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vagamundos Beijing - A travel report by Carlos
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Beijing,  China - flag China -  Beijing
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vagamundos's travel reports

The Great Wall

  25 votes
The Great Wall is definitely one of the Great Wonders of the World and deserves much more than just a look or a short visit. From Beijing you can visit easily 4 sections. More detailed reports about The Great Wall and China in www.vagamundos.com


Great Wall
Great Wall
The Great Wall wasn’t born as a conceptual piece of art, with what China would want to be preserved from external attacks, as in the VII century B.C. China was dominated by feudal men, that built walls on their borders to be protected from the Hunos attacks and from their own neighbors. On the III Century B.C., when Imperator Qin Shi Huang unified China, they decided to unify the walls that already existed in the Feudal Kingdoms, and that’s how it got to be the Great Ten Thousand Li Wall. Latter other Dynasties accomplished big ampliation and maintenance work on it, the principal ones where made in the I Century by the Han Dynasty, in XII Century by the five Dynasties and the ten kingdoms and in XIV Century by the Ming Dynasty. When it lost its utility as a barrier for exterior invasions, many parts of the wall were abandoned, its stones where used to build houses and, sometimes destructed to be able to build infrastructure, such as roads. The naming of the Great Wall of China as World Heritage by UNESCO in 1987, and the business that Chinese authorities saw as a tourist pull saved the Wall for the future, although it rarely happens, in some parts of it they’ve reconstructed it so much that there isn’t much of the real one left, this happens in the Badaling area, near Beijing. There is no Chinese law that protects the Wall as a Monument. In the voting being done on internet to name the 7 wonders of the present world the Great Wall is the first in the ranking, from the old times seven wonders the pyramids in Egypt are the only ones still standing, of course that if every Chinese voted for the Great Wall they would have it easy to be first. A curious polemic is the urban legend about the Great Wall that apparently can be seen from the moon and it’s a unique man made monument with these characteristics, witch is false, and has been recognized by the first Chinese astronaut and confirmed by NASA on 2004.

Favourite spots:
Great Wall at Simatai
Great Wall at Simatai
The Great Wall, more than 6.700 kilometers long, goes from Shanhaiguan on the East to Jiayuguan on the west. It goes trough 6 provinces and several autonomic regions: Hebei, Beijing, Shanxi, Interior Mongolia, Ningxia, Shaanxi And Gansu. Walls, passageways, watchtowers and towers compose its structure. In the passages, situated among the most important communication ways and protected by several walls, the imperial army was positioned to reject possible offensive armies. Depending on each section, the height and wideness varies a lot, reaching 8 meters high and 6 wide, where even the horses could be ride through. The walls battlements are almost two meters high, with loopholes for the defense. On the nearest tops there are watchtowers and signal towers, that used to form a military communication net, warning them of the enemy’s entrance by optic or smoke signals.

What's really great:
Beijing travelogue picture
From Beijing there is 4 accessible areas of the great wall; the most popular is Badaling, witch could be called “Wall-land” because it looks a lot like a thematic park, where thousands of groups go everyday on buses to go on the great wall, have a picture taken and buy a t-shirt that reads “I climbed on to the Chinese Great Wall”. As you can imagine, I didn’t visit Badaling. The other three areas are Mutianyu, Jinshanling and Simatai; I visited the two last ones because they are the ones that have less visitors, as in this area the great wall goes up and down through hills that are 40% steep and it hasn’t been reconstructed in some parts, being a risk when you are walking there. Simatai is 4 hours away from Beijing, but it will soon succumb like Badaling, as they are building a road with several lanes and they’ve put a funicular to make the ascension easier, also a motorized tiroline that allows you to cross the river hanging from a cable down. Is the best to stay overnigth.

Sights:
Great Wall
Great Wall
Simatai a very beautiful place, with a lake at the bottom of the wall that disappears in the distance, climbing every time steeper hills.

