Our last full day (Saturday) in China was amazing. We started off bright and early, because we had quite a long drive to our first destination. Plus, traffic is always better the earlier you head out. We ended up driving two hours to arrive at Longqingxia (Long-King) Gorge. Hence the title of this post. It truly was GORGEous.
Upon arrival, it seemed like we’d arrived at a ski resort in summer. There were lots of ugly hotels and open spaces. This probably has a lot to do with the festivities that occur in winter. Every winter, they hold the “original” ice castles here, but instead of growing the structures with water, they construct them out of massive ice blocks. Look up some pictures, they are very beautiful.
After we walked through the “resort” area, we climbed through a man-made tunnel to the top of a massive dam that keeps the river from going into the “resort” area. Normally, tourists travel to the top of the dam through a series of escalators inside of a golden dragon that’s climbing the dam. Unfortunately, the dragon was under renovation. Hence our travel through the tunnels. When I looked up pictures of the dragon, it looked really ugly, but in person, it was really cool looking!
From there, we boarded a boat and headed up the river with a bunch of Chinese tourists. It was SO beautiful. There were massive cliffs covered in lush green trees. It reminded me a lot of Zions or the grand canyon, except it was WAY greener. The bottom of the cliffs dove deep into the river out of sight. This was our only destination that was 100% natural Chinese landscape. No man-made wall, no buildings, and no roads. I mean. . . there was the dam that made the water level higher. . . but besides that it was completely natural! It did not disappoint. The natural landscape is equally (if not more) beautiful than the buildings we’ve visited.
There were a few stops along the way where we disembarked and did some people watching and climbing around the beautiful landscape. It was funny, because Sue has only been to the gorge once, and that was 10 years ago, so she was taking lots of pictures and having fun as well. Apparently, back in February, a large bolder fell from a cliff. It injured 11 people and killed 1. Because of this, the gorge has been closed to visitors. Our tour guide was SO nervous that we weren’t going to be able to go and that we’d have to find something else to do. Before we left this morning, she called the gorge, and they told her that today was the first day it was reopened. She was SO relieved, and so were we. We would have been very distraught if we had missed the great opportunity to visit this gorgeous area.
On the way out, we were treated to a pretty entertaining experience as well. Instead of traveling through the normal man-made tunnel we came up through, we traveled down a “nature tunnel.” It was basically a tunnel full of fake plants, trees, animals, and buildings. There were a couple of pretty pictures along the way, there were lots of mirrors along the path to make it larger looking, and the fake animals were VERY funny looking. I think it was supposed to give visitors a feel of different scenery in China. We were just glad it was free to walk down.
From there, we began the long trek back into the city. Our goal was to visit one last section of the great wall. Originally, we had planned to visit the great wall at Badaling, but because there have been so many tourists at other places, our guide recommended we go to a different section. She gave us a few options, and we decided to go to the Great Wall at Juyongguan. But before we got there, we made a pitstop for lunch.
Oh, my goodness, I’m pretty sure we stopped, died, and went to heaven, because the restaurant we visited was phenomenal! If I ever open my own restaurant, it’s going to be just like this one. Essentially, each table had a hot plate built into it. They would bring out a pot full of broth and pork and set it onto the plate. From there, you’re free to pick out the meat and eat. Then you can walk to the front of the restaurant and select any add-ins you’d like. They had noodles, vegetables, tofu, mushrooms, and a ton of other options. You place all the sides you’d like on a plate, then you take them back to your table and place them into the broth with the meat. You let them cook, then you remove them and enjoy. It was a really fun, authenticate Chinese experience. The best parts? It was all you can eat with drinks included. It was really funny, because as we sat down to eat, Sue had the most disgusted look on her face. This was her first time at this restaurant, and she didn’t trust it one bit, but by the time we left, she was enjoying it too!
After lunch, we traveled another hour back toward Beijing for our final visit to the Great Wall. The Juyongguan section of the Great Wall was critical for ancient China. This section of the wall crosses through a crucial pass that was used by many people entering Beijing. A road was built, and the wall was constructed over it. This was the first overpass known to man. At this section of the wall, when an intruder was approaching, canons were fired toward the city to alarm them of incoming danger. The more shots fired, the larger the number of enemy troops in route.
This section of the wall was especially steep. Elle and Naomi gave up after about 4 watchtowers, but I continued onwards toward th top. I didn’t make it all the way (because the mountain sloped so much that I didn’t see how far away it really was), but it was very impressive. I’m still blown away at how incredible the Great Wall truly is. Sue told us that the Great Wall, with all of its branches, is about 35,000 miles long. She said it could almost wrap around the world twice. There is no wonder it took over 2000 years to construct. It truly is a massive undertaking. Sue told us there were different purposes for the wall during different dynasties, but Matt Damon still convinced me that the real reason it was constructed was to keep the aliens from invading the world.
Once we were done running and climbing around the wall, we headed back toward Beijing. We decided to do some more souvenir shopping, so we stopped by the same Hutongs we visited yesterday. It was so hard saying goodbye to Sue. She truly has been just like our Chinese Mama. She was super sweet, super informative, and super concerned about our needs. Such a sweet woman. Anyway, we bid her farewell in front of a small souvenir shop, and then we purchased the last of the things we wanted. After that, we walked back to the hotel, ate food from our trusty convenience store, watched Jurassic Park while we packed, and then we went to bed. It was quite the last day in China.