss them back. Keep the updates coming!! Cheers, Kevin and Jody

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Dear Cat Sitter, Pretty day? Oh, the Little Black One and I wouldn’t know anything about that since we remain confined with even our exercise yard privileges revoked. Yes, the Little Black One is much too easily amused. I continue to search for his missing feline pride and integrity…while you brush me. Cleo

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Day 6

Hello! How are you ? We are doing well! They are relaxed very much. Naka san is not shy boy anymore. They love CIAO treat and Sheba, eat well. But I worry that the main food does not decrease very well. Their box (toilet)has no problem. Have a good night! Takeyo.

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Takeyo, Many thanks for the update! They are mainly wet food eaters. As long as they are eating the normal wet food we are okay with that. If you cut back on treats they will eat more dry, but it’s okay to spoil them while we are away! We will be home soon now. Thanks for watching over our furry friends! Cheers, Kevin

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Dear Cat Sitter, As much as I long to lodge prolonged protest with a hunger strike, the Little Black One lacks the will power and intestinal fortitude to see it through. Thanks be again to our Beloved Warden for demanding additional treat rations be distributed! We may be lost and locked away, but not forgotten. Cleo

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Day 7

Kevin san, Thank you for the advices about the food for them. If it is so, they are normal and they are eating the dry food little by little. They have no problem! Naka san attacks to Cleo, then he is scolded by her. He looks like a near state for daily life. It’s a fine day this morning, but a rainy season seems to start Okinawa.

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Takeyo, Hello! Yes Naka wants to play fight, but Cleo has never been like that, even with her brother before he went missing. We tried to stop him, but there’s no way. There is no harm and they get along okay! Thanks, Kevin and Jody

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Dear Cat Sitter, If cats could cry tears the rainy season would’ve started seven days ago. And as far as this “state of daily life,” I remain mystified as to why I am continually subjected to the Little Black One’s bullying and harassment with proper intervention by the authorities. If I wasn’t such a proper and proud maternal dignitary, my scolding would involve a lot more blood. Cleo

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Day 8

Kevin san, How are you? Cleo chan & Naka san are very good! They eat food well and their box has no problem, I’m so happy. Naka san looks for his fevorit toy in my bag and waits it out. Cleo chan also play with toy, goes around, watches outside, and request me to drain the tap water of bathroom. She looks very relaxed. A typhoon aproches to Okinawa, I hope that it go away and you have no problem coming back. If you have any problem please let me know to extend to visit. Cleo chan miss you. She is waiting for you and crying. She is so cute!

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Dear Cat Sitter, Yes, I fear drinking from the same stale stagnant water that the Little Black One enjoys with open abandon. For me, I demand clean fresh untainted liquid nourishment, a basic animal right, confined or not. Cute is a relative term. Cute is me biting off the Little Black One’s ears. Or brining home fresh gecko-meat from the exercise yard. And my crying: crocodile tears. Cleo

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Day 9

Hello Kevin san & Jody san, Cleo chan & Naka san are very fine! They will meet you well tomorrow. The typhoon will come here on 12th or 13th, so I believe you are safe. I am glad that we got used very good friends for these 9 days and they are doing very well. So I miss to say them Good bye tomorrow, but they will be so Happy to see you again! Please be careful on your way to home. Takeyo.

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Takeyo-San, We are at the airport in Cambodia and will be home in just about 14 hours. Thanks so much for taking such good care of our family! Please leave the key where you found it after the morning visit. Thanks again!! Regards, Kevin

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Dear Cat Sitter, Yes, very good friends aside (and this characterization is more than debatable), we will be equally has happy to say goodbye to you and finally be paroled by our Beloved Warden from this infernal confinement, storm or no storm. Cleo

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Day 10

Dear Kevin san, How are you doing? I finished my work just now. I left a key in pacage on the point where you left before, please make sure it. Cleo chan and Naka chan are very fine, so don’t worry! Thank you for the everything! Takeyo

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Dear Cat Sitter, All my bitching (and scolding) aside, on behalf of me and the Little Black One, THANK YOU for everything. Until we meet again. Cleo

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For a truly wonderful pet-sitter on Okinawa, please contact Takeyo Yamamoto at (cell) 080-6495-9365, email at Okinawa-chatan@petsitter.co.jp.  See her company “Pet Sitter SOS” website at http://pet-Okinawa.jp

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Heroes of the Great Wall of China


“If we fail to reach the Great Wall we are not men.” ~Mao Zedong and his quote which inspires millions of tourists visiting the Great Wall each year

Heroes of the Great Wall - China's label for us, not our own!

