Today was out first full day in China! After 14 hours in the air, we finally arrived in Beijing. The jet lag had gotten to me the night before, so I started today bright and early. Kieran and I had breakfast at the hotel, and it was surprisingly good. The spread consisted of both Chinese and Western cuisine, and was far better than any hotel breakfast I had ever had. There were dumplings, dragon fruit, and many other new types of food to try.
After breakfast, we took a bus to the Great Wall. On the ride there, we were briefed on the history of the Great Wall by our tour guide, Joe. He told us all about the Great Wall, from its inception in the Qin Dynasty, to its completion in Ming Dynasty, and up to its modern restoration. As we neared our destination, Joe gave us two options to reach the wall: walk up or take the cable car. Naturally, we all wanted to walk. Little did we know, it was the equivalent of climbing 78 flights of stairs. It was exhausting, but well worth it when we reached the top.
The Great Wall was breathtaking. What really amazed me was the sheer scale of the wall, and the time, skill, and effort that would have been required to construct it. It extended for miles in each direction, and it is mind boggling to think about how it stretches across half the length of China. We walked from tower 6 to tower 10, admiring the spectacular views of the surrounding mountain range and taking all the pictures we could. On tower 9, there was a ladder that allowed you to climb to the top, so I hung out there with most of the class for a long time. Finally, it was time to go, so we made our way to tower 10.
Climbing up to the see the Great Wall was an arduous journey, but descending was like a ride at an amusement park. We were put on toboggans and sent down a bobsled track on the side of the mountain. The toboggans had a handle in the middle that allowed you speed up or slow down, so naturally I floored it the whole way down. When was the next I was going to get to toboggan down a mountain in China?
On the way back to the bus, we passed several vendors selling souvenirs. I was interested in a set of chopsticks, and a woman offered them to me for 180 yuan. I thought that was too much, so I walked away and she yelled out “80 yuan!” That got my attention, so I bought them. I still have no idea if they were wildly overpriced, but I like the way they look and they seem durable, so I’m happy with my purchase.
For dinner, I went to a Chinese Muslim hotpot restaurant in downtown Beijing with Kieran, Evan, and Chandler. We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we did it with confidence, optimism, and joy, which is more or less how I expect the rest of this trip to go.