September 27, 2018
With our feet on the ground for less than 24 hours in the Far East, we have already done so much. The day after our arrival, we went to a scenic section of the Great Wall of China that was still unrestored. Taking the road less traveled, my dad and his friend Matt chose the Jiankou to Mutianyu trail hike up to the great wall from a remote village, Xizhazi, where the chickens and roosters were roaming freely. This section of the Wall is labeled as an advanced hike with "dangerous" sections and for experienced hikers only! The entrance sign said "closed to the public". Knowing my dad lived in Colorado and hiked many large peaks, I never doubted the adventure. It was an amazing and strenuous 4-hour hike on the primitive section of the wall that ended up connecting with the tourist section and fully restored and commercialized area. Once we made it up to the top of the mountain and 1st tower named Zhengbeilou, the view was absolutely breathtaking! During the trek we had only run into 3 other people so it was very tranquil. On the path to connect with the touristy section, there was a part so steep that we were clinging onto the wall in order to keep ourselves from slipping. This was called the Ox Horn Edge (there was a bypass, but of course we didn't take that as we were up for the challenge). At the summit, we reached 3,500 ft elevation.
Soon afterward and about 10 towers later, we connected with the Mutianyu section of the wall and were greeted with mobs of people. We walked for about an hour more to the toboggan ride down the mountain, it was so much fun! When the driver picked us up, he took us to a traditional Chinese restaurant and we were starving! As we were walking up the entrance, there was a pond with many beautiful fish. The chef appeared and asked us to pick a couple of fish. I was really confused and all of a sudden, he removed them from the apparent fish farm and killed them with a stick right in front of us. Yikes!! We were then taken inside to be seated for lunch. The driver is a native so he ordered all of our dishes and served us some of his jasmine tea. Minutes later, the two beautiful fish we saw swimming were grilled and on a plate at our table. It was later explained to me that the region we were in was known for its fish. The meal was delicious. We were then driven to one of the sites of the Ming Dynasty tombs. It was amazing to see how much the Chinese respect their rulers and how they honor them after death. There were many gorgeous buildings dedicated to Emperor Zhu Yijun and his two empresses.
Our cultural immersion has exceeded my wildest thoughts.