Heroes of the Great Wall – China’s label for us, not our own!

 

Finding our Chinese tour guide Allen upon coming down off the Wall, I corner him with a dose of ornery attitude and personal-space invading sassy body language.

“Allen, you can’t see Tower 13 from here, can you,” I emphatically inquire, hoping that my accusatory tone was coming through loud and clear.

“No-no-no, of course not,” came his dismissive reply slathered in an overly coy smile. “It is much higher and much deeper into the pass than that up there,” he continued, pointing to the highest tower visible from our base camp of sorts.

We were almost the last down the wall well past the given meeting time for our tour group. Having been filled with wall-scaling propaganda on the hour-long journey, filled with Mao quotes and talk of the herculean efforts in becoming a hero of the Great Wall, we were thoroughly indoctrinated upon our arrival and were fixated on summiting the pass “Tower 13” at all costs. We did. But boy-oh-boy what a climb!

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Known in Mandarin as chang cheng, literally “long fortress,” the Great Wall of China dates back as far as the 5th century BCE. Several sections of the Great Wall are located within close proximity to Beijing, so trekking small portions of the long fortress is not difficult, logistically speaking at least.

China 2014, Great Wall, signage along the way WM

The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials, generally built along an east-to-west arc that very roughly delineates the southern edge of Mongolia, equating to the historical northern borders of China. It was envisioned as protection against nomadic intrusions and full-scale military incursions by various warlike peoples from the north. Several permanent walls were being built as early as the 7th century BCE, but most were later joined and strengthened by the 14th century resulting in what we see today. Most of the existing wall dates from the Ming Dynasty in China (14th-17th centuries).

China 2014, Great Wall, ridge-top wall at a mountain pass

Upon our arrival at the Great Wall, where we were one of the early buses for the day, we had to, of course, walk through a wholly atypical capitalistic Chinese “ancient village” where every vestige of originality has been removed and replaced with perfect, cartoonish copies Disney-style, and where any and all structures house souvenir shops. The weather, well, was not what we wanted: cold temperatures and a forlorn hazy overcast which we were repeatedly told was fog. “Fog” in China is more than synonymous with “smog;” it’s actually PC-speak for downright pollution! Unfortunately the weather was to shed all of our views that day, and result in the somewhat bleak set of pictures found here.

"Allen."  Not his real name.

“Allen.” Not his real name.

Allen, our tour guide, casually briefed us at a map of the Wall. Pointing out our goal – “Tower 13” – he casually waved his hand at the top of the ridgeline above where we could see a tower. “That’s not too bad,” I optimistically thought to myself. I remember thinking it didn’t seem to be that much of a climb. But then again we were only given about two hours to make our trek.

Well maybe he was point to Tower 13....

Well maybe he was point to Tower 13….

My first clue of what lay ahead? “Tower 13.” Ah, of course, it’s has to be unlucky 13. Only in Italy does it seem that the number 13 is considered anything but wickedly sinister.

juyongguan_mapChina 2014, Great Wall, find Jody along the wall! WMDue out limited time, our tour took us to Juyongguan Pass. Also written as Juyong Pass (居庸关 or 居庸關), this 11 mile long valley through a ridge of mountains lies just 31 miles outside of central Beijing. Here a large portion of The Great Wall of China passes through and has been fully restored. Juyongguan historically is one of the three greatest mountain passes of the Great Wall of China. It includes two sub-passes, one at the valley’s south (“Nan”) and the other at the north (“Badaling”). Although fortifications here date much earlier, the pass we see today is the site that was built in the 14th century under the supervision of Xu Da, a general of Zhu Yuanzhang, the First Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. It served as the northwestern gate of ancient Beijing City, and most certainly an important defensive ring for empire’s capital. However, like any good massive public undertaking, there were other uses for the wall as well. The tax man loved the barrier it proved, using it to place duties on goods traveling the historic Silk Road. Oh, and it was an effective barrier to both illegal immigration, and at times undesirable emigration. Makes one think it might be a good idea to have a “Great Wall of American.” And it wouldn’t be along our Canadian border….

