the great wall

Marian Parsonsa slice of life19 Comments

It’s been a couple of weeks since I put up my first post about my trip to China.  A part of it is that I’ve been busy, but another part is that I’ve needed to process it for a while.

When people ask how my trip was, I struggle with it a bit and let out a hesitant, drawn out, “Good.”  It’s not that it wasn’t good, but good is such a small word that doesn’t even begin to capture the highs and lows of the trip, the experiences gained, and the things I learned about yourself as I was taken outside of my comfort zone.  But, when some person at church asks me in passing, “How was your trip?”, they probably don’t want a 4 hour answer.  So, I say, “Good.”

Now that I’ve been home a few weeks and have had time to digest it all, I feel like I can share about it with more accuracy.

And today, I’m going to share about one of the highlights of the trip, The Great Wall.


For our second full day in Beijing, we lined up a 1/2 day tour of The Great Wall.  There are many sections you can visit, but I chose Mutianyu, which has the option to take a chair lift or cable car up to the wall and ride a toboggan back down.  You can also hike up and down, if you chose, but I figured with jet lag and my mom’s recent foot injury, taking a lift up would be more our speed.

We were picked up at our hotel mid-morning by our tour-guide.

Now, I need to insert here that I received an e-mail from China Highlights, the group we arranged the tour with, letting us know that our tour guide, “Cactus”, would pick us up in the lobby.  On the China Highlights website, it said many of their guides are Chinese-speaking westerners, so at hearing the name Cactus, I’m imagining some guy from Arizona who looked like he was fresh off of a globe-trekking, back-packing trip.  Instead, we were greeted by a young Chinese woman.

Mm!  Well, sometimes people surprise you!

(I did ask about the name and she said she gave it to herself!  She felt like it described her perfectly – beautiful, but a little prickly.)

She showed us to a small van that was already occupied by the rest of our group, two gentleman from England and one woman from California.

It was about a 90 minute drive to the wall from Beijing, so during that time, Cactus shared about the history of the wall and some interesting information about Beijing.  For example, they have so many cars in the city that cars with certain license plate numbers can drive on certain days and the rest on others. Motorcycles and scooters can drive any day, which I’m sure is one reason why there are so many.

 When we were at the foot of the mountain range where the wall was built, we stopped at a restaurant for a quick lunch.

From there, it was just a short drive to the wall itself.  Our group opted to go to the section that could be reached via the chair lift as opposed to the cable car.  My mom was a little nervous at the idea of riding a toboggan down the mountain, but we could see that you have plenty of control over your speed.

Our guide snapped this picture of my mom and I on the lift…


And the wall was magnificent.  Awesome.  Words really can’t do it justice and photographs fall short.

Other members of our group split off to hike in one direction or the other and I just wanted to soak it all in.  The remarkable feat of engineering and the natural beauty of the mountains, both on display together, was breathtaking.

I liked the section we chose to visit, because we could see so much of the wall snaking off in the distance and could compare restored parts of the wall to ones that were “wild”.  It was also not very crowded, so I could stroll and snap pictures without feeling pushed or hurried.

As I have shared, I did take time to do some sketching.  It wasn’t so much about the sketch, but about the experience of it.

My mom and I enjoyed being there together as well.  I knew Jeff and the boys would’ve loved it and I was really wishing they could’ve been there with me.  I did make a video for them, though, and sent it when I got back to the hotel – Mom saying good morning from the Great Wall of China!


The watchtowers were very cool to walk through as well.  There was such a beauty in the way the light hit the arched stone and the windows framed the mountains.

You can see the metal toboggan run snaking down the mountain in the picture below…

It was way out of her comfort zone, but my mom drove her toboggan like a champ!

And I enjoyed the ride thoroughly.  It was just a fun way to get down the mountain and I caught myself smiling and even laughing as I leaned into the turns or pulled on the brake, so I wouldn’t ram into my mom’s sled.  I didn’t expect something so playful to be a part of seeing the Great Wall, so it was a pleasant surprise.

