Day 1: The Great Wall

Feeling refreshed after getting a solid night of sleep, we got breakfast in the hotel at around 8:30. The array of food that the hotel offered was impressive, and nothing like I had seen in the US. They had fried rice, buttery croissants and chocolate croissants, noodles, dragonfruit, bacon, pastries. The mix of Chinese breakfast food and American breakfast food was really unique and delicious.

After breakfast we played a few rounds of pool in the hotel lobby while we waited for some other students to exchange their US dollars into RMB. Then we made our way over to another hotel for a quick meeting going over the itinerary (which, by the way, looks incredible).

Once the meeting adjourned, we got on the bus for the Great Wall! The Great Wall is probably one of the things that I was most looking forward to seeing, so needless to say I was excited. During the hour and a half drive, our tour guide who told us to call him Uncle Joe told us a few stories. He was really funny and made everyone laugh while we were stuck in traffic in the city.

As we got closer to the Great Wall we stopped for lunch, which was another family style meal. While we were eating, Uncle Joe told us we had two options: take the chairlift up to the wall or walk up around 70 flights of stairs to the top. We decided as a group that we’d rather take the hike up to the wall. The hike started off well but quickly became one of the most physically taxing things I’ve ever done. All of the sweat was worth it once we got to the top and saw the most beautiful view. I think that the view on top of the wall and seeing the construction of the wall close up is something that everyone should see if they ever have the opportunity to go to China.

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We walked to about five different watch towers and each of them had a breathtaking view of China. On one of the watchtowers, you could go up a set of stairs and go on top of the tower which gave us an even better view.

One of the best parts of the wall was actually getting back down, because instead of taking the stairs again we got to take toboggans down! There was a metal pathway for them down the mountain and since we could control our speed we all zipped down pretty quickly.

Once we arrived at the bottom we headed back to the hotel. I went with some others to go get dinner at a restaurant in the mall near the hotel, which was the first meal we would be ordering on our own. This experience was definitely tricky since the language barrier is pretty rough here, but we were able to order our food by pointing at the pictures in the menu. Of course, this meal was another delicious family style meal and it was only about 3 US dollars per person! I was really surprised at how inexpensive it was despite the restaurant being really nice.

After dinner we decided to walk around Beijing a little bit so that we could see more of the city. We were looking for this one area that we passed on the bus, but we couldn’t seem to find it. Instead, we found a really cute bakery and tried lots of free samples of Chinese desserts. After a 5 mile walk, we finally got back to the hotel tired as ever after climbing the Great Wall and walking for so long around Beijing. I had such an amazing first full day and I cannot wait to keep exploring and learning more about China!

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