We’ve been in China almost 3 years now. After living here for about a year, something wonderful happened. One of my best friends also moved to China. ? ? ? Her name is Annie, and she and her husband Erin and their two kids came out as part of Erin’s MBA program. And while they were far far away from us in polluted Beijing, we were still psyched to have friends in China with us. I mean, same time zone, only a 3-hour flight away – practically neighbors, right?! Which is AMAZING to me, considering that Annie and I lived in the same neighborhood as teenagers, went to high school together, and were roommates for a couple years in college. I mean, what are the odds???
They were planning on being in China for just one year, so last summer they took the train down to Dongguan and came to visit us. Obviously we had to return the favor by visiting them in Beijing, right?
So, just two weeks or so before they were planning to move away again, Terry and Sander and I jetted up to Beijing for a week with our besties.
Guys, can I just say how awesome it is to visit friends? Especially friends as bombdiggity as Annie and Erin? It was like being back in college again, only with babies around. ? We stayed up late eating snickerdoodles, watched chick flicks, ordered in, ate out, went shopping, stayed in and curled up with a good book, and took a few fun adventures.
Beijing in and of itself was – how shall I put this? – underwhelming. It was fine, and all. And granted, we were there with babies, which really limited what we wanted to do. But the pollution – oh man. I’d heard about how bad it was but I was astonished at how bad it really was. I mean, we could literally see the haze inside the airport. Inside! And it just got worse outside! There were a few days we did not leave their apartment at all – there aren’t masks small enough for wee babies and obviously that’ll do some serious damage to little growing lungs. Hats off to Annie and Erin and their kids for spending a year in those conditions. Annie said once they didn’t leave their apartment for 11 days, the pollution was so bad.
Luckily, we did get a good handful of days that were decent. (And when I say decent, I really still mean pretty bad. Just not super duper bad. Think “Utah winter inversions” and that’s the pretty decent I’m talking about.) And on one of those days, we did what every person who lives in China must eventually do.
We walked on the Great Wall of China.
Oh. My. Word. It was everything I hoped it would be. It was grand and majestic and incredible. It was big. It was beautiful. It was deserving of the word Great, capital G and all.
There are several places you can go to see the wall. Some are restored, some not restored. I thought it’d be cool to see some of the unrestored sections, but it just wasn’t super feasible with 2 babies and a 3-year-old. And honestly, I don’t feel like I missed out at all. We ended up at the mutianyu location, which I highly recommend. The nice thing about this section is that it’s not the most popular one, which means there aren’t nearly as many crowds. We went right before the busy season, at the end of March, and it was awesome. (Although, if we’d gone maybe a week or two later I bet all the trees would have been in blossom on the mountain.) There were large chunks of time when we felt like we had the wall all to ourselves. That makes a huge difference in the experience – the times when there were crowds weren’t nearly as magical.
We spent a few hours up there, hiking up and down steps, climbing to the tops of the guard towers, taking millions of photos, and just generally goofing around. It totally deserves its spot as one of the wonders of the world. If you ever get the chance to go, take it!
And then of course, come visit me. ???