My first full day in China was a day filled with beautiful views. The day started with a program orientation held by our trip coordinators at the Asia Institute. The orientation was a presentation that outlined our entire two-week field study in China which mentally prepared us for our first excursion: the Great Wall visit.
We took a long bus trip out of the sprawling city of Beijing to a quieter rural region of small villages, of which some were converted into restaurants. We stopped and enjoyed lunch at a small but ornately decorated restaurant. All the tables consisted of a rotating glass disk on which food could be placed and sent around for easy access by other people eating at the table. This made it much simpler for everyone at the table to try each of the dishes as there was no need to constantly pass dishes back and forth between sides of the table. We ate a wide variety of dishes focused around chicken, soups, fish, shrimp, mushrooms, and other vegetables.
After lunch, we traveled a short distance to a cluster of markets and restaurants of relatively close proximity to the Great Wall. We walked past many shops whose owners were calling out to sell us t-shirts, drinks, and small souvenir-type items. Past all the shops we reached a shuttle that would take us closer to the wall. However, to get to the wall itself we had to climb approximately 70-floors of steps up the mountain on which a certain section was built. The climb took about half an hour and the heat did not do anyone any favors as the group stopped at several points to rest.
The grueling trip up the mountain was well worth it once we reached the wall and were greeted by an incredible view both along the winding, sloping wall as well as a clear view of the surrounding mountains as well. Everyone took many pictures as we traveled between watchtowers and different viewing angles became accessible. The only negative part about my experience on the wall was the number of large bees in the area. They were hovering around every part of the wall we walked along and I spent a lot of time trying to weave my way around them (I can’t stand bees). We spent about one hour total walking on the wall.
At one of the watchtowers was a station at which people could buy tickets to ride a toboggan down the mountain along a metal slide. The slide was a long winding path down the mountain and the speed of the sled was controlled by using a lever to control the friction between the sled and the track. During the ride down my phone fell out of my pocket and was luckily recovered by one of my peers who was sledding right behind me. Between the amazing walk along the wall and the fun slide down the mountain, I almost completely forgot about the long trip up.
We closed the day with dinner at a hot pot restaurant in the mall adjacent to our hotel. The table consisted of pots of boiling oil which quickly cooked any meat or vegetables which were brought out by our waiters and waitresses and thrown in the pot. Throughout the course of the meal, we were brought beef, duck, lamb, penguin eggs, tofu, shrimp, and various greens as well. The entire meal cost slightly less than $11 per person, which was surprising considering that anything similar in the United States would cost at least $20. After visiting one of the most beautiful, culturally significant, and historically rich landmarks in the world complemented a tasty dinner, all on day one I can’t wait to experience what the rest of this trip has to offer.