An American in Beijing – Day 5

Chinese New Year’s Eve Day – Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cam pounded on our door at 7:10am; my watch alarm, with its meek beeping set for 6:00, had been completely useless. I bolted out of bed, got ready, then nearly sprinted downstairs to shove breakfast in my face before the tour bus arrived. At 8:00, we climbed aboard the bus and settled in for the hour-long ride.

Wide open spaces, cute neighborhoods, joggers, normal cars

The drive took us through areas that looked very similar to North America. However, pulling into the little town at the base of the range housing this section of the Great Wall, we knew for sure we were in China.

Way up there is the Wall. You can't see it from space; you can barely see it from the road.

Our tour guide shared some of the history of the area and of the Wall, then set us loose to explore.

Only pansies ride the closed cab cable cars. We all paired up and rode the open cable cars to tower 6.

Kevin and I rode up to watchtower 6, and thus began our Great Wall trek to tower 20.

The current Great Wall of China is actually several different sections - not one long wall.

The Wall is winding and steep, 4km one way of muscle-burning ascents and descents.

The Wall consists of long walkway sections punctuated by guard towers of varying sizes.

Most entrances and windows were arched.

It is, in one word, spectacular.

Kevin had me go to the top of the stairs for a picture. I told him to give me five minutes to get up there.

Our goal: the top of this picture. We had around 2 hours to make it happen.

It was so steep at times that it seemed to just drop off. It threw your depth perception for a loop.

The stairs were varying heights and widths, but they always seemed to rise at a 45 degree angle.

Not a bungee jumping site, just another set of stairs.

The final push - over 400 stairs to tower 20. You have to look at every step to keep from tripping.

I just climbed a hecka-buncha stairs, and now I have to climb these?

I did it! Take my picture!

We weren't supposed to pass this point, but Cam, Kevin and I did. Those are stairs on the left.

It was peaceful past tower 20. That's when it really sunk in: I'm on the Great Wall of China.

Cam and Kevin went further, to tower 22. I stopped to take it all in. And take pictures of myself.

On our way back to watchtower 6, 2.5 hours into our adventure, our bodies were taxed. Going down the stairs, especially the 400, was a mind trip; watching every step, the rhythm of our feet hitting the stairs, the slight angling of each step, and mental exhaustion gave us the illusion that we were leaning back at a 45 degree angle as we descended the stairs. It was a strange feeling, one I later found out everyone else experienced, too.

Kevin stayed back with me since I was the slowest of the group, and at one point came up behind me and started pushing me along. Once we reached tower 6, we climbed onto rudimentary metal toboggans and slid our way down to the base.

A view of the luge from the cable car. Whoever decided to offer this method of getting down is a genius.

We ate a typical Chinese lunch as a group at a restaurant at the base of the foothills. Then we boarded the bus for the return ride to the hostel for a relaxing evening. Cam, Liam, Will, Kevin, Shannon, Dave, Dave’s mom Helena and I hung out and were eventually invited into the hostel’s staff’s CNYE party. It was a blast.

At midnight the Chinese New Year fireworks spectacle began. I stood outside and marveled at the scene. Huge fireworks displays were set off on every street corner: deafening, brilliant colors reflecting off the clouds. I’ve never experienced anything like it. There wasn’t a quiet or dark moment for over an hour. It was joyous and a bit overwhelming.

My day began at 7:10 and ended around 4am. It was an incredible day that I was able to share with some wonderful people, and I’ll never forget it.


  1. Wow, Mandy! Awesome pictures! The Great Wall has always fascinated me. What an adventure you’re living! Enjoy every minute of it and thanks for sharing it with us!
    Love, Aunt Norma

    1. The great thing about going to the Wall was that there wasn’t a letdown – it was even better than we had anticipated. I’m thrilled I got to experience it!

    1. The Chinese (and Taiwanese, for that matter) love vegetables, tomatoes, and small servings of meat (beef and chicken). We each got a small bowl of sticky rice, and then several plates of different courses were put on a lazy Susan in the middle of the table. Each of the dishes tasted unlike the others, and they all were a mix of main ingredients with some kind of sauce. I know that doesn’t really answer your question, but I’m trying to make up for the fact that I don’t remember exactly what I ate. I was too tired.

      I haven’t had any food like what you can get at Chef Cao while I’ve been over here – no Mongolian beef, no sweet and sour chicken. The food has been delicious, but quite different than what I expected when I left the States.

  2. Just stunning! Love that after that exciting workout you got a fun slide ride down, too. I didn’t know that was there!! So awesome.

    1. The toboggan would’ve been more fun if the killjoy mother and her kid in front of us weren’t going so slowly. Although Will nearly went airborne a few times because he refused to slow down. I think our group freaked out the guards a little bit.

  3. I was in Florida when you sent this. Just catching up! I’ve looked at lots of pictures of the Great Wall, even have four friends who’ve been there; but I have never gotten such a sense of it as your pics and words relay. You rock, sweetheart! And thank you for sharing with all of us who are “stateside!”

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