A Great Wall

Alexa Penton
April 28, 2014

This past weekend, center director Jeremiah Jenne led a group of IES Abroad students on an overnight trip to the Great Wall. Unfortunately, outside obligations prevented me from participating, but I was lucky enough to be able to visit the Wall on my own during our first long weekend. That’s one of the coolest things about studying abroad in Beijing—the most tourist-frequented parts of the Wall, Badaling and Mutianyu, are easily accessible from Beijing by a public bus.

As someone who has visited the Wall twice, however, I can tell you that the best parts of the Wall are those a bit more off the beaten path. There’s Simatai, where the wall rises and falls through a jagged mountain landscape, or Shanhaiguan, where the Wall quite literally rises out of the sea. When I hosted a visitor from America in March, we chose to hike a part of the Wall that borders the Chen Family Farm, just northwest of Beijing. I can’t say enough about the Chen family from greatwallfresh.com. Mr. Chen picked up my guest and me from the nearest subway station, brought us to his home, instructed us in different routes we could take to hike the Wall (ranging from easy to most difficult), drove us to the trailhead, cooked us an amazing dinner after we finished our hike, and dropped us back off at the subway station at the end of the day. Mr. Chen and his wife were incredibly warm and welcoming to us, and I can’t recommend his service enough for any of those thinking of visiting the Great Wall. The coolest part? My friend and I were the only ones on the Wall that day. The. Only. Ones. That’s unheard of on parts of the Wall like Badaling and Mutianyu, even in the off-season. Suffice to say, it was an experience that will not be soon forgotten.


Peeking out from one of the guard towers!

Stopping for a photo opp about 45 minutes into the hike.

A flatter part of the hike…we were a bit winded by this point!

Such an unbelievable landscape!

Gazing out over the landscape. It felt like a fake movie backdrop at times!

One of the steeper drops. Yikes. Lee is half mountain goat, so he had no trouble with it. Me on the other hand…

Back at the Chen household. Mr. Chen and his wife owned a Chow Chow, the same dog I had growing up. The breed is originally from China! This absolutely MADE the trip.


Alexa Penton

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hi! My name is Alexa Penton and I&#39;m an undergrad at the University of Mississippi pursuing degrees in Chinese Language and Culture and Art History. I started photography as a hobby in high school, and have since expanded my collection to 10 film cameras and one digital. Most of my photos and videos document my travels at home and abroad. I am particularly inspired by the qualities of light, memories, natural history, nontraditional developing practices, and nontraditional portraiture. I call Orlando, Florida home, but can&#39;t wait to spend a whole semester living and learning in Beijing!</span></p>

2014 Spring
Home University:
University of Mississippi
Art History
Chinese Language
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