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There is debate about the actual linear measure of the wall, since it includes many branches, trenches, and other natural barriers, but the measure lies somewhere between 8,850 km (5,500 mi) and 21,196 km (13,171 mi). Even at the low-end of the measures, it’s still over twice as far as the Miami to Seattle drive I’ve done…four times…which takes a minimum of 4 “reasonable” days averaging 60 mph for 12 hours per!

I couldn't resist....

I couldn’t resist….

great-wall-construction-smallgreat-wall-battle-illustrationThe cliché goes that “many hands make light work.” Although it’s tempting to take the original length of the Great Wall (say 3,100 miles), assume that it was built over 10 years by over 1,000,000 unlucky souls, and run the math to figure that each worker was “only” responsible for about 1.65 feet of wall per year. of MASSIVE wall running across IMPOSSIBLE terrain. Which includes everything needed to complete that 1.65 feet: quarrying, transporting, cutting, lifting, fitting, tamping, and finishing. No, any way you slice this construction project, it was hell to be in its employ. In actuality, if we take that 1.65 linear feet and multiply that by the average height of the Ming wall of 33 feet, and then multiply that by the average width of about 15 feet, converting to cubic yards we find that each poor soul was actually responsible for almost 30 cubic yards of construction. To put this in better perspective, realize that a full-sized cement truck carries only 8 cubic yards of mix; standard dump trucks carry between 5 and 10 cubic yards of earth. Oh, and the Empire paid you only in food…. In actuality, the network of smaller projects was built well over the course of 2,000 years, or 100 generations, and most likely involved many millions of people.

China 2014, Great Wall, private pausing on the way up

China 2014, Great Wall, Kevin happily on the way down!Yes, we dressed appropriately for the weather, forecast to only be in the 40s that day. And luckily we were forewarned to dress in layers. It may seem chilly at first on the Wall (and it is when that dry wind blows right through you), but I guarantee you’ll be breaking a sweat once you reach the second beacon tower along your journey. What we lacked, and could have used, was some water! It’s not like climbing Mount Fuji, but it’s much more of a climb than you think.

China 2014, Great Wall, Jody just starting the climb WM

rsz_screen_shot_2014-04-08_at_45452_pmAnd although it’s also been referred to as the “longest cemetery on earth,” confirmations of mass graves or deaths on the wall are hard to come by online. I have, although, seen estimates that put the death toll of construction at over 300,000, but I cannot find one credible instance online that states people were actually buried in the wall. Our tour guide claimed that during restoration of the pass we enjoyed over 5,000 sets of human remains were found in the vicinity.

Me with a Watch or Beacon Tower

Me with a Watch or Beacon Tower

Progress on the climb is measured by Watch or Beacon Towers: each is numbered. Although without a portable map, and thinking that the visible tower on top of the ridge was our goal, I didn’t pay much attention to the tower numbering when we first set out. I believe we started at Tower 6…. The visible one I mistook for 13 was actually only tower…EIGHT!!

China 2014, Great Wall, Jody thinks it's lonely near the top

smoke-great-wall-watchtowers-smallgreat_wall_of_china_12The Ming watchtowers were critical components of the Great Wall. Used primarily for observation, they are also called “Beacon Towers,” where their elevated roofs served as platforms for signaling. In fact, it seems that each beacon tower had a ready bunker of firewood, hay and sulphur for making quick, bright and smoky fires. Built no more than twice an arrow’s flight (about 100 yards) apart, the towers provided full defensive coverage; the more elaborate towers stood over 40 feet tall and offered unobstructed views and fields of fire. Observation posts were located on the top floor of the tower; lower floors were used to store supplies and equipment and house soldiers.

China 2014, Great Wall, crowded lower reaches of the wall WM

Note the "Watchful" Cameras

Note the “Watchful” Cameras

Of course there are the ubiquitous cameras on each of the “watch” towers; c’mon, what else would you expect to be going on there! Security cameras are literally everywhere in modern China, and lends credence to the premise of the show Person of Interest. If a machine is tracking your every move, you are most certainly in China. Are you being watched? Yes. In streets, classrooms, stores, mass transit and tourist destinations. Everywhere. If you want to visit China, get used to it.

