a community serious about adventuring
Legend has it that its tracks were laid with the aid of a helpful dragon and myth tells of its visibility from the moon. Stacks mud and sediment that once served to protect its inhabitants from invaders now a beautifully eroded vision. Dotting the hills like a horizon of castles, The Great Wall of China is a man-made wonder.
Spanning the northern foothills of China and parts of Mongolia, the Great Wall’s massive length carries some myth. The wall is disconnected and broken and its a discontinuous network of wall segments were built by various dynasties. The Great Wall of China is the longest man-made structure in the world. It is better known as ‘the longest cemetery on earth” with its construction claiming more than one million lives.
Broken and discontinuous in its form, Mongol invaders had an easy time invading China between A.D 1211 and 1223 subsequently ruling China until 1368 when the Ming defeated Genghis Khan and the Mongols.
Badaling is the most visited section of the wall. Built during the Ming dynasty, the section only opened to tourists in 1957. It is where Nixon visited and was the finish site of a cycling course in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
When to Go:
Visiting the Wall at different times of the year brings with it the beauty of the seasons. Autumn is recommended as a prime time to go to see the colorful foliage, but also brings more tourists. In the biting cold of winter the wall is barren; the desolate land is lost of green but given subtle warmth by tones of pale wheat.
Planning Your Tour:
Taking a tour to the wall via hotel or small tour chains is the typical visiting method. More private options are available via personal tour guides that can take you solo on a tour of the ancient walls (catered to your own language).
Larger tours based out of hotels can mean your time on the wall may be a bit more crowded, but this also has to do with the time of year you plan your visit. The colder months mean even fewer crowds and more of a chance to feel lost amongst the rubble.
The Great Wall Special:
Most tours take you to the famous Badaling section of the wall, but make sure you inquire about the famous wall ‘slide’ that takes you back down the site at the less remote wall section known as Mutianyu.
And if it’s a sand-less sleep under the stars you seek, certain tour groups offer you the chance to spend a night on the Great Wall although a large sign outside the Badaling site lists that ‘bare-backing is not permitted.’ A commonly recommended place on the Great Wall for sleeping is Wohushan which is a part of the Gubeikou section of the wall. Technically sleeping on the Wall is not permitted, but Chinese laws seem to be loosely followed, especially when it comes to tourists.
Be weary of – Leo Hostel – When we stayed the hostel was preoccupied with the building of its sister establishment Leo Courtyard, and had let the Leo Hostel to ruin. Many of the toilets in the private rooms were inoperable. Some rooms even had broken air conditioned heaters and they only had cold showers to offer. The adjoining bar is warm and cosy and offer a few nice specials on drinks.
Try the street food, it is some of the best. The morning specialty called the ‘jianping’ (an egg pancake) is delicious. Many of the local shops sell morning breakfast sandwiches with egg and pickled radish for cheap.
Catching a cab in Beijing is almost impossible for tourists. It seems as though China’s racist side can be seen best in great north. The best way to catch a taxi is to flash some cash or just hop in an idle cab. Hailing one is timely and stressful with most cabbies merely tossing up a waving ‘No’ at you as their empty car flies by. The Beijing metro system is cost friendly way to get around with each ride costing only two RMB no matter the distance.
Also See: The Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square.
More interesting facts about the Great Wall of China.