After a very long day yesterday, it was nice to wake up in the morning and feel refreshed. At around 8:30am, I went down to the lobby to eat breakfast. Luckily, most of the food there was very familiar and it was nice to see conventional things such as fruit, bacon, and eggs. After eating a quick breakfast, one of our guides from the Asia Institute, Liliana, took a few of us over to the bank across the street to exchange currency. The process was very long and made us late to orientation, so I think that for next time I need any yuan, I’ll just use an ATM.
We all walked to a nearby hotel for our orientation with the Asia Institute, which is the group helping us with our travels. They went over some ground rules and gave us a quick overview of the things we would be doing over the next two weeks. After, we hopped on a bus headed towards the Great Wall! Our tour guide, Joe, was very helpful and also hilarious, giving us nice history lessons about Beijing and cracking some amusing jokes every now and then. Fun fact: Beijing is around the same size as New Jersey, the state I live in! That’s wild to consider, but it definitely seemed to be true because the drive to the Great Wall was about an hour and a half, and we were still technically in Beijing the whole time.
Upon arriving at the base of the wall, we were faced with two options: ride the cable car up to the top, or hike up to the top. Naturally, one would think that riding the cable car would be the best option, but we were feeling adventurous and decided to walk up the seemingly never-ending stairway to the top. It was a very rewarding, yet sweat-drenched journey. Once getting on to the Great Wall, we walked towards many of the towers, trying to get to the highest possible point from the general area we were in. Boy, was it a tiring walk getting to one of the farthest spots tourists can go! However, the view was so worth it; it was truly breath-taking. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience. When we were done walking along the wall, it was time to toboggan down the mountain to get back to our bus! We all got on individual toboggans, and one by one, went down a long, winding track picking up some serious speed.
For dinner, we were on our own. I went with five others to a nearby McDonald’s (lame, I know) just to see how similar it would be to an American McDonald’s. I ended up ordering a Big Mac and fries, and I didn’t really see any difference in taste, so that was nice. We then proceeded to explore the city a bit more, noticing a lot of unique tidbits such as a lot of people use mopeds and bikes to get around, and that there’s really no rules in regards to traffic. As a pedestrian, you have to really pay attention and make sure you don’t get hit by a car, bus, or moped. They don’t mess around.
Overall, today was quite the experience, and I’m glad to have gotten the opportunity to see one of the wonders of the world!