There is several hostels inside the great wall area, so if you stay the night, like I did, you can go up the great wall at night if there is moonlight (although there is signs that say that you cant spend the night there) or you can enjoy the view of it from a terrace, imagining the stories that you would hear if stones could speak.

Accommodations:
In Simatai there are some hostels, one is from Hostelling International

More detailed reports about The Great Wall China, and Asia in www.vagamundos.com

Nightlife:
No clubs in the area

Restaurants:
Some good and cheap restaurants in the Simatai section

Other recommendations:
What I recommend, as a unique experience, it’s the hiking between Jinshanling and Simatai, 10 kilometers of a continuous up and down, with only one inconvenient, the ambulant sellers, they are a nightmare they never stop offering their guide assistance, the t-shirts, the walls replicas and cold water that they sell for the price of gold.

I gave them a dog look and they immediately left me in peace but there were people there that where followed for the whole 10 kilometers, how do you not buy the t-shirt after that!!

It’s a four hour walk in an area were you only see nature were ever you look, surrounded by mountains, and on the west the interior Mongolia of china, from were the attacks came.

In some parts you have to leave the wall and walk through the exterior because of the risk there is, and it’s often that you have to scream, “Stone goes”! because when you walk on some steps they detach and slide down the wall.

Published on Thursday October 27th, 2005


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Sun, Jan 15 2006 - 05:18 AM rating by frenchfrog

Very informative report.

Sun, Nov 06 2005 - 11:31 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Magnifico!!!
Me alegro mucho de leer tan buenos reports de un español!

Fri, Oct 28 2005 - 11:59 AM rating by gloriajames

Hiya Carlos
Well done! Enjoyed your report, and at least its not negative as compared to other reports on China. Perhaps you can edit and add more pics on the other sub-headings, and that way you can have more pics on your report to entice us with.
Gloria

Fri, Oct 28 2005 - 11:45 AM rating by shsmrsb

I have twice visited Mutanyu both in the 1980s when it was really quiet, it definitely had not been found by the touristas then. However, it did, just have its newly installed cable car, so getting to the top was easy for me. I am not as mobile as I would like, but made it fine. The first visit and as far as the eye could see there were three of us and four others. Two Chinese girls and a Japanese couple plus us three brits. We took one anothers amazing souvenir photos and in each it appeared there was literally no one else within hundreds of miles. Thanks for the memories.

Fri, Oct 28 2005 - 10:59 AM rating by rangutan

Great Stuff!

Fri, Oct 28 2005 - 09:39 AM rating by bear495

I enjoy the historic details. Bien hecho.

Russ

Fri, Oct 28 2005 - 04:30 AM rating by davidx

I know you must be busy - I've bookmarked your website for a longer look - but PLEASE don't keep us another 3 years for another. This is really fine.

Thu, Oct 27 2005 - 07:54 PM rating by jesusferro

Carlos, como en los viejos tiempos. Report extraordinario!!!

Thu, Oct 27 2005 - 05:40 PM rating by mistybleu

Carlos this is a lovely report, and the pictures are fantastic.
Misty

Thu, Oct 27 2005 - 05:33 PM rating by toribio

FANTASTICO REPORT!

Thu, Oct 27 2005 - 04:10 PM rating by vbx000

Great! Very detailed, good pictures and a really good assessment. I haven't hiked semitai yet but I really want to, I just have to get off my lazy bum and do it. I want to camp there.
The t-shirts are pretty sweet too.

Thu, Oct 27 2005 - 03:37 PM rating by magsalex

Interesting and informative report.

Thu, Oct 27 2005 - 03:05 PM rating by eirekay

Carlos, the hike between Jinshanling and Simatai sounds terrific! Wha a wonderful trip! Thanks for sharing w/this GREAT report!

Thu, Oct 27 2005 - 01:33 PM rating by isaacmolina

Fantastic info. I want to go to China next year and will bring with me a copy of your report. Thanks Carlos

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