Friday, June 28, marked our first full day in Beijing, and we surely made the most of it! Our day began before dawn with getting into vans for our drive to the Great Wall of China. Our trip took two and a half hours to get to Simatai, a village with one of the best preserved sections of the wall. At 8am we began our trek through a light drizzle. As we climbed higher on the mountain into the low clouds the weather turned and we were hit by much more rain. One of the scariest yet most amazing memories is of us standing inside a tower to avoid the rain when thunder roared all around us for over 20 seconds! In the end, our group climbed all the way to the twelfth tower, the last one accessible on this section of the wall, and sang out The Victors from what seemed like the top of the world! Here are some of the great views from atop Chángchéng, or the Great Wall.
Even though we were exhausted and amazed at how awesome it was to conquer the Great Wall, it was only lunchtime when we headed back to Beijing. After taking in the scenery some of the parks near the Forbidden City, we decided to cover both ends of the spectrum of Chinese history in one day by seeing the site of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. The entire central plaza is still intact and open to visitors, so we were able to experience some of the magic. From the opening ceremonies at the Bird’s Nest to Michael Phelps’ records at the Water Cube, we had the chance to experience the sights that we had only watched on NBC. The whole are is larger than life, with a gigantic tower topped with the rings watching over the grounds. The first buildings we saw were the National Indoor Stadium and Water Cube, followed by the Bird’s Nest just across a large square. Unfortunately, we did not arrive in time to tour the inside of these stadiums. However, we made the most of our time by playing frisbee, dancing, and forming a human pyramid. It was a great way to end such an outstanding day in Beijing.