Published: June 17th 2010June 15th 2010
The Great Wall and the Forbidden City
Early in the morning around 7:30 we hired a guide/driver to take us to the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City.
The section of the great wall that we went to was called Mutianyu and was about an hour and half away from our hotel but apparently is known for being less crowded and touristy. We got to the wall around 9:00am and took a cable car to get to the top of one of the watch towers. We were practically the only people there, didn't have to wait in any lines or anything! We started at tower 14 and mom and I hiked up all the way to tower 20. That may not sound that far, but it was mainly an uphill/upstairs hike. I think our guide said it was something like 500+ steep steps from tower 19 to tower 20 [that was definitely the hardest part]. You have to take several breaks to make it all the way to the top because you are huffing and puffing the whole way. Once at the top you can look down at on the wall and it was such an
amazing feeling that it is impossible to put into words. Mom wanted to keep on climbing, "unfortunately" you couldn't go any further than tower 20 because it is too dangerous and people have died. We were so lucky that it wasn't crowded at all and there were only a few other foreigners on the wall. I met a little friend Asian friend on the wall who spoke a little bit of English and together we ecouraged each other to climb to the top.
Construction of the Wall started sometime in the 5th century BC!! Since then it has been expanded and rebuilt by the different Chinese dynasties. The majority of the existing wall that remains was built by the Ming Dynasty. It was so amazing and awe inspiring to be standing on the Great Wall and to say we have climbed it...we both bought a T-shirt as proof! We can not even begin to fathom how the people carried the materials all the way to the top of the mountain to construct the wall. We learned that men were chosen to work on building the wall and had to dedicate 40 years of their lives to building it. Many
many people lost their lives building the wall but it did serve as a great barrier to incoming attacks and helped preserve the Chinese Empire.
After the Great Wall we went to a Chinese restaurant with our guide and driver. We learned along the way that there was a wedding ceremony taking place at the restaurant but apparently it was good luck for us to join them. They celebrate weddings in a totally different way than we do. They offer candy and ciggarettes as party favors and everyone sits around and eats as the bride and groom make they way around the room toasting with each table. There is a small wedding ceremony that lasted about 5 minutes at the front of the room and that was all. The bride wore a red short dress [red is a lucky color here]. Our guide told us that usually brides do wear white dresses here but they all rent the dresses, no one buys them. They also don't have a typical wedding party [bridesmaids/groomsmen] like we do. It was really fun to be a part of the celebration even though we felt totally out of place. The restaurant itself was delicious.
They bring out several dishes and just pass them around on a lazy susan. We only had four dishes but the tables around us all had at least 20 dishes, it was crazy! They were piling plates on top of one another. We did have a specialty duck dish [Beijing is known for its duck] that we both loved, as well as some other traditional Chinese foods. Thank goodness we climbed the wall before we ate because we were so full when we left there, especially after eating all the wedding candy.
Next we went to Tiananmen Square. Although several important events have taken place here, it is now mainly an area for tourists and is surrounded on the sides by various museums and the tomb of the famous Mao Zedong. The square stands in front of the Forbidden City, which was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It currently consists of 8707 rooms which were once used for various purposes that the Emperor needed. It is called "Forbidden" because no-one could enter or leave the palace without the emperor's permission. The area of the city covers alot of ground
Duck: the duck dish is the center part and you fill the bread with it.
and it took us at least an hour to walk through it from one end to the other with a few stops in between. Our favorite part was the imperial garden which was dotted with various statues and temples. We learned alot about the lifestyle of the Emperor and the Emperoress and were fascinated to learn about all of the Emperor's concubines [other wives]. We learned that every girl at the age of 10 if considered pretty enough was brought to the Emperor's court for him to decide whether or not she was worthy to live in his palace. 10 years old!!
Later that night, we ended up at the Pearl Market which is 5 floors full of pearls and other jewelery items. It was a bit overwhelming for us but fun at the same time to be surrounded by so many pearls! We then visited the neighborhood where our hotel is in. It is a really popular area for young people and there is a mall that has the worlds largest ADIDAS store. They had multiple big screen TV's set up showing the soccer game everywhere. We ate at a really fun place called Element Fresh where the
ingrediants used all really did taste fresh and healthy. Unfortunately it started to rain on us so we had to call it a night.
There are more photos below