Wowed by the Wall

I know I should be writing about my recent Singapore trip, but I feel like taking a quick detour down memory lane instead.

Beijing was one of the most exciting cities I visited when my family and I lived in Asia. Every day we spent there was an adventure, a shock, a mind-blowing revelation. Not long ago I found a journal entry from that trip, dated 22 October, 2003, and I wanted to share it with you.

Today was a day I’ll never forget as long as I live: the day we climbed Chang Cheng, the Great Wall of China. The section we visited was at Mutianyu, built during the Ming dynasty in the late 14th century and about a two-hour drive from Beijing. Our first glimpse of the Wall snaking through the hills in the distance sent us into a frenzy of excitement. We had to take a cable car to reach it, and even my combined fears of heights and enclosed spaces (the dreaded double whammy) couldn’t dampen my mood.

Once we set foot on the Wall itself, I swear to God, time stood still. I was overwhelmed by the reality of being there, and particularly by the fact that my children were blithely skipping along THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA. I kept saying, to total strangers, “Can you freakin’ believe we’re on the Great Wall of China?” Most of them, carefully avoiding eye contact and wary of making any sudden movements, backed away slowly. But what can I say? The day had that once-in-a-lifetime feel about it.

About two hours in, the going got rough. The last bit was so steep my legs felt like jelly by the time we got to the top, and they ached for days afterwards. It was almost as hard as climbing Uluru in Australia [edited to add: yes, I was terribly out of shape], but it was worth it. The other wanderers had long since turned back by this point, so we enjoyed the spectacular view quite alone — the only time during our trip to China that we weren’t hemmed in by the multitudes. The wall stretches for thousands of kilometres, and from where we were standing it felt as though we could see every last brick.

My favourite photo from that trip is of my girls, their eyes crinkling as they smile happily in the sunshine, Chang Cheng unfolding endlessly behind them. “This,” Younger Daughter said contentedly on the way down, “is the best holiday ever. Can we climb it again?”


About Maria

I'm a Canadian repatriate, former expat spouse, mother to two TCKs (and one yellow Lab), mentor to new immigrants, writer, reader, world traveller (grounded for now). I write about expat/repat issues and am still trying to figure out my place in the world.
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11 Responses to Wowed by the Wall

  1. Fun video! Loved the Monty Python re enactment!

  2. Sine says:

    No I’m vowed! Yes by the wall, but even more by your video skills:-). Great post.

  3. Oh thank you for that Maria!
    The Great Wall of China is most definitely on my bucket list…
    Someday, I swear.

  4. Judy says:

    I didn’t realize you’d been to the Great Wall. I think I visited the same bit (at least the cable car looks the same) lol! We did Tai Chi on the wall early in the morning, now that was truly magical.

  5. lindainexpatland says:

    The Great Wall is in my top three (Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu & The Great Wall continually battling it out for top of the list). Loved your daughter’s Monty Python impersonation. We visited Doune Castle in Scotland (where the movie was filmed) a year and a half ago and had a terrific time. One of the best parts? Two people who brought stick horses and clopping blocks to make the sound as they ‘rode’ up to the castle entrance!

    • Maria says:

      If only we’d thought it through! I would have brought the clopping blocks for sure. It was a spontaneous performance on my daughter’s part — I don’t think she’d ever seen a battlement before and she couldn’t resist. (This was in the days before we moved to Europe and had our fill of castles.)

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