1/7 wonder of the world -The Great Wall of China

When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “One word at a time,” and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time. But I’ve read you can see it from space without a telescope. –Stephen King. Thus began my adventure in seeking out this magnificent wall.

I have always wanted to see the 7 wonders of the world in my lifetime. To be a part of the magic, I guess. So you can only imagine my excitement when I realized I was going to spend my Christmas holiday in China with my family. Home to the Great Wall. The first of the wonders I would lay my eyes on.

China is beautiful. Even more so in the winter. It has a fascinating history and culture which traces back to thousands of years ago. The Chinese language is rich (years have been spent speaking this language than any other in the history of human civilization). It is also initially impenetrable especially for a foreigner like me. I was able to grasp a few basic words. It helps that I studied a unit on Asian philosophy, which made me appreciate the Chinese way of life first hand.

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China has so much to see and explore. We went to the Forbidden City in Beijing- Imperial Palace for 24 Emperors. The Forbidden City was the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties for 560 years till 1911. 24 emperors lived there. World Cultural Heritage, and now known as ‘the Palace Museum’ among Chinese, it is a treasure house of Chinese cultural and historical relics. It is recognized as one of the five most important palaces in the world (with the Palace of Versailles in France, Buckingham Palace in the UK, the White House in the US, and the Kremlin in Russia).

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We also visited the Bund. It was Shanghai’s most prosperous area in late 18th century and early 19th century. When the first British company opened an office at the Bund in 1846, it became the epitome of elegance.

We saw the Oriental Pearl Tower which is the second tallest building in Shanghai.

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Shanghai City at night

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Shanghai downtown

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As the daughter to entrepreneur parents, our trip would not be complete if we did not visit Shanghai World Financial Center which happens to be the second-tallest building in Shanghai.

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A few days later we boarded a bullet train from Shanghai to Fuzhou where we spent a couple of days in the Old ancient hotel. Fuzhou in Chinese means good luck city. I am not one for superstitions but we may have had some good luck during our stay there because it barely snowed and we were able to tour and have a spectacular time.

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Back to the Great Wall, because that’s why you are reading this. It was even more special as I got to go there on my mother’s birthday which is on Christmas day. Our capable driver took the wheel to the car park of the Mutianyu great wall.

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It is about a ten minute walk ascending to the cable car station. Of course it is optional that you may either walk up, or take the cable car.  We decided to take the cable car up as it was freezing in Beijing and snowing a bit. Not the perfect weather for hiking.

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However, I soon forgot about my freezing body, savoring the change in air, feeling excitement build towards stepping onto the brick walkways from tower 6.

Then there it was. There in the mist, enormous, majestic, silent and terrible, stood the Great Wall of China. Solitarily, with the indifference of nature herself, it crept up the mountain side and slipped down to the depth of the valley. I could not agree more with W. Somerset Maugham.

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I reached the peak of this vacation, standing on the Great Wall. That peak was gratefulness. I am privileged to be experiencing a structure that existed thousands of years before me, and still will be thousands of years after I swallow my last breath.

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I have read a couple of stories from people who had visited the wonders of the world and without a doubt, the feeling of being in the presence of the world’s longest wall and biggest ancient architecture is beyond anything written. Maybe these feelings are wrapped up in goals, but experiencing this place is not about ticking off a bucket list

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I realize how limited everything is, which is one of the things I wanted to learn from my journey. I just count myself blessed to have experienced that!

-Neema Nkatha

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