Text and images by Mitchell Paster.
On June 26th the wonderful leaders of troop 438 took us on a trip that might have changed our lives forever! When the bus arrived to begin our excursion we all joyfully climbed aboard only to find that it wasn’t a private tour like we were used to, it was a group tour. After realizing that we weren’t being spoiled per usual, the troop was OK. The tour guide told us that on this trip we would be first stopping at a jade factory to see how they make all sorts of jade sculptures. What this really was was a forced trip to a glorified gift shop. Granted I found the jade jewelry and sculptures very impressive, but I thought this was a trip to the Great Wall of China not a tour of my empty pockets.
After that we were taken to the Ming Tombs, which is a large area that houses the mausoleums of 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty. The tombs were interesting but they felt kind of touristy. Everything seemed as if it had been redone relatively recently, all of the pillars and archways seemed to be somewhat freshly painted. I was expecting it to be more of a “National Treasure” type of place, in which I surely would have been Reilly. We then headed on an hour-long trip up to the great wall area where we were to have lunch. Lunch was served to us promptly upon arrival, it felt more like Americanized Chinese food, but it was quite good. After lunch we had about a 5 minute bus ride to the wall.
We arrived at the wall at 1pm and were told to be back at the bus by 3pm. As we walked up we were informed that we would be taking a chair lift up and a toboggan down from the wall. I felt this was a little strange as it was combining historical wonder with modern fun. After we made it through all of the vendors trying to sell us all sorts of hats and t-shirts and tchotchkes, we boarded the chairlift. When we reached the top we took a few group photos and began our hike to the heights tower of the section where we were, Mu Tian Yu. It took just short of an hour to make the whole climb. Most of my time I was just in awe of the beautiful mountains we were traversing, along with the fact that I was walking along something that is older than my country. I kept saying to myself “this should be renamed the amazing wall of China.” Climbing the Wall and being at this site has since been the greatest thing I have ever done in my life.
When we left we had about an hour and a half drive to (drum roll please) a silk factory!!! We got to watch a 4-minute tour of how they get silk from the worms and see how strong it is. After that we spent the better part of a half hour trying to avoid sales people from harassing us to buy things. We got dropped off back at our hostel and the day was over.