The first of our cultural activities in Beijing was a trip to the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall was a fair bit of distance from the Novotel Hotel, which gave ample time for our guide Jack to tell us about the history of the Great Wall. The Great Wall, as we learnt, was actually built in several sections by several dynasties of Chinese emperors with a similar purpose of offering security against the tribes and warlords from the North West. The section of the wall, we were visiting, was the Mutianyu Great Wall.
After a sumptuous lunch, we arrived at the Great Wall. Jack had warned us that the vendors selling their wares at the foot of the Great Wall might try to outsmart us and hence we decided to interact with them in small groups instead of doing so one on one. As it was a lot colder than we had anticipated, many of us ended up buying hats and gloves.
After a short but steep hike to the start of the wall, we took a cable car up to one of the higher sections of the wall. Unfortunately, there was a very thick fog that day that limited visibility to no more than a few yards. This was indeed disappointing as we had all hoped to see miles and miles of the Great Wall and instead had to be content with a few feet. Still, we could feel the presence and the grandeur of the magnificent structure around us and it was quite inspiring.
While we had the option of taking the cable car down to the start of the Great Wall, a few of us decided to climb down the steps of the Great Wall. The steps were pretty rough and jagged with some steps being extremely narrow and others being comfortably wide. However, we all reached down safely. Once, we got down, a few of us purchased souvenirs like magnets and mats from the vendors where we got a chance to exercise our bargaining skills.
Our next stop was a Jade Shop where we had one of the shop managers tell us about the different varieties of Jade and Jadeite. She also showed us how to distinguish between real and fake jade. Real jade is cooler, does not scratch unlike glass and has more richness when held against a light source. After the quick tour, we browsed their selections and purchased some jade jewelry for friends and family back home.
Two days later, we had our farewell dinner. Although we still had one more company to visit the next day, with most of us leaving back to the US the next day, this was our last dinner together as a team After a busy day in Tianjin, we returned to Beijing for sampling the world famous Peking Duck. Being a vegetarian, I did not partake in this. However, the other students and staff, who did, thoroughly enjoyed it. Personally, I was quite disappointed as a number of supposedly vegetarian dishes had meat in it and the waiters just did not seem to understand what “no meat” meant.
At the farewell dinner, Dan thanked our guide Jack for keeping us safe, helping us get to all of our appointments as well as entertaining and informing us about Beijing and China in general. Mikaela had earlier collected gratuity for Jack, which Dan then gave him along with a box of candy from the US to thank him for his efforts. This brought about an apt end to proceedings.