4. The Great Wall !

You will be amazed the first time you visit the wall! Especially considering the vast history of the oldest sections. Some date back to the 7th century BC, although very little remains of that part. It should not surprise you dear friend, that you are now at the precipice of one of our Top 100 Wonders!

Our first visit to the Great Wall was not at all the way we expected it to be. We have observed that, even though you have seen a place hundreds of times in media, the actual experience of it will often surprise you. That is why we take such pride in our visual representations: Photos and Videos. Anybody can take a pretty picture, but capturing the essence of a place is an art form.

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Off to the Wall

The day started very early. We were picked up in a van by a young girl who would be our guide for the day. She was super cute and very eager to teach us about China. She took her guiding duties very seriously and repeated the end of every sentence to make sure everyone had understood. She recounted some history for us from the dynasties. She talked a lot about social customs and the one-child policy. She blushingly explained that there are more men than women in China, which is why women can have their pick. She was quick to point out that she was single, and in no hurry to settle down. She also taught us how to sign the numbers 1 - 10, and held an exam for us to make sure the teachings had registered. This was one of the most amusing guides we had ever met. And once again, dear friend, try to remember this story because we will take you on a similar tour, to the Great Wall, ten years from now. And that experience will be completely different. ;-)
On the way to the wall, we stopped by a jade factory and witnessed the process of making ornaments. We had not expected any stops along the way, as we had only paid for a basic ride to the wall, so this was a pleasant surprise. This was an opportune moment for our guide to talk a little bit about feng shui and how to harmonizing one's surrounding environment.

Vedran and Dilek with Annie on the Great Wall

Badaling! Not the best section, but good for first visit

Around 10:00, we arrived at the Badaling section of the Great Wall, which is closest to Beijing. We walked about two kilometers, although it felt much longer in the 40C heat, until we reached the end of the section. We were joined by Annie, an American tourist who was also taking the tour. She was travelling alone, because she felt that very few people back home were up for the kind of adventure she wanted to go on. This was definitely something we could relate to, and one of the reasons we are sharing our experiences on digital media. Hopefully, it will shed light on how Wondrous our planet is.

Dileks View of the Great Wall (during our second visit to the Wall)

Parts of the wall were very steep. In some places you could touch your palm to the ground in front of you as you were walking up, kind of like a climbing wall. By the end of the day our legs were aching, but we were having so much fun. We had not anticipated that we would enjoy the Great Wall as much as we did. We had also not anticipated the scorching sun, and thus left our hats in our room. After a few hours, the heat got to Vedran and, based on how he felt the next day, we believe he had a mild case of sunstroke.

The Ming Tombs = Bad Feng Shui

After the Great Wall, we stopped by a tea factory, where the beautiful ladies told us about tea ceremonies. We had always wanted to see one, so this was a very nice surprise. We were perfectly aware that this was a tourist trap, but we just had to purchase some tea. We bought some for ourselves and some as gifts to bring home.

Thereafter, our super cute guide brought us to the Ming tombs - a collection of mausoleums built by the emperors of the Ming dynasty. This was yet another destination we had not anticipated to see today. As mentioned, we had only paid for the Great Wall tour, so we suspect that we may have ended up with the wrong group. Or perhaps the clerk at our hostel had not been able to fully explain the deal. In either case, we were very happy.
We were asked to be very careful when taking pictures. The locals do not want to be captured on film while they are in a place of death, as this would disturb their feng shui. There is also a saying that one should not walk through the arch when entering the Ming tombs as this is an archway to the other life. We do not know if this legend is true, but we noticed that none of the locals were walking through it, but rather around it. Our guide however told us about another prophecy. It stated that if you walk through the arch while exiting the mausoleum, and while holding the hand of your loved one, stepping with your right foot first, you would be married to your loved one within one year. Well, we had been in a domestic partnership for two years, and thus were already considered married, but what the heck. When in Rome… do as the Chinese!

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