Saturday, November 8, 2008

November 8: Great Wall

The main item on our itinerary for Saturday was the Great Wall. It was sandwiched between trips to a cloisonne factory and a jade store. We left at 8 AM, which isn't that early when you're awake at 3 AM. Cloisonne is an ancient artform used for making trinkets, vases, etc. with copper and enamel. Originally limited to the imperial families (we'll see more pictures tomorrow, Nov 9, when we visit the Forbidden Palace), it's since become a favorite among us commoners. Most in our group did some early Christmas shopping! After the factory, we headed up to the Badaling section of the Great Wall, which is over an hour north of Beijing. As we got close, to everyone's surprise, snow started falling! Our guide couldn't remember the last time it snowed this early in the season there. Badaling was a strategic outpost with visibility in eight different directions. While we were prepared for the cold weather, nobody was prepared for the snow. The Great Wall is one of those sites that's just surreal. The Wall is built along the contours of the mountain, so even though it's paved, there are some steep inclines. With the snow, the inclines, and the Saturday crowd, it was not an easy hike. Afterwards, we went to a Jade factory, first for lunch and then some shopping.

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