A lay­ered land of con­trasts

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - FARM STAY BYRON BAY -

Dadong Roast Duck is one of Bei­jing’s top ad­dresses for crispy duck. Chefs use roast­ing spits to keep the meat moist and en­sure that the skin goes per­fectly crispy (mains from $15).

This court­yard ho­tel com­bines bou­tique style with a gor­geous set­ting in the hu­tongs of the Dongcheng dis­trict. Court­yard rooms fea­ture rus­tic roof beams and un­der­floor heat­ing, while the Three Gar­dens rooms have rain show­ers and zen pa­tios. There’s a sweet gar­den bar, as well as a roof deck for evening drinks (the­o­rchid­bei­jing.com; court­yard rooms from $110). nu­mer­ous sec­tions, built and mod­i­fied by suc­ces­sive mil­i­tary com­man­ders over the course of more than 2000 years. Some parts are lit­tle more than pounded earth, mud and tim­ber.

Oth­ers, such as the Jiankou sec­tion, bris­tle with ram­parts, forts and guard tow­ers, of­ten given elab­o­rate names such as The Ea­gle Flies Fac­ing Up­ward, Heaven’s Lad­der or the Nine-Eye Tower.

Built in the mid-14th cen­tury, dur­ing the Ming Dy­nasty, much of the Jiankou wall is now in a per­ilous state. Though heav­ily over­grown and riven with cracks, most of the watch­tow­ers and bat­tle­ments are still stand­ing.

I hope our wall will be here for­ever,’’ says Zhao, who has been ex­plor­ing this part of the wall since he was a boy and now works here as a walk­ing guide. But you never know what Mother Na­ture will bring.’’

As if to il­lus­trate his point, a rock­slide sud­denly thun­ders down the slopes.

You see?’’ Zhao chuck­les.

In the vil­lage of Xiz­hazi, the coun­try inn run by Zhao is ba­sic, but wel­comes are warm. Al­though the rooms are spar­tan, they have hot show­ers and over­look a trout-filled well. Gen­er­ous home­cooked meals are served on re­quest, and Zhao plans to add more so­phis­ti­cated rooms soon (rooms from $20, mains from $1.50). Shang­hai is about 1300km south of Bei­jing. The bul­let train cov­ers the jour­ney in four hours. A soft seat in stan­dard class should cost $140.

If any­where sym­bol­ises China’s su­per­power fu­ture, it’s Shang­hai. Wired by fi­bre op­tics, in­ter­sected by

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