China is home to one of the greatest ancient civilizations of the world. Its long, colorful history and distinctive culture warranted its place on our list of countries to visit, but the value of experiencing its antiquity propelled it to the top. There is nothing more compelling than the thought of setting foot on the Great Wall of China and looking into the timeless eyes of a terracotta soldier.
The girls and I scheduled a quick, objective based trip to Beijing. We spent three days flying, walking, climbing, and tramping to and around our destinations. By the end of our journey, our muscles ached and our feet throbbed, but the euphoria of seeing some of the world’s greatest treasures soothed the pain.
Day 1 – The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China was built more than 2,000 years ago during the Qin dynasty (221-207BC). It’s a fragmented series of fortifications that spans across China’s northern border. We visited the Mutianyu section of the wall, which is known for its spectacular views and Ming-dynasty watchtowers. This part of the wall has been, and continues to be, rebuilt and enhanced, but it’s still an incredible sight to see.
Several sections of the wall are incredibly steep, including this one. It requires quite a bit of stamina to hike from one watchtower to another. These pictures fail to show the overall grandeur and beauty of the Great Wall.
Ally and Kylee standing on the Great Wall of China.
This has to be the strangest juxtaposition that I have ever seen. There is a Subway and Baskin Robbins located directly below the entrance/exit to the Great Wall. To make it even stranger, loud speakers were belting out the sounds of the Bee Gees for everyone to hear.
Our tour included lunch at a traditional Chinese restaurant. Located in a small village, the menu is influenced by the availability of local crops and animals. The predominant ingredient on the restaurant’s menu is donkey.
After returning to Beijing, we went to a massage parlor for much needed foot massages and reflexology treatments. The treatment included fire cupping, which is an ancient Chinese form of alternative medicine that uses suctioning to increase circulation and promote healing.
Day 2 – The Terracotta Soldiers (Xi’an, China)
We flew to Xi’an (on a day tour) to see the Terracotta Soldiers. The imposing army was created and buried to guard and protect China’s first unifier, Quin Shi Huang, during his afterlife. It is one of the most significant archeological finds in history. This picture was taken of Pit 1. There are more than 6,000 life-size soldiers, standing in Qin battle formation, in this pit.
The most interesting thing about the soldiers is that no two are alike. The artisans who carved them, skillfully detailed each face with unique characteristics and expressions, giving them their own personalities.
The girls were able to meet Hui-Min Yang, the farmer who unearthed pottery fragments that led to the discovery of the Terracotta Soldiers. In 1974, he and two other farmers were drilling for water wells when they made one of the world’s most historical finds.
After seeing the Terracotta Soldiers, we went to De Fa Chang for a traditional dumpling meal. This restaurant is more than 100 years old, and is now owned by the Chinese government for the purpose of preserving its history and extending its longevity.
After lunch, we walked through Muslim Quarter. The Great Mosque, which quietly stands in the middle of the square, is surrounded by restaurants, shops, street vendors, butcher shops, and sesame oil factories.
Day 3 – Beijing
This is a picture of the girls at Tiananman Square. Our self-guided tour took up most of the morning because we couldn’t find our way out of the heavily secured area. Even though Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, very little English is spoken or used in China. Even signs in and around the city are only written in Chinese.
Our hotel was located in the heart of Beijing, so there were a lot of opportunities for shopping, including various street and night markets. Dong Hua Men Night Market was one of our favorite spots. It is where the girls practiced their bargaining skills, bought most of their treasures, and sampled some of China’s unique cuisine.
These are LIVE scorpions on a stick. As soon as the girls saw them, they knew that they had to try them. After choosing the scorpion studded stick that they wanted, the street vendor grilled and seasoned them for consumption. In all honesty, those little critters were quite tasty!
Ally taking a bite of her skewered scorpions.
Kylee taking a bite of her skewered scorpions.
There is an old Chinese proverb that states, “He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left.” Journeys of every kind – long or short, near or far, relaxing or chaotic – are life changing experiences. They alter our perspective, challenge us to try new things, expose us to the unexpected, and teach us new skills. Our trip to China was no exception.