Day 2: Conquering the Great Wall

My first whole day in Beijing started out with a great continental breakfast. With many options to choose from, I ate a simple combination of eggs over easy with fried rice. I was very excited for today because the first thing I’d get to visit was the Great Wall of China. But before that, we headed over to another location where orientation was held. After Liliana and Jane went through the itinerary of the trip, I still couldn’t believe that I’d have the opportunity to visit Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai in a two-week period. We got on the bus to the Great Wall where we were greeted by the fantastic Uncle Joe. Uncle Joe was our Beijing tour guide. As we sat through rush hour, Uncle Joe introduced the city to us, using his great sense of humor to add in a few jokes here and there. He explained to us that the Great Wall was built during the Qin, Han, and Ming Dynasties, but it was Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi who first order the wall to be built. The Great Wall is around 4000 miles long, but interestingly, it is not continuous. For each part of the wall, the principle of constructing the wall was to take advantage of local materials. Thus, Mutianyu, the part of the wall we visited, was built using slabs of granite. I haven’t gone to Mutianyu before, but I have visited the Badaling part of the Great Wall ten years ago with my family. Mutianyu is one of the best-preserved sections of the wall, and I feel very fortunate to have been able to visit. After a quick power nap, we arrived at a restaurant near the wall. Once again, lunch was “family-style,” and it didn’t take me long to adapt. I loved how I could pick any dish to try and see how the others thought of it; however, due to my peanut allergy, I had to constantly ask and watch out for dishes that had peanuts. I think my favorite dish was scallion pancake. During lunch, we all decided to climb the Great Wall by foot instead of taking the gondola up the wall.

We finally arrived at the site to the entrance of the Mutianyu Great Wall. There were many street vendors along the main street trying to sell souvenirs, such as t-shirts that have “I Love Beijing” on them, paper fans, and marble carvings. By Uncle Joe’s signal, we all started to climb the stairs up to the Great Wall. Everyone was going up the mountain at a moderate pace, but soon we got divided. Some of the guys climbed up the stairs pretty fast, while I eventually got up to the top only a little while after them. I was relieved when I first saw the wall on the horizon, but I thought the climb would’ve been longer than I expected. As I took my first steps on the bricks, it felt magical. It took some time for me to register that I was really on Great Wall even though I’ve already been on another part in the past. With three other guys, I walked to the right part of the wall, which was the farthest and highest section of this part of the Mutianyu. Thank goodness there weren’t as many tourists on the wall as I expected. I remember the wall being very crowded, full of people from around the world.

As we walked to the end of the right side, we passed through many watchtowers which are pretty close together. I couldn’t believe the large size of some of the steps as the path curved with the steep sides of the mountain. We made it to the top watchtower, the Dajiaolou, or the Big Corner Tower. It got its name because the observation tower resembles a typical corner tower in traditional Chinese architecture. It was an amazing view from the top. It was interesting to see how many giant steep humps I had to walk over to get to the top. I loved looking at the Wall and how it divided each side of the green mountains; I could see woods to the horizon. We headed back to the meeting point where we took a toboggan down the mountain. I honestly might’ve climbed the steps again just to take the toboggan back down because of how fun and exhilarating it was.

After returning to the hotel and celebrating a birthday, I went to this hot pot restaurant Liliana recommended to us. Hot pot was great, but we struggled to communicate with the waitresses. It was the first time we got dinner for ourselves, so eventually, we learned and managed to use hand signs and translator apps on our phones. After hot pot, we treated ourselves with dessert before we headed back to the hotel.

Starting with a day filled intense cardio and breathtaking sights up one of the Wonders of the World, I couldn’t ask for a better beginning to my Plus3 journey.

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