|I actually love McCafe coffee (classy, I know)|
The next day, we woke up nice and early to conquer the Great Wall. After another delicious breakfast at McDonald's (ugh), we took the subway to a bus station where we thought we could find a city bus to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall.
After much asking and even more refusals of private bus tours, we finally found the tiny outpost where the bus was located. Our timing was impeccable; almost as soon as we ensured we were in the right place, our bus arrived.
We decided to go to the Mutainyu part because we heard that it wasn't as touristy and crowded as the Badaling or Juyongguan sections. If you have ever experienced the crushing mass of a Chinese crowd, you would understand why we decided on this.
Furthermore, Mutainyu is surrounded by a protected parkland among the most beautiful orchards and pines we have seen in China. It took us about 2 1/2 hours to get there (with poor Ben standing for most of the time), but the trip was more than worth it.
|Michelle decided to go off-roading. Can you spot her?|
We had the option to take the cable car up or walk. Being cheap and semi-fit, we opted for the very pleasant hike up about a thousand or so stairs. Just a word of warning: China loves its stairs! Every mountain, hill, and building will have 2 to 20,000 of these seemingly innocuous things for your legs to enjoy (see blog post: Department of Transportation).
After we finally got to the top, we were treated to some amazingly great views. Pictures don't even come close to capturing the grandiose beauty we experienced there. The weather was perfect-- sunny and warm with a nice breeze. The wall wasn't crowded at all-- especially we considering we came on a Saturday on the most beautiful day in May.
We spent the rest of the afternoon taking pictures, traveling up and down the steep...you guessed it...stairs along the wall, and just trying to take it all in. My whole life I've dreamed about visiting the Great Wall, and for once, something not only lived up to my expectations but managed to surpass them! To be there in the beautiful nature with all the amazing history with Ben...simply spectacular.
|Super slanted stairs!|
This part of the wall was constructed about 300 years ago in the Ming Dynasty. As you may remember from the historical film, Mulan, the wall was built as a defense from the marauding (no relation to us) northern nomads. It was been continually reconstructed since the 1500s till the 1980s.
Once we got the end of the reconstructed part, we trespassed onto the old, un-rebuilt section, which was also pretty cool with its dirt path, crumbling stones, and trees. We were able to see more villages and even a dust storm that was heading our way!
|Kissing on the wall brings good luck...just kidding, it was just because I love him|
With our bus leaving around 2 pm, we knew we needed to start heading back at around 1:45. However, instead of walking down all those stairs, we took the much more enjoyable route: tobogganing down! That's right, for about $10, we were able to careen down the mountain on little Chinese toboggans. It was a blast!
|Faster, Michelle, Faster!|
|Ben as happy as he was in Disneyland|
We crashed on the bus for about an hour and then hopped off to take our favorite mode of transportation, the subway, to the famous Silk Market. We were a bit disappointed by this place. It has become a massive, expensive tourist trap. Thankfully our [limited] knowledge helped us barter down quite a bit, but it quickly became exhausting. I would stay away unless you love bargaining or don't mind getting completely taken advantage of constantly.
Our day was still not over as we headed over to Peter's Tex Mex restaurant to consume some much needed Mexican food. Below were the best (and only) quesadillas that I've had all year.
|Such cheesy goodness|
After another stop for dessert at TGI (by then we were experiencing culture and caloric shock) we headed out to our train for a long overnight ride back home.
We got safe and sound on Sunday and happy to be home.
Beijing is so great in many ways, but I wouldn't trade any of it for our home here. We feel very blessed to be in our little university in the middle of no-where.
Hope you all feel the same about wherever you are in this world.