The Wall that is Great

As a visitor wanting to go to China, the most iconic landmark one can hope to see is the Great Wall.

“The Great Wall stretches over approximately 6,400 km (4,000 miles) from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Nur in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia…built, rebuilt, and maintained between the 5th century BC and the 16th century to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire from Xiongnu attacks during various successive dynasties. Since the 5th century BC, several walls have been built that were referred to as the Great Wall.” -Wikipedia

The thing about the Great Wall is that EVERYONE wants to see it, especially in summer which makes things a little trickier. There are a couple different of sections of the great wall open to the public to lessen the impact that the mass tourism has on the wall. The different sections vary in height, difficulty, distance from Beijing and overall tourist factor. Our hostel was offering an organized tour for a pretty hefty sum of money to a couple of the different Great Wall sites but we decided to go it alone. We this fact, we considered carefully which section was worth our attention. Badaling is the most touristy and closest to Beijing, being absolutely packed to the brim and is similar to if Disney opened up a Great Wall ride in the heat of July. Lots of vendors and hand rails and cable cars make it less of an adventure. Our initial plan was to go to Simitai which is considered the untamed version of the Great Wall. Many sections are closed due to crumbling and danger. Some of the sections that are open are still pretty steep and lack handrails. This one is pretty far away from Beijing. We really wanted to get to this part because of the lack of tourists as well as something a zip line called the Flying Fox which runs from the top of the wall back to the parking lot. The night before we started getting cold feet about going to Simitai due to some reports we read online and decided it was easier just to get the bus to Mutianyu, which is basically a compromise between Simitai and Badaling. It has safety features like handrails but less tourists as it’s about 90 minutes from Beijing. It also has a really fun toboggan ride that can you take down the side of the mountain to get back down to the parking lot.
We saved ourselves about half the cost of what the tours wanted us to pay by doing it alone. We caught a bus to a small town about 30 minutes outside of the Wall and then got a cab for the remaining 18km. Our cab driver waited for us for three hours until we were done climbing and then drove us back to the bus stop. It wasn’t too complicated.

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Once we arrived at the Great Wall, we had to climb a LOT of steep steps in the side of the mountain before we actually arrived on top. The first view you get of the wall stretching over the mountains for miles into the distance is incredible and breathtaking. From there, you climb up and down the wall, visiting the viewing towers. We met lots of American families who were touring China with their children and also a martial arts group from Hawaii who was visiting for a convention.
On our way back down, we took the toboggan which goes really fast if you take the brake off and whizzes you down the mountain at top speed. Definitely worth the additional cost to add a little more adventure to our trip. Here are some of our photos:DSC_0189

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and a video too…

Vodpod videos no longer available.
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