A Trip Back: China Part 6–The Great Wall

Welcome back! Hope everyone is having a great week! I left you last in Beijing after tours of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, both of which I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend. Hiking The Great Wall of China tops many a bucket list, my own included, so needless to say, I had been looking forward to this portion of the trip since my arrival.


The Great Wall is over 13,000 miles long in it’s entirety and runs roughly along the border between China and Mongolia. The section we visited was located about an hour and a half outside of Beijing, which we got to by bus with a small tour group. Anna and I woke up early and grabbed breakfast to-go (tuna sandwich, I’m looking at you) from our hostel before catching the bus. The area between Beijing and the Great Wall was very rural, and seemingly very poor. This made the ride rather uneventful as there wasn’t much to look at save a dilapidated home/farm every now and then.

Great Wall Entrance Statue at Entrance

Once we got to the wall, our semi-English speaking tour guide handed us off to our actual tour guide. He looked to be about 87, spoke absolutely no English and was in exceptionally better shape than anyone in our group, myself included. Anticipating the cold weather, I made sure to wear several layers of clothing on both the top and the bottom. Mistake. The day became unseasonably warm as soon as we arrived at the wall and I quickly learned that our hike was going to be a lot more physically demanding than I’d imagined. The wall is extremely hilly, with lots and lots of narrow steps in certain sections and very steep inclines and declines in others.

Looking Down Great Wall steps

Thanks to my 4 pairs of pants and stopping to take pictures every 7 seconds, I lagged behind the rest of the group for most of the hike.

Mountain Climbing 2 Chinese English

Chinese English 2 Tiny doorway

Great Wall Us Great wall tunnel

Our (not so) sweet tour guide walked slowly behind me (to ensure I didn’t fall over the edge I’m sure) and made “tut tut” noises each time I got out my camera.

Great Wall ruins Great Wall looking down

Despite the unpleasant tour guide noises, and sweating profusely under all my layers, the Wall was absolutely breathtaking. We hiked a 13 mile section and it offered views unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. My camera at the time was not the best quality (I’ve since gotten a much better one from Robert for Christmas!) but the pictures really speak for themselves.

Great Wall 4 Great Wall 3

Great Wall 1 Great Wall Window

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A Trip Back: China Part 5–Beijing

The overnight train from Hangzhou may have been the end of my modeling career, but it was only the beginning of our adventures in Beijing. As Anna and I made our way to our newest hostel, I noted that Beijing was very different than hip, flashy Shanghai. The city was older, historic and slower paced, although still plenty crowded. Our hostel, the Peking Downtown Backpackers Accommodation, was on a hutong in a fantastic location.

Hostel 1  A hutong is a narrow street or alleyway lined on both sides by traditional residences. These were the neighborhoods of olden days, although now most hutongs have either been demolished, or the old homes have been turned into shops/restaurants and hostels, as was the case with ours.


Our hostel was on a street filled with cute boutiques, a variety of restaurants and was within walking distance of the subway and a bus stop. We got a double room with a private bathroom, only slightly more expensive and a definite step up from our room in Shanghai. The room was clean, the staff were friendly and helpful and breakfast was included at the cute little restaurant next door. Having not been overly impressed with Chinese food up to this point, I was glad to see some more familiar options on the menu, even if they were a little strange for breakfast, and ended up ordering a tuna sandwich every day. I recall it being delicious, don’t judge.

Lama Temple entrance Lama Temple Architecture

Since we had slept on the train, we showered quickly and then hit the streets for a full first day of touring. Our first stop was the Lama Temple, a beautiful 17th century Buddhist temple and monastery. It was a lovely, spiritual place, and very peaceful despite all the tourists and thick clouds of burning incense.

Lama Monk Lama Buddha

The temple is still active today and we encountered many monks studying, praying and prohibiting pictures of the 85 foot tall Buddha carved from a single piece of white sandalwood. That is awesome to behold and definitely the main attraction at the temple.  Of all the temples in Beijing the Lama Temple is one of the most popular and definitely worth a stop!

Lama Buddha 2 Lama Temple Architecture 2

We followed the Lama Temple up with a trip to Beijing’s main tourist attraction, the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was the Chinese Imperial Palace throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Forbidden Palace 3 Forbidden Palace 2

I loved these adorable tour groups waiting outside the main entrance. They all wore matching hats, I guess so that if anyone got lost, they would be able to find their group again? Ingenious and hilarious.

Tour Group 3 Tour Group 1

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