Beijing, Day 10, June 17 – Andrew Bouland

Today was the most fun I’ve had in China so far.   Adam P. was able to book us a great deal for a tour to the Great Wall.  For only 400 yuan a person, Adam P., Ashley, and I got our own tour guide and driver to take us to the wall and other attractions along the way.  And lunch was included!

We departed our hotel early in the morning.  After battling Beijing traffic for about an hour, we reached our first stop: the Ming tombs.  There are a total of 17 tombs in the area, but only 3 are open to the public.  We only visited the Changling tomb, which is celebrating its 600th anniversary.  Apparently, the tombs are designed as palaces for the deceased emperors.  The architecture reminds me of the Forbidden City, although it is a lot smaller.

Our next stop was a local jade factory.  We received a brief tour of the factory and took a look around the show room.  We were also taught how to distinguish real jade from fake jade.  We were able to guess which pieces of jade were fakes before the demonstration, so apparently we were already jade experts!

After another short drive, we reached our ultimate destination: the Great Wall at Juyongguan.  The towers of the wall became visible on the mountains above us as we arrived.  As we drove through the pass below, the wall was really impressive, especially the way in which it scales the steep mountains.

We were able to climb the section of the wall in about an hour.  We started at an elevation of about 300 meters and climbed to about 800 meters.  When all was said and done, we climbed about 1,640 feet worth of stairs to the highest lookout tower.  I’ve never seen so many people panting in my life!  The view at the top was well worth the effort, however. We were able to get some great pictures, even though it was a little cloudy.

Exhausted and soaked in sweat, we headed to our quick lunch.  We then visited a local teahouse where they showed us the traditional Chinese tea ceremony and allowed us to sample a number of different teas.  After purchasing some tea for ourselves, we made our way back to the hotel for a quick nap before dinner.  I think we all agree that the Great Wall was the best part of the day, and in my opinion, the best part of the trip.  I really hope to visit the wall again someday!