The Duggar Family, star of the hit American reality TV show “(19 Kids and Counting”, recently went on a trip to Beijing, and part of their trip will be filmed and broadcast on TV in primetime in April of 2013. There were totally 39 people in this Duggar group including crew members. Of course, as the Great Wall is the #1 attraction in all of China, the Duggar Family was keenly interested in visiting this marvel of manmade achievement. In order to visit the Great Wall, the Duggar Family enlisted the aid of us, Great Wall Adventure Club.
The Duggar’s excursion to the Great Wall started on Monday, September 24, at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Beijing. At 9AM, we loaded the entire family, using two 39-seat coaches-one for the family and one for the filming crew that would document the experience. At noon, we arrived at a courtyard near the base of the Gubeikou Great Wall, and we assigned two guides to the family. The two host families in the village provided a wonderful Chinese lunch of Kongpao Chicken, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Broccoli Beef, Deep-fried Green Bean, Fried Chicken Fillets, and fried organic vegetables planted directly from the soil that the host families own. Jim Bob, the father and Michelle, the mother thanked the hosting families as their opening remarks for lunch. The smaller Duggar children were also interested in playing with the hand pump that fetches water from the underground well. They played one by one and didn't stop until lunch was ready. The filming crew interviewed 65-year-old Mama Meng, one of the owners of the courtyards to ask about her life in this village. Mama Meng's courtyard is one of the approved host courtyards by Great Wall Adventure Club.
At 3:20, we finally began our climb up to the Jinshanling Great Wall. However, realizing the kids would be unable to climb up to the wall, we took the cable car. As a result we would have to take it again to go down. The Jinshanling ticket office was slow and bureaucratic and it took us up to 30 more minutes to buy the tickets for the admission and cable car. That left us less time to film. However, the Duggar Family still hiked about three watchtowers and took many photos, both together and separately. Jim Bob was very excited in seeing the Great Wall and he took lots of photos with his oldest son Joshua around one of the watchtowers. The crew interviewed him about his feeling in seeing the Great Wall. After filming for 90 minutes, it started to get dark, so we returned to the courtyard village from Jinshanling. The entire group was split into four smaller ones in order to check into their rooms in the four courtyard inns in the village. The Duggar's were accommodated in the largest courtyard where there were more than seven rooms. Some kids started playing cards as soon as they moved in. They were told that this was their home for today. One of the kids, Michael said he loved this place better than the Grand Hyatt! Before the Duggar group came to China, Great Wall Adventure Club had visited the village several times to inspect the room condition, hygiene, food safety, toilets, etc. We put signs of each Duggar family member's name on the door that he/she will be staying in so that everyone could check-in quickly and without any mess.
After a quick check-in a dumpling supper was served outside. Four of the Duggar children were coached on how to make dumplings. Earlier before dinner, they had watched how the dumplings were cooked with boiling water. Now, it was time for them to try! After a delicious dinner it was time for some cultural activities, such as paper cutting. Mama Shi, whose courtyard hosted the Duggars and her daughter-in-law, showed Michelle and three of her boys how to cut rabbits and fish with paper. Michelle and the boys were very focused and finished the cutting assignment perfectly. They even took some original pieces (paper with animal drawings) home to cut for when they would return to Arkansas. They were told they could put up those cuttings on their windows when they celebrate the new year of 2013 and the Chinese New Year of the Snake (Feb., 2013). Shi's daughter-in-law is a master at paper cutting, who demonstrated how she cut a big pieced of "Great Wall". She also gave the Duggars some of her works as gifts. Mama Meng, who hosted the filming crew, also gave the crew some works that she did to take home. One of her works is a cutting of the Chinese character "Fortune," wishing everyone good luck for the future. In the meantime, two kids fell asleep in the living room despite the noise from the paper-cutting class. Shi brought her family photo albums to show Michelle her grandsons, etc. and this gesture was much appreciated. After an action-packed filled first day, everyone was asleep in bed by 9:30.
By 8:30 AM everyone was up and about, and the Duggar Family ate an American breakfast of sandwiches, apples, and coffee that were prepared by Great Wall Adventure Club. After exchanging gifts with the Mamas and saying goodbye, the Duggar Family and crew left the courtyard village and we began our drive to the Mutianyu Great Wall, arriving there by 11:00. Upon getting close to Mutianyu, it started raining. The first thing we did was to buy a bunch of plastic raincoats from the souvenir stands lining up along the commercial entry path to Mutianyu. However, buying raincoats just marked the beginning of crazy souvenir shopping from this single vendor! This vendor was incredibly blessed today by the money he made from the Duggars. The Duggars bought Chinese hats of all kinds (police, ancient soldier, farmer), sunglasses, etc. Jim Bob didn't know that he should negotiate the ridiculous prices that were offered. Once he was warned by us, he started haggle big time. The kids were also told that they needed to bargain. Joshua, Jim's oldest son and now a father himself, said he would get the best prices because he himself was a businessman back in Arkansas! However, Jim appeared more like Santa Clause when he started giving many one-hundred bills to the vendors, and this made all the vendors he visited really happy! as if celebrating Christmas.
We filmed up at Mutianyu for about two hours, and the Great Wall here was extremely foggy. The Duggars took shots in the rain by climbing about three watch towers. In the end, they witnessed and blessed Great Wall Adventure Club’s founder and CEO Terrence Ou’s surprise proposal to girlfriend Vivian Liu. At about 2 pm the Duggar family had lunch in a famous restaurant in Mutianyu. Other customers dining in the restaurant were surprised to see such a big family! One of the restaurant’s customers (from the US) recognized them and had a long talk with Michelle and Jim Bob. It made Michelle and Jim Bob extremely happy to be recognized so far away from home! A little after 3PM we began our drive back to Beijing, and the group was stuck on the highway because of the horrible and notorious Beijing traffic. The children wanted to go to the bathroom, so holding it in made the drive back feel even longer. When the Duggar Family arrived back at the Grand Hyatt a little after 5, all the children made a mad dash for the restrooms. All in all, it was a wonderful experience for the Duggar Family, one we think they will treasure for the rest of their lives. You too can cherish their journey when their Great Wall adventure is broadcast on TV*!
As the title of their show says, the Duggars are no ordinary family, and taking them all to the Great Wall proved to be no easy challenge. While the logistics were a bit tricky, in the end all 19 children (and 2 parents) had a great time and an experience they’ll never forget.
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