Michelle and Charles

Where to Propose in The Great Wall of China

How We Met

Charles and I met in 1995 at a Church Harvest Festival Fair. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight because Charles and I were so different. Charles and I were classmates throughout high school but Charles was the cool kid, involved in every sport and winter formal king, while I was the nerd taking every honors/AP class available and involved in the Associated Student Body. During sophomore year, Charles strategically picked me to be his partner in English class. He was the first boy I ever brought home….. for a class project. That was the beginning of our friendship and the sharing of many first experiences. Our experiences included landing first jobs together working at a call center selling photo and office products. I was determined to break sales records by answering every single call while simultaneously studying for finals. Charles was more interested in kicking paper footballs and making coworkers laugh. We even carpooled to work in their first cars! The two of us stayed good friends living in different cities throughout college. Relying on technology such as AIM and Google Chat, we would keep up on updates about school, our work and even each other’s love lives. Every year, during the holiday break, we made it a point to meet for an annual Starbucks coffee catch up in our hometown. A few friends and family members would often tease us about being more than friends, but to our friends’ and families’ disappointment, we remained JUST friends for almost two decades. After a few years of concentrating on our careers, we reconnected in Southern California in 2013. We had always gone on friendly birthday outings and helped each other fulfill the “plus 1” obligation for company holiday parties and weddings. But it was at a Fall/Autumn time concert that year, when Charles (in his words) “displayed a mesmerizing array of dance moves and a striking resemblance to Justin Timberlake” that caught my attention. Soon after that, Charles asked me on our first official first day and by the end of 2013, we were (finally) officially together as a couple.

How He Asked

Charles and I planned a trip to explore the Philippines and China in March of 2015. Charles really wanted to make a grand proposal and thought the Great Wall of China would be the perfect place to surprise me. For months leading up to the trip, Charles planted the seed of excitement by often talking about how thrilled he was to see the Great Wall. “Babe, it’s one of the seven wonders of the world!” These types of statements were sprinkled throughout the months/days leading up to the trip, but I took Charles’ school boy behavior lightly and thought nothing of it. We landed in the Philippines to visit the Charles’ parents for the first 8 days of the trip. Looking back, I now realize that Charles carried the ring in his camera backpack and never let the bag out of his sight. If we were on the airplane, Charles put his backpack right underneath him; if we were eating at a buffet, Charles was in the food line with his backpack to be sure the ring was safe.

Every metal detector he passed successfully was a relief as Charles feared the security guards pulling out the engagement ring in front of me. After island hopping through Manila, Boracay and surrounding cities, we landed in Beijing to meet our China tour group. We quickly became friends with some of the fellow Americans and our China tour guide at Tiananmen Square. The night before the big day on the Great Wall, Charles told me, “I’m so excited to see the Great Wall tomorrow! I’ll be taking a lot of pictures on The Wall, so wear something nice!” Charles is not a morning person, but somehow, he was nervously up bright and early and ready to take on the day. I found out later that earlier that morning, Charles asked a fellow tour mate to help with the proposal by taking pictures and video during the proposal. His new friend kindly accepted and Charles had a new accomplice to carry out his mission. The tour bus landed at the foot of the Great Wall and we excitedly began to make our journey upward.

The two instructions from the tour guide were, “You have 40 minutes to walk up The Wall, explore and walk back down.” She also described two paths up the wall. “Take the path to the right, it’s an easy climb but lots of tourist traffic. You can take the left path… it’s steep and more difficult but has much less traffic and better views.” Of course, Charles chose the road less traveled envisioning a picture-perfect proposal and veered to the left. After walking a third of the way up, I took a look at the steep incline and said, “Babe, I have to pee.” I insisted on going to the restroom and threatened that I would not be able to make it up The Wall otherwise. Charles’ plan quickly took a turn but he knew he had to accommodate me request to make the day successful. So, we headed back down the wall to use the front entrance restroom. Already 20 minutes into the window, we rushed back and started the climb again. We definitely underestimated the steepness of the Great Wall and it was especially tiring for me.

Although it was a tough climb, I was determined to make it to the top with Charles. I thought about all the days he talked about The Wall and how excited he was about seeing it live. Not knowing about the series of events to come, I kept climbing, wanting to make the day special for Charles. Slightly out of breath, we reached the high point and Charles found our tour mate to snap a few pictures. Charles placed a Go Pro camera on The Wall to take consecutive flip book snap shots, while our buddy set up a picture-perfect camera angle to shoot. I knew Charles was excited about the Great Wall so thought nothing much of it.

Michelle and Charles's Engagement in The Great Wall of China

I just thought he wanted to capture all the pictures he could to remember our travels to the Great Wall of China. As we posed for a picture, Charles started his proposal and began talking about how I meant the world to him. He sprinkled in a few romantic yet confusing love metaphors during his pitch. During this time, I thought our tour mate aka “camera man,” was taking a photo, when in fact, he was actually taking a video of Charles’ proposal. The look on my face was, “Ok babe, he’s taking a photo of us, don’t be rude by talking to me right now.” I finally realized what was going on when Charles began reaching into his pocket and taking a knee.

In utter disbelief, I was overjoyed and shocked that Charles planned a proposal over 6,000 miles away and had carried the ring without me knowing for more than half of our trip. Charles prepared an eloquent proposal, and when I finally registered the words “Will you marry me?” tears of joy came out and I excitedly said “YES!” I could not have imagined a more perfect proposal; Charles covered everything from the epic location he chose and capturing beautiful pictures and video of the real moment.

Taking the road less traveled, by climbing the left side of The Wall was well worth it as in our pictures one can see that it was as if we were the only people on The Wall that day; it was such a private moment on one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions. After placing the ring on my finger, Charles hugged and kissed me. The two of us enjoyed a moment alone and took a few final pictures before heading down the Great Wall as a newly engaged couple.

Special Thanks

Jason Wu
Videographer