If you ever have the chance to go to the Great Wall, go there.  Whether you want to just go see it and enjoy a toboggan ride or you want to hike a section that’s completely wild, it’s something in this world that’s worth seeing.

And I’m glad I had the chance to see it.

the great wall

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19 Comments on “the great wall”

  1. Thanks for sharing more about your trip! I really enjoyed reading this and am hoping you still plan to post about the traditional courtyard house that you visited, I’m looking forward to hearing more about that.

  2. I would love to visit the Great Wall someday! I think it’s so wonderful that you took this trip with your mom. Every 2 years my mom and I leave the men (and dogs) at home and take a big trip together. Two years ago we went to Italy and this fall we are going to Scotland and Ireland. Of course I love visiting all of these amazing places, but I also love getting to spend so much time with my mom and share these experiences with her.

  3. I am so glad you all went on the toboggan! Of all the things to do and see in China, for some reason that toboggan was on my bucket list when I went to Beijing 10 years ago and I just loved it! As you mentioned, that section of the wall is really beautiful and not as crowded – such an amazing place to visit and so glad you and your mom got to experience it together!

  4. Did you see any Pandas. My cousin said some look like Raccoons in the face. Wonderful opportunity
    to share with your mother.

  5. Marian, so glad you were able to take your Mom along with you! How fun! Thanks for sharing!

    Have a blessed Easter with your dear family.


  6. I had heard that the Great Wall was so crowded that most of the time you could’t move when you were on it. Basically it said the pictures that you see are nothing like the reality of it. Well you have proven that to be wrong and that makes me very happy!

  7. What a once-in-a-lifetime moment to share with your mom and I would have been terrified of the toboggan ride too!

  8. How wonderful that your Mom, one of your biggest fans, could accompany you to China and share the experience of the Great Wall. The excursion was especially timely for a pair of Americans: I wonder if we can look forward to something similar along our southern border?

    The conveyances up to and back from the wall sound exciting. What a nice surprise to ride a chair lift and a bobsled, without a speck of snow on the ground!

    I know what you mean about needing time to process something as complex as your business/pleasure trip to the other side of the world. I look forward to hearing more about your reaction to the experience..

  9. Thank you for sharing your experience Marian. You have such a lovely relationship with your mom. I hope your folks will be close to your in your upcoming move! Best Wishes! Carol

  10. I would totally be with your mom on the toboggan ride… it would be amazing but I would be sooo nervous! I get psyched out doing go-carts with the hubs! It looks like you had an amazing time.

  11. I love that your mom went with you! I can’t get my mom to take a plane from the midwest to visit me in California.

  12. It does take take to process all those memories! Friends ask us about our recent trip to India and I get a little carried away with stories lol .
    I’m looking forward to the next instalment especially when you get on to food and shopping 🙂

  13. This is absolutely amazing. Your photos capture the sheer immensity of this ancient wall, and how beautifully it fits into the landscape. I guess it to be like the Grand Canyon; you can see photos but nothing equals the sheer drop-dead effect of the real thing. I’m so glad you and your mother got to see such treasures.

    I know what you mean about not being able to describe a trip…it can be awful, inspiring, taxing, provoking, breathtaking, lovely, and exhausting…all in the same day. “Good” is an excellent shorthand word for all of these! Did you see any other arts or buildings that were inspirational to you? What did you think of the factory you visited? ANd the people?

  14. I just read your post and it sounds like your trip to the ‘wall’ was different from mine, but yet we experienced the some of the same awe. My ‘wall’ was full of people going up and down. I found that the climb was challenging to many and along the international standard behind laughter and tears…so it is w/grunting when you step up and up and up…and so on, lol! It was an amazing experience, sharing this visit without common language with most of the people around me…and yet we communicated the same interest, wonder and joy and this great opportunity.

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