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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Day 1, March 29th

We excitedly arrived in Beijing!


Our first day started out great with climbing The Great Wall. However, it took us a while to actually
get there because the traffic was so heavy. Our guide, Julia Potter (named after Julia Roberts and Harry Potter) told us that many traffic laws changed after the Olympics. To allow for the flow of traffic from the 2008 Olympics, the government made rules regulating the times people could drive. The laws have stayed in tact even after the Olympics.

Once we arrived to the Great Wall we took the gondola up to our starting point. Then we started climbing and climbing and climbing. We were fortunate enough to be climbing a portion of the wall that had less tourists, and we almost had the place to ourselves. It was originally built in the Chin Dynasty to link all the already established walls from the surrounding towns. Over 1 million people were involved in the production, gathering trees and soil to construct the monstrosity.

After this deteriorated, the Han Dynasty ordered to rebuild it. This is when the wall reached its peak of 10000 km long. Then the Ming dynasty ordered another renovation and changed the wall to pure brick to protect from enemies. To this day, only five sections remain standing from the original wall, and we were lucky enough to be standing on one of them!

After the Great Wall, we visited the Summer Palace, home of the notorious Empress known as the "Dragon Lady". The enormous estate bragged multiple temples, a private man-made lake, and acre upon acre of trees and greenery. The pathway through the grounds were adorned with hand painted artwork, each original pieces.


In order to fund the building of the palace, the Dragon Lady ordered all of the military funding to be used on it, which inevitably caused China to lose the war against Japan. Her nickname was thus acquired from her blatant selfishness and disregard for the Chinese people.



 Since her reign, several improvements have been made, including bathrooms for tourists. It is here that we first witnessed the official star- rankings of bathrooms, this one being deemed a "four-star" restroom. We beg to differ.

After the Summer Palace, we were lucky enough to squeeze in time to shop at the Silk Market. This market was once outdoors and drew quite a crowd, but due to fire hazards, it has been relocated to an indoor facility. It is 5 stories high, with each floor selling a different department. Julia, our tour guide, taught us how to bargain with vendors to get a fair price. Many vendors will play mind games with customers, but we learned that we should start low and meet in the middle. It was a really eye opening experience, since it is so different from our shopping mall experience. Wish we could bargain for our clothes and accessories at home!

All in all, our first day in Beijing was action packed and very memorable. On top of learning so
much about the culture, we also got first hand experience shopping like a true native.

We cannot thank Kohl's and Li & Fung enough to allow us to be a part of all of these culturally enriching experiences, and we look forward to what is in store for us in the days to come.

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