August 31, 2013
What better way to start off our time in China than by visiting the Great Wall! At 1:30pm we arrived at the Jinshanling portion of the Great Wall and we were all excited for the five hour hike ahead of us. But before we began our assent onto the wall we made a quick impulse purchase which we believed was necessary for the day.
Do you like my hat?!
I had an incredible day on the wall and as tiring as it was, each second was absolutely perfect. A couple of things that did shock me however were 1. The incredible amount of stairs that we had to climb, it really was a hike 2. The amount of Chinese women who were “hiking” in jean skirts and five inch wedges 3. Throughout the wall there were vendors selling water, shirts, postcards, etc. One woman even followed us for 40 minutes trying to get us to buy something.
After saying a temporary goodbye from the wall, we all celebrated completing the hike with an ice cold beer and then took cars to our overnight destination. We spend the night with a host family in the Dongpo Village. The village was in an extremely rural area and the only dirt road to get from the village center to the home was a 25 minute drive.
The family cooked us a phenomenal dinner and my whole perception of Chinese food will be forever changed. We had kong pao chicken, a tomato and egg soup, noodles, fried rice and so much more. Each dish was better than the last.
I was extremely exhausted after dinner and by 8pm I tucked myself into bed. We each slept on a different concrete block with a sand-filled pillow. Somehow I had never felt more comfortable. Example of a squat toilet in at a home in a Chinese village
September 1, 2013
Even with seven hours of sleep, 3:30am came around really fast. We began our sunrise hike in the pitch black and we were each using the flashlight on our phones to guide the way. After passing through 10 minutes of cornfields we finally hit the path and things got tricky very fast. It is no surprise that I brought up the rear but I embodied Dan’s attitude and continued to positively encourage everyone (including myself) throughout the hike. At 5am we reached Wangjinglou, the highest point on the Great Wall and the sun was just beginning to creep over the mountains in the distance.
After a couple of hours we were forced to say a final goodbye to the Wall so we could get back for breakfast. The walk down was much more enjoyable because we were able to admire the shrubbery, flowers, crops all while looking at the wall in the distance.
Breakfast was another incredible meal and I was very sad that we had to leave. We hung out for another hour admiring the view before our cars picked us up so we could make the three hour trip back to the city.
When we got back to the hotel we freshened up and then a group of us decided to walk over to the Wangfujing Shopping area. The shopping center was nice but my favorite part was the lantern street that housed all of the food vendors. Scorpion, snake, rat, chicken, cicadas, cocoons, lizard. All on skewers and everyone was eating something. It was quite the sight; I was infatuated.
I did not want to leave the street there was just so much going on. After wandering for a while we were all tired and decided to go back to the hotel to rest up before dinner. Catching a cab at 5:15pm in Beijing is like catching a cab in Manhattan during torrential downpour, nearly impossible. After trying to for twenty-five minutes we decided to risk it and take an auto-rickshaw back; it was terrifying. Weaving in and out of traffic, people, onto sidewalks and into the middle of intersections with oncoming traffic in both directions, I was nervous. Luckily we made it back in one piece and we didn’t harm any other pedestrians in the process.
Instead of grabbing dinner with the group, Katie and I decided to catch up on work, organize ourselves and called it an early night.