Sweat poured down my face as I climbed the steep steps of the Great Wall of China.
The image came to my mind at that moment was actually the picture of President Bush in Chinese ethnic clothes. I wish I have a chance to tell him that he looked nice, and he should get some commissions from China because now almost all the clothes stores have a picture of him to attract customers. But first, I am going to ask him if there is a secret tunnel with elevator to go up to the Badaling Walk. How could all the famous people look so relaxed in their pictures on the Great Wall?
It was the third day of my six-day long tour of Beijing, China. I was overwhelmed by the grand scale of everything, starting with the Beijing Capital airport, from the ancient historical sites to all the wonders of modern architecture. But I was completely unprepared for the scene before me: miles after miles of wall dominating the landscape like a giant serpent snaking between ridges for as far as the eyes could see.
Thousand years of war and peace all come down to one lowly wish across all dynasties laying there silently in front of me in a desolate form of a simple wall. After all the huffing and climbing, standing there, watching the amazing landscape peacefully, I realized that even as powerful as an emperor, there were still things in the world worries us, and all we could do is to build a wall to protect things we treasured. It makes me humble, and in a weird way, comfort.
A nearby woman from Shanghai, demonstrating great mettle in her high heels, asked me to take pictures for her. They love to learn about everything, and they practice their English whenever they can. By the time we finished our conversation with my imperfect Chinese, there were smiles exchanged, suddenly I thought maybe we are not that different at all.
The tour to Beijing was a gift from my aunt when I visited her in Taiwan. It’s a 6-day trip with a very ambitious itinerary that included Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the sites of the 2008 Beijing Olympics–the Water Cube and Bird’s Nest–, and the national grand theater. We watched classic Chinese and kung fu shows, tasted Beijing’s famous roast duck, and experienced the traditional foot massage. I wandered through Beijing Hutong where commoners lived for thousand years, then to the Summer Palace where was once only privileged royals could enter. In the same day I also found myself in the Ming Tombs paying respects to those buried emperors. The tour I took is available at , and other comparable US-based tours are available at
On our way back, almost everyone was showing off and comparing the prices of the souvenirs they were bringing back, or chatting about dining experiences. The joy or mixed regret on their faces remains even more vivid in my memories than the stock smiles in our tourist photo shots. Just as there are moments during a tour that will connect you with the place, the local people, and the culture, there are also experiences that connect just the travelers. Beijing seems to be all right in all aspects. I’d very much like to visit again.
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