First and foremost, today was a great, great day for everyone (and an early night will ensue). Today we began early (leaving the hotel at 6:45am) for a day at the Great Wall, and a great wall it is. On our way we stopped at a jade factory and learned about the art of jade carving in China. We were able to tour the shop which had many intricately carved jade statues of anything and everything under the sun, including a six foot long replica of a colonial ship! We also learned how to distinguish between different types of jade, now being able to distinguish real jade from imitation stone.
Just a 20 minute bus ride from the jade factory was a challenge that no one fully understood: the climbing of the Great Wall of China. Our tour guide took us to an important tower called the Beacon Tower, which was the closest stronghold to Beijing. We then were charged with a two-hour time frame to conquer as much of the tower as our spirits (and legs) could handle. Kyle, Grayson, Chris, Jack, Annika, Mr. Bell, and I were the valiant “warriors” who were able to conquer six towers in our allotted frame, reaching the highest geographical section of the wall where we were located. Let me say, this was not an easy task. After being resurrected from the dead, we mustered the strength to descend the wall once more leaving the heavens for reality (and some mango ice cream). It was truly a memorable experience and spectacular views were in no short supply.
From the wall, we ventured to the Summer Palace; a summer retreat constructed (twice) by a Chinese empress, who interestingly enough received the money to fund this construction by selling Hong Kong to the British (priorities??). Here we explored the longest painted covered walkway (in the world-as bragged by our local guide) the detail of which was spectacular. As we meandered along the natural lake which acts as the centerpiece on the necklace that is the Summer Palace, we were able to take in the sights and sounds of this beautiful garden. Our Dragons boarded a dragon boat, which returned us to our bus.
After a pit stop in a local supermarket (which was an experience in and of itself), we returned to the hotel for some Chinese-inspired KFC. Tomorrow, the Olympic Village constructed for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and then the Temple of the Heavens, followed by the afternoon in a local market. Sounds like another wonderful day and the perfect way to end our stay in Beijing!