Today we got to try a traditional Chinese meal out and visit the Great Wall. I was surprised by how many dishes the restaurant brought out for us, but some of the highlights of the meal included a stuffed flatbread and glazed chicken that they brought us. Unfortunately the restaurant didn’t tell us the names of all the dishes, otherwise, I would list them here. Apart from that, the meal was very good and I’d strongly recommend it to anyone looking to try a at-a-table buffet style lunch with a large group. After lunch we went to the Great Wall and decided to opt out of the cable car ride up for old-fashioned walking up instead. Eighty-seven flights of stairs later, although it was exhausting, we made it to the top and the views were definitely worth it. I didn’t realize before how mountainous the region around the Great Wall is, and coming from Chicago where a small incline is considered a hill, this was a refreshing change. We got to walk along the Great Wall and take pictures for about two hours before tobogganing back down the hill. We also had our first experience with street vendors at the Great Wall, who were a lot more aggressive with their sales techniques than I expected. I didn’t buy anything because the prices were too high, but I am looking forward to visiting other markets later on in the trip!
The drive to the Great Wall was also really interesting just in terms of seeing what non-urban areas of China look like. The towns we drove through were mostly gray with one story buildings, but there were a lot of red accents such as signs and lanterns, probably because red symbolizes happiness in China. We also drove past a military unit, various agricultural fields, and huge sky rise apartment complexes that were interesting to compare to the United States. It’s clear from the housing situation here that the population is very large, which necessitates the sky rise apartment solution
Today we also woke up to a lot more smog in the air than yesterday. I started off the day today with a trip to Starbucks which was just around the corner from the Penta Hotel we’re staying at in Beijing. I didn’t know how different Starbucks would be here in China but they had some different flavors of tea, such as blackcurrant raspberry, and colorful petit fours that I haven’t seen before in the United States. After Starbucks on the walk back to the hotel we found a bread bakery called With Wheat that sells interesting looking meat and dried fruit stuffed breads that I’m hoping to try at some point during our next five days in Beijing. Even in one day I’ve seen a huge difference between the food here in China and the food in the United States, and, even though there’s a language barrier that makes ordering difficult, it’s worth it when you try the food! Along those same lines, it’s interesting to see how many things are different here in China. Everything from gold embroidered seat covers in the coach, to sensory overload with lights and sounds and bright colors in the mall, to the amount of traffic on the roads, and the style of dress is unique from what I’ve experienced in the U.S. So far, from what I can tell, people in China value two very different styles–one being the old China style with embroidery and lots of rich colors such as red, blue, and gold, and the other being what I’d consider the new China style with lots of pinks, blues, and symbols such as cats, smiley faces, and hearts which I noticed at the mall. It’s interesting to see the union of these two styles in their culture because they don’t always stay separate as I’d expected.
I’ve leaned a lot since we landed yesterday and I’m looking forward to learning more as we have our first university visit tomorrow.