The Great Wall
Continuing my journey to the Seven Wonders of the World, I started my trip to Beijing with the main event, The Great Wall. The day we went to the Great Wall was cloudy and cold, which turned out to be a blessing because climbing the steep steps is a true fitness feat. Since the Great Wall is so long (it crosses 9 provinces), tourists have to choose a section to climb. We walked up the Simatai section for ordinary hikers (I wish I had done the Mtianyu section for kids and seniors). As I walked up the steep steps of the wall, I contemplated how difficult it was for the soldiers and convicts that constructed it. Many of the workers who died while working were buried in the wall itself! This thought made me stop complaining instantly. And at many of the restored sections along the wall there are restaurants and hotels where you can eat and even stay the night. I didn’t stop to snack until I made it to the top!
Next we went to the Forbidden City where the emperors lived. No gongs or bells sounded when we entered the Meridian Gate but the huge courtyards inside gave us a sense of what it must have been like to enter this magnificent place. Definitely take a detour to see the Caligraphy and Painting Gallery inside the Hall of Martial Valor. There are tons of halls and structures inside the Forbidden City, but the most impressive is the Hall of Supreme Harmony of the Three Great Halls. The Hall of Supreme Harmony was used for ceremonies like the Emperor’s birthday and military coronations. The Dragon Throne in the center is right up there with my favorite thrones, along with Iron Throne of Westeros.
My favorite stop was the Summer Palace that used to be the main residence for royal members in the Qing Dynasty. We spent the day walking along its beautiful royal gardens, bridges and corridors all offering a picturesque view of the Kunming Lake. This is where I got to participate in my very first formal Chinese tea ceremony and what a perfect venue for it! I think something about the trees and natural outdoor beauty made the tea taste heavenly.
Temple of Heaven
Our last day we visited the Temple of Heaven Park. Inside the park are lots of people doing Tai Chi, dancing, playing instruments and chess. On a tour we got to visit three buildings: the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests where emperors held worship ceremonies to pray for good weather and fruitful harvests, the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Circular Mound Altar, all connected by a long raised walkway called the Red Step Bridge. Afterwards we walked around the Cypress grove garden and had a relaxing local lunch.
Our last night in Beijing we went to an Acrobatic Show. Chinese acrobats have a long history of being some of the best artists in the world and I was so excited to see one live in China! Sadly, my photos were lost but we saw all of the amazing feats of strength and defying gravity: the balance on the chairs, hoop diving and people riding on top of people – on bicycles! It was an unforgettable experience. Thanks to Newman Tours for an incredible tour and trip!