China 2014, Great Wall, vespa treatment for the mountainous wall WM

China 2014, Great Wall, walking the lonely mountain wall WMChina 2014, Great Wall, the long climb up to Tower 13 WMWe press on with our climb. And make no mistake: trekking this section of the Great Wall is a climb. Like setting the stair-stepper at the gym on the hardest setting and then going for a full 60 minute workout! For the love of god, watch your step! When wet, the stone pathways and stairs are super slick; even when dry and on restored stairs, the footing can be questionable. The steps are never the same height two stairs in a row (modern building code is a wonderful thing), and some are so steep and high that it becomes more like scaling a ladder than even climbing steep stairs. Steps higher than their width are not uncommon. It’s not until you turn around and look back at the rising, snaking path that you really appreciate the steepness of those steps. It’s hard to find firm information on the vertical ascent to tower 13. At the low-end it seems to be about 630 meters, or about 2,100 feet. At the high-end, the round number 3,000 feet is often quote. My own estimates on the wall, using my trained skydiver and pilot’s eye, was about (but not quite) 3 grand.

China 2014, Great Wall, Jody on the climb into the heavens

China 2014, Great Wall, misty wall in a mountain pass WMBattlements are obvious all along the wall. Naturally, the crenellations (and holes for firing) faced the enemy, but drainage is all to the Empire’s side, helping to prevent vegetation which could provide concealment to an enemy. At one point I mentioned to Jody about how low the Wall was in one section. I didn’t realize I was looking onto the “friendly” side; Jody motioned me to the opposite wall where the wall connected to the crest of the ridge, which dropped precipitously a few hundred feet.

There are not many facilities along the way....

There are not many facilities along the way….

The Wall worked, but only marginally, and only for a short period of time. Manchu tribes from the northeast finally surmounted the Wall in 1644 and promptly took over Beijing, then all of China, and established their Qing dynasty, ending the Ming era. Can’t you just see about a million soldiers, slaves, and peasants turning over in the graves sighing, “All that work for nothing!!!”

China 2014, Great Wall, ridge-line wall trace (low key)

Once we realized the tower numbering system, we knew a bit more what we were in for. There was no turning back; climbing ahead of us was an older Marine Colonel Nancy who moved out like this was something she did everyday back on Okinawa. Climbing with us was a Marine Major, who you expect to be in good shape, but who was hauling up his 4-year-old daughter on his back, back-pack style! And behind them was a pregnant woman. We all made it up, but only after reaching a point where the pathway actually descended for a couple of hundred yards, before a steep final push to Tower 13.

China 2014, Great Wall, locks of love explanation placard WM

China 2014, Great Wall, kisses atop Towe 13!! WMChina 2014, Great Wall, locking our love together on the Great Wall of China WMAlong the way we noticed locks attacked to various points along the wall. Jody and I had seen this idea of “Love Locks” in our other worldly travels. Sad that we most likely missed our opportunity to pick one up at the base of the wall, we both longingly looked at this missed opportunity. Thankfully, up at Tower 10 or so, the locks were being sold! Writing down our names and date, the Chinese gent immediately engraved our Lock of Love, and off we went in search of “the spot” to leave our romantic impact on China. We found it in the vicinity of Tower 13.

China 2014, Great Wall, Jody happy about our locked love on top of the Great Wall WM

China 2014, Great Wall, we were there placard on Beacon Tower 13 WMChina 2014, Great Wall, Jody and tea after our arduous climbFinally, retracing our steps back down – there is not cable car or slide down at this spot on the wall – we decided to have a nice hot tea while waiting for our “Heroes of the Great Wall” certificate to be finished. We all were led to believe, again, by propaganda – or maybe just a really bad assumption – that we needed some type of stamp or document from Tower 13 to be a “hero.” This is not the case! Even so, for our own proof, we took a photo of the placard at the top tower in the pass.

Celebrating becoming a Chinese Hero at Tower 13!

Celebrating becoming a Chinese Hero at Tower 13!

Jody and I reached the Great Wall, and affirmed the true and heroic nature of not just this wonder of the world, but of the true and heroic nature of mankind in the world. Come to the Great Wall and set your own goal. No matter where you trek or how high you ascend, the Wall will leave on your soul the indelible mark of greatness.

China 2014, Great Wall, curving ridgeline mountainous wall WM

Just remember, like mounting Tower 13 of the Great Wall at Juyongguan Pass, most worthy goals involve an unexpected and challenging journey, one not visible at the outset. Persevere, and you too can become a Hero in your own right.

 

China 2014, Great Wall, Heroes of the Great wall and their bamboo medal

For more photos of our Far Eastern Flings among the Great Wall of China, see my Flickr Album The Great Wall of China at Juyongguan Pass.

