November 9, 2015
Firstly, to anyone who has ever said that the Great Wall of China is overrated: you’re wrong.
For being the capital of China, Beijing was not what I had expected it to be. I assumed that it would be like Shanghai- modern, urban, and jam-packed with people everywhere you go. That was not it though. As it was November, Beijing was going through its’ autumn and winter climate changes and showing off a beautiful display of yellow and red leaves under white snow- a sight that we have not yet had the opportunity of seeing in our own city of Changzhou. We made plans to camp out on the Great Wall. A once in a lifetime experience, right? We were pumped! Until we saw that it was supposed to snow and drop to freezing temps and our tour trip had to be cancelled. While we were way bummed, we soon realized that everything happens for a reason.
Instead of sulking around about our cancelled tour on our first day in Beijing, we took to some retail therapy! The Pearl Market… ahh… the Pearl Market. Wonderful place, it is. I spent more than I meant, but I don’t regret a single purchase! I bought a Great Wall shot glass and then decided that’s what I’d collect from each country I travel to. That night we paid 200 rmb to watch a dinky acrobatic show… I wish I were still 200 rmb richer.
The next morning we woke up to snow, which was way gorgeous!
Although horrifying in the same sense because we were about to go site seeing in that weather. After our delicious complimentary breakfast provided by the greatest hostel ever (Downtown Backpackers Beijing: They seriously had the most wonderful staff out of anywhere ever), we set off into the snow, all bundled up to see Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
I almost lost it here because I stepped in a giant puddle of water and my Nikes got soaked and it was in the thirties of temps and snowing outside. With my soaking wet shoes and wet, thick fuzzy socks, we trudged on into the Forbidden City. It was interesting to see where the emperors of China once had lived. Sadly, I wasn’t able to fully engage myself in it because my mind was crying and my toes were numb and my heart was aching for those frozen little soaked piggies of mine. Needless to say, my mind was elsewhere during this experience and it’s upsetting that I wasn’t able to fully be present and appreciate this specific experience. Shit happens.
My girl Lex had some numb toes too, so we took our wimpy selves back to the hostel (of which we proudly managed to find our way back to all by ourselves), and cozied into our beds for a warm nap. When we woke up, it was back to the Pearl Market we went! China has everything and anything to buy and for so cheap too. I may have bought just a few more things…. It’s an addiction, okay.
Okay now, this next day proved to be the reason why our camping plan hadn’t worked out and how everything really does happen for a reason. We took a tour bus to the Great Wall of China. About 30 minutes into the 2-hour ride I was about to pee my pants. How long could I hold it? Dumb question, I couldn’t anymore… I made myself grow the huevos to ask our tour guide to stop the whole bus to go pee. Luckily a lot of people got off the bus at the gas station to use the restroom, so I didn’t feel too bad.
Our tour bus pulled on up to the parking lot of the Great Wall of freaking China. We got our tickets to the cable car and headed on up to a world wonder.
LET ME TELL YOU THAT MY EYES COULDN’T EVEN COMPREHEND WHAT I WAS SEEING. I COULDN’T BELIEVE I WAS ON THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA EVEN THOUGH MY FROZEN FEETSIES WERE STANDING ON THE THOUSAND YEAR OLD BRICKS. THE WALL EXTENDED SO FAR AND I WAS JUST IN UTTER DISBELIEF OF WHERE I ACTUALLY WAS. Looking back to a few days ago, I still can’t believe I climbed on the Great Wall. It’s not “just another wall” or “some brick”, as some people may say. This thing is the real deal and it’s so surreal to be able to say: “Yeah, I climbed the Great Wall last Sunday, no biggie.” There’s no way to describe the experience. There’s no possible way to portray what it was like or what it meant. I can’t even fully grasp and comprehend the experience myself. All in all, the Great Wall of China is the shiz, and if you don’t visit it before you die, you’ll regret it, so go.
There was snow on the Wall, therefore a few of us did a little slipping and sliding down some parts. To refrain from falling, sprinting down seemed like the best solution and it was a ball. I also licked the wall because you know… why not? I licked a world wonder.
There were some mean stairs that really did us dirty towards the end of our hike, but we conquered those- up and down- with pride. We also met some French guys up there… so that was real cool. *wink* After our unbelievable experience, we ate some lunch at a ski-lodge lookin’ restaurant for some authentic Chinese cuisine. Holy smokes… There was actual real orange chicken!!!! We met an Argentinian who was also on our tour and sat with us. He had been in China for just a few days and was surprised when we said we’d been here since August. Hell, I’m still surprised when I think about us having been here that long already.
Our experience on the Great Wall of China could not have been more perfect. Not being able to camp on the Great Wall days earlier had been a blessing in disguise because otherwise, we would not have had the incredible experience that we did on Sunday. Also, we probably would have suffered a slow and painful death of hypothermia. I wish so badly that I could explain to everyone what it was like, but there really are absolutely no words for it.
Later that night, we went to a night market and Maryn and Emily ate a tarantula and a few of us ate some scorpions. It didn’t taste bad, but just knowing I was chomping on a dead bug did not ease my mind.
I love China so much. I’ve found myself thinking that I could come back here. I could live here for another semester if I really wanted to… and I’d enjoy it. When I first got to this country I could not imagine how people could ever come back to this place. I was stuck in between the honeymoon and horror phases. It was so cool to be out of America but I was constantly struck by horror in various ways from this country. It’s grown on me though. I could come back and maybe I will one day. For now, I have five more weeks left to enjoy this country and culture and the lifestyle I’ve been living for the past few months.