travel junkie climbs the great wall of china

5:15 AM

You might have heard of it by now.
Or just in case you haven’t, I might as well break it to you.

The great wall of china, in its 8851 kilometer-long glory, cannot be seen from the moon by the naked eye. Evidently, that supposed trivia was just some sick joke played on us back in the day. (It was so sick that it was published in textbooks around the world!) This was confirmed by NASA back in 2005;
              "It has become a space-based myth. The Great Wall of China, frequently billed as the only man-made object visible from space, generally isn't, at least to the unaided eye in low Earth orbit. It certainly isn't visible from the Moon.
                You can, though, see a lot of other results of human activity.
                The visible wall theory was shaken after China's own astronaut, Yang Liwei, said he couldn’t see the historic structure. There was even talk about rewriting textbooks that espouse the theory, a formidable task in the Earth’s most populous nation."

But not even this fact stopped any of us from wanting to climb the Great Wall of China. Weeks before flying out, we already booked ourselves through our hostel a tour to the Mutianyu part of the wall. If it means anything, this was the part of the wall that former US President Bill Clinton visited. (President Ronald Reagan went to Badaling.)

 “The Great Wall here is very beautiful, very grand, more beautiful and grander than what I imagined.” ~President Bill Clinton

The mini-bus picked us up at the hostel at exactly 08:30 Sunday morning. Along the way, we saw frozen waterfalls, brown leaf-less trees, and traditional hutongs. It took us about two hours to get to that relatively newly opened part of the wall.

It was the tail end of winter. Trees were without leaves. Lovely, Lovely, Lovely.
Since I wasn’t going to spend the allotted two hours simply climbing up and down the mountain, I opted to take the chair lift to get to the tippy top. And I am going to be honest with you; I was scared a bit when I sat on that chair. The wind was whipping at us, the cold was seeping its way into my clothes, and there was only a sliver of metal keeping me and JM from plunging to our deaths. (I now have a newfound respect for skiers!)

Chair lifts taking visitors to the wall.

The mountains seem romantic and eerie at the same time.
The great wall was as majestic and as commanding as it is in post cards. It was like a brown dragon snaking its way around the mountain ranges. And although the range may have been brown, the Great Wall never blended. It’s was just there, lording over.

The Great Wall snakes its way up to the top

The Great Wall goes as far as the eyes can see.
I’ll be the first one to tell you that climbing the great wall wasn’t easy. Words aren’t enough to describe that torturous experience. Here’s a video to show you how it was for me to climb to the top.

This commie-dressed hawker tried to sell me a snicker bar after I had my photo taken with him.

Tampeeps on the Great Wall!

Jeff and Tin takes a breather.

More commie-dressed hawkers along the wall
Going down from the wall was a whole lot easier and more fun, having opted to ride the toboggan. We basically got on a go-kart looking contraption and slid down this curving stainless steel slide built unto the mountain. It was such a rush – seeing rocks, bushes, trees speed past us. Even if you’re not a speed demon or an adrenalin junkie, I bet you’ll love it.

That's the way down, the toboggan way down.

We'll be sliding down that shiny slippery path.

 All systems go for my Toboggan ride. Photo by Kristine Yu
Included in the tour was lunch at a Chinese restaurant. We were seated together with people from around the world – South African, Chilean, Brazilian, French, Spanish. The best part was since these people don’t really eat rice, there was more for us. (Jenie and I split the last cup of rice between us.)

This is our table, with people from almost every corner of the globe. (We're missing a north american.) Photo by Jenie Gabriel

This is the second table with Malaysian and American families & our friend, Raffy.  Photo by Jenie Gabriel  
The tour then took us to the Ming Tombs, located in the northwest of Beijing. The Ming Tombs, together with the Great Wall, are said to be Beijing’s winning double act. Thirteen out of the Sixteen Ming Emperors were buried here.

The gates to the Ming Tombs

There were seats at the courtryard. (But why would you want to linger at a graveyard? Even at an imperial one?)

The tower

The guards of the Ming Tombs Museum
Compared to experience at the Great Wall, visiting this imperial graveyard wasn’t much. (Unless of course you’re a fan of Chinese architecture or the Ming Dynasty.) There was one thing though that caught my attention. The supposed coffins (the real ones were taken out and replaced by replicas) were covered by money. Our tour guide explained that the Chinese threw money unto the coffins (of the emperor and his wife) for good luck. But does that work even if there isn’t any corpse inside the coffin? I wonder.

We got back to Beijing around six-thirty in the evening. With a pleasant surprise waiting for me at the hostel.

When we got back to the hostel, it was twilight.

Look at who I found standing by our hostel's front door!

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