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As an aside, there is often confusion surrounding Mao’s quote about the Wall and the nature of being a man, true or heroic. The quote is taken from the poem “Mount Liupan,” written in late 1935 after the Red Army almost finished the famous Long March. Mount Liupan is a mountain in northwestern China. For context, the poem is included here:

The sky is high, the clouds are pale,

We watch the wild geese vanish southward.

If we fail to reach the Great Wall we are not men

We who have already measured twenty thousand li

High on the crest of Mount Liupan

Red banners wave freely in the west wind.

Today we hold the long cord in our hands,

When shall we bind fast the Grey Dragon?

Escape…to China!


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Xian_guerreros_terracota_generalShanghai_yuyuan_gardens2The Far East Fling is getting ready to be flung to China for a well-deserved vacation!  Due to the rather poor connectivity we are expected in China, crossed with their fascinating paranoia with Social Media, Jody and I will be taking a much-needed escape from the digital world online.

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xian-city-wall20110517014512571257We are spending 7 days/nights in China, traveling to Shanghai, Xian, ad Beijing.  Of course, I’m traveling with all the camera gear, so please stay tuned for what promises to be a few entertaining tales from our continuing Far East Fling abroad the first or second week in December.  In the meantime, perhaps it’s time that you got caught up here in the Far East Fling blog.  Enjoy – and leave a note!

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Hopefully we’ll have no issue in escaping back to Okinawa….

Cheers, and as always, thanks for the Far East Fling flyby.  Kevin & Jody, Okinawa, Japan

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‘Tis Healthy…to be sick sometimes….


Unfortunately, this quote by Henry David Thoreau makes hime a vicious – and most likely, a completely healthy liar! The hospital is not anywhere on the confident path of my dreams….

Dear Far East Fling Fans, I regret my relative absence online and lack of attention to this blog of late, but I unfortunately find myself hospitalized while on vacation home in the United States. Due originally back in Okinawa today with so many Far Eastern flirtations to share, I remain uncertain of my return date to the Ryukyu Islands that I so dearly call home, and thus remain literally an ocean apart from my laptop, my camera, and all the photos of me and Jody’s latest adventures, both Asian-inspired and Home-based.

Please remain patient (pun intended) and once I’m no longer a patient (literally) I’ll be back up and blogging with vigor. This illness is going to place my scuba diving instruction business on hold for the summer, which, luckily for you cyber-stalkers, will allow me even more time to share our flings and flirtations with and in the Far East.

Cheers to all my cyber-friends, and regards to all the Far East Fling flybys!

Kevin
Pensacola, Florida
June 2014

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Sub-Tropical Summer Vacation: Iriomote Island


“He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left.”  ~ Chinese Proverb

“No man needs a vacation so much as the man who has just had one.”  ~ Elbert Hubbard

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving.”  ~ Lao Tzu

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nakara001iriomote-guide-4It’s that time of year for, yes, you guessed it:  Summer Vacation!  The wife and I are departing tomorrow (Saturday, 24 May 2014) for a 4-day retreat in the southern most reaches of the Ryukyu Islands, of which Okinawa anchors.  We will be staying at a rather remote resort on Iriomote island, and although it is the 2nd largest island in the Ryukyu (after Okinawa) chain, there are only about 2,000 residents…but over 150,000 tourists every year!  Most of the interior of the island remains rugged  and inaccessible jungle, which has become one of Japan’s largest National Parks.    We look forward to some serious unwinding, river kayaking, waterfall trekking, eco-tours, and ox cart taxis to name just a few….  Oh, but mostly just vegging by the pool and on the island’s “Star Sand” beach.

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star-sand-beach-okinawa-japan-woe3-690x44710084627204_b211c83338_zUpon our return we will have less than 24 hours to do a quick laundry and repack our bags for our first trip back to the states since being flung over to the Far East.  We will be checking in on family in South Carolina, I’ll be giving my daughter away in her wedding in South Beach (Miami) and visiting with my granddaughter who is now 18 months old, and then we’ll finally head “home” for a few days in Pensacola, Florida, to check on our rental home and catch up with all our close friends.

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Between being pretty seriously ill most of this month and these upcoming vacations, May has turned out to be a blog-lite month for the Far East Fling.  No worries though; I plan to return to publishing our Far East Flirtations with great fervor upon our return to our sub-tropical paradise in mid-June.

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Stay tuned.  Our Far Eastern Flirtations never end!  Cheers, Kevin and Jody, Okinawa, Japan.

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