How the Great Wall of China Reminds us to Tear Down Our Walls
An excerpt from New Wonders: Lessons Learned on a Long Winding Road
This is the beginning of the second leg of our tour. Because the most expensive portion of the traveling to the New Wonders is the journey flight over the ocean, we maximized our funds by getting one way stops from Beijing, China to London, England. It was substantially cheaper to fly out of England, than out of Rome and we were grateful to get to add a visit to Stonehenge to our trip.
Our time in Beijing was less than 24 hours. After a night in a hotel, we found a driving service that would let us plan own adventure as long as it was eight-hours or less. Within that time, we were able to visit sacred sites in Beijing, including the Sacred City, Tiananmen Square and the Temple of Heaven (seen in the photo below), drive to the Badaling site of the Great Wall and get dropped off at the airport.
I chose the Badaling entrance to the Great Wall, because of its location and because it has gondolas that quickly take you up the mountain and onto the wall.
During this leg of the trip I wore a mask designed to filter smog, to protect my asthmatic lungs. Looking a bit like Darth Vader in many of the photos, not long into the trip Laurel wished that she also had a mask. Specifically purchased due to recommendations about the air quality in Beijing in December, the mask also came in handy during the winter in India when people were burning trash fires along the roadside to stay warm.
If you are interested in purchasing a mask for a similar trip to China, be sure to research the kinds of masks that actually filter smog and ensure that you have enough time to order the proper mask. If you have a hard time finding something, look up masks that are used for dirt bike racing, they tend to have filters that will be helpful.
Another thing to be sure you look into before heading to China is the strict visa requirements and the limited hours and locations that are available to apply for your visa. While I used the normal process (about a month) it takes to get the visa, Laurel chose to spend a lot more money to expedite her visa. Whatever you choose, it is better to know that the longer you take to plan the cheaper your trip will be.
An Idiot Abroad
From San Francisco to Beijing
I’m writing this on the airplane on our way to Beijing and the Great Wall of China! A whirlwind around the world trip begins. I am excited to begin our second journey to explore the wonders of the world. I often lean towards being a nervous nelly – especially when travelling. I am trying to be a good travel partner with this opportunity that I never dreamed of being able to take. It is a blessing. I appreciate my partner for taking me on this trip.
This wild journey was inspired by the show “Idiot Abroad” and the city of Petra. I think Petra is the location I’m most looking forward to. What a magical desert city, carved out of red sandstone. I have almost no idea what to expect at any of these cities we are going to. I don’t know the languages or customs and I can’t even remember all the exchange rates. This is both exciting and scary.
Most of my fear is about the Middle East part of the trip. The same fear that has loved ones telling us over and over to “please be careful.” We will be, of course. I have a lot of faith in my partner and we have taken all the precautions we can. I understand their worry. It is very strange to be travelling to places where it is illegal and dangerous to be who we are. Both as a woman and an LGBT person, there are parts of the world that look very different. In some ways, I like my Bay Area bubble! But we will be safe, we will wear head scarves in Saudi Arabia and convey our love for each other with a handshake and a smile.
Around the world in seventeen days will certainly be an adventure. Maybe not our last hurrah, but certainly a big hurrah. After that we will look towards having a baby, growing our family and our love. I’m excited for it all to begin.
A Smogy Journey
Today we went to the Temple of Heaven and the Great Wall of China at Badaling. The journey was long and the hardest part seemed to be wearing a face mask. As an asthmatic, the smog in Beijing, especially in the winter, is too much for me.
My black mask looks a bit more sinister than I expected. But, in Beijing people wear masks of all varieties – lace, camouflage, medical- all to keep the harmful pollutants out of their lungs. I wonder if there are masks in our future in the United States. I guess if we don’t take care of the planet that is where we are all headed.
The splendor of the Great Wall is in part the splendor of the layers of mountains that surrounds it. Like many of the wonders of the world, the beauty is also in the journey and marveling at how anyone could have built such a thing. Even today it is a long trek to get to the wonders and they were built when there were no cars or trains to use.
It’s a wonder they exist. A wonder anyone let them become ruins and a wonder how hard they are to get to.