As part of my side trip to Beijing in August of 2005, I had the memorable opportunity of hiking up one of the most important and recognizable landmarks in the world, which is the Great Wall of China. And this happened the day after I had the chance to walk into the Forbidden City which once have been exclusive to people of royal blood.
I had the opportunity to visit China through the Xiamen where I supported SIT testing for Dell for 2 weeks. And with my colleague Lucy, we booked a trip to Beijing where we spent additional 2 days. I’ve detailed our first day in Beijing in my earlier blog.
We came in to Beijing with only hotel booking in one of the hutong areas in the city. When we concluded our first day of roaming around the city, we had the opportunity to purchase a packaged tour to the Great Wall at the Grand Beijing Hotel near Wangfujing Street. If I remember it right, we got a $50 worth package to the Ming Tombs, The Great Wall, to a jade factory, and for lunch.
It was the day after my birthday and we made ourselves to the the Grand Beijing Hotel lobby at 8am to catch our tour. We boarded a coaster van where we join other tourists for the tour. We were around 9 that day including some Aussies, Americans, Japanese, and Europeans.
The first stop of our tour was in a Jade Factory. Here we were guided through the process of how they cut, make, and polish ornaments made of jade. Also they’ve demonstrated to us how to distinguish a genuine and fake jade. As they’ve explained that fake jade accessories are commonly sold on cheap stalls. The guide there explained that it should cling like glass when hit and it should not tarnish when scrubbed on a hard surface. And so we were allowed to roam around the hall filled with jade products. They range from jewelries, vases, and big sculptures. Also there are globes that had paintings inside them that are displayed. I was told by one of our tour mates that there is a section in the hall that showed how these globes were painted.
After about an hour in the jade factory, we headed next to the Ming Tombs. This place served as the burial place of the Chinese emperors and royalty during the Ming Dynasty in the 14th – 17th century. On the way to the tomb site, we passed by a tree-lined road in a valley where two mountain ranges run on each side. This was supposed to have made the Ming emperors to choose the spot as a burial site. And these mountain ranges were described as the Crouching Tiger and the Hidden Dragon as each resembles a tiger and a dragon. Hmm.. supposedly that’s the inspiration to the Hollywood movie.
Nearing the site, we passed through the tomb’s gates which is just a red structure with a yellow roof that is very common in castles around Beijing. Upon arrival, our guide showed us the map of the whole Ming Tombs. Apparently, the site we came into is just one of the tombs in the valley.
On site, there are 3 halls. The second hall is called the Hall of Imminent Favour which housed the memorial tablet of the Monarch and personal items. And so inside, a monument of the monarch is placed and different items surround the great hall. It had different armors and breast plates.
Behind the hall is a two-pillared gate called as the Latticework Star Gate. According to our guide, there was sort of a legend wherein if you walked past the star gate, you’ll walk out to another dimension. After that, we hiked up to the Tablet Pavilion where the actual tablet of the monarch is housed in.
That tomb site showed that it was really one of the most famous among the Ming Tombs as it had a big number of tourists. And one thing that amazed me when I was there was when I went to the toilet. Outside it is a plaque that says that it is a four-starred toilet facility.
We finished our tour of the tomb past lunch time already. And with this, our guide has recommended that we drive straight to the Great Wall first instead of having lunch. She told us that she expects to many tourists on the wall in the afternoon and it’s better that we go up there earlier. We all agreed.
And so, we went straight to one of the wall sections that is very famous for tourists. We went to the Bada-Ling wall section. On the way to it, we passed by different parts of the wall and it was very awesome to see.
Our guide brought us to a spot of the Bada-Ling wall where there is already a ride that brings tourists straight to the midsection of the wall. She told us that it would take too much time and too much energy to walk up to the wall that’s why the ride was built. The ride is like a roller coaster ride though its coaches is not connected to each other and each cart is for just one person.
If it was awesome to see sections of the wall from the streets, it is very breath taking to even walk on it. Breath taking due to the majesty, beauty and historical background of the structure, but also breath taking as I tried to climb up its stretch specially on section of high incline.
Our guide only gave us one hour to spend on the wall. It would have been better to stay there longer but anyway it was worth it. I walked through about 3 tips of the wall. It was nice that it was not that hot that day or else I’d get dehydrated for sweating through the whole hike. Near one of the sections, we noticed that there is also a cable car that have already been built near the wall, probably to provide access to other tourists to the wall.
Oh, in one of the towers of the wall, I was able to buy a good souvenir there. It is a miniature of the Great Wall and a golden plaque with a carved picture of the walls. Behind it, it says, ‘I was able to conquer the Great Wall’, with my name written on it.
Of course we went down the walls using the same ride that we took going up. This time it’s more like a roller coaster ride as we ride down the hills to the the pick up point. It was fun! And at the pick up point area, we stopped by an enclosure where they kept some black bears.
After the wall, our guide brought us straight to a restaurant where we had our lunch. We were served by a lauriat of Chinese food. It was a feast. At least they gave us the more commercial Chinese food unlike the traditional one that I tried in Xiamen.
After the sumptuous lunch, we drive through our last destination. It is to experience a traditional tea tasting ceremony. The tea hall also had some souvenir items displayed in place. And I noticed a set of terracotta warrior statues inside which resembles those warriors dug in Xian. I wasn’t able to resist to take a picture with it. hehehe…
And so we were divided into groups of 8 and were designated into tables where a lady is placed. Each table presented different kinds of tea and allowed each of us to taste them. Our tea lady also described to us the proper way to drink a cup of tea. That is just using 3 fingers, well that is how the Chinese do it. She made us taste jasmine, chamomile, eucalyptus, black, and green tea. And before she ended here spiels, she showed us their magic cups that change color when hot water is poured in it.
It was a great tour that day. And before we retired to our hotel, from the Grand Beijing Hotel, we walked back to the shopping street of Wangfujing to have dinner. We passed by food stalls that sell exotic Chinese food that are sold to be grilled. They sell items that range from squids, starfishes, scorpions, frog legs, and others. Well, we just bought barbeque, noodles and grilled corn from one of the stalls.
It was such a memorable trip to Beijing, specially to the Great wall. It would rank as one of the best trips that I have made so far. Probably if I’d have the opportunity, I will try to come back to it again.