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The Great Wall of China

Mao is quoted as saying , and I am paraphrasing here, “A man who has not seen the Great Wall is not a man”. I will take that to mean, a tourist who has not seen the Great Wall is not a world class tourist.


Great wall

This is us upon our arrival at the great wall.

The Great Wall is just that. A great big wall. You will need to start in Beijing. There are tour busses or you can take a taxi. Because we are lucky tourists, we had a guide service with a private car. It is about a 2 1/2 drive outside of town, and Beijing is a BIG town.

Great wall of China

Once you get there, you get an appreciation for just how long this wall is. Of course this is just a small portion.

The wall goes on for something like 5000 miles. I say something like because it depends on who is measuring it. It was built by a a handful of different emperors starting in the early 1500’s. Depending upon where you are it has different dimensions and different styles. Small portions of it have been rebuilt for the tourism trade, most of it is in various states of decay. There are two popular destinations for tourists coming from Beijing. One is the Mutainyu and the other is the Badaling. Either one will give you a good impression of the monumental achievement of the ancient Chinese people. As far as you can see, the wall follows the contours of the hills. Much of the wall is therefore the great staircase of China, up and down, up and down.

souvenirs at the Great Wall

As soon as you get out of your car, you can buy souvenirs.

After you pass the souvenir gauntlet you can either take a long steep hike up to the wall, or do like most people, us included, ride a ski lift type of cable car.

Great Wall cable car

These things do not stop. You get swept up by them and must jump off on top. If you do not move fast enough, like me, there is someone there to yank you off the lift. It seemed a little rude, but it was necessary.

So now you are on top of the great wall. A bucket list item scratched. You have limited choices, walk one direction or the other. You can stare off into the distance and follow ambulations the wall takes over the hills for as far as you can see. Because we were at a place rebuilt for tourists, in the 1980’s you miss out on that sense of “old”.

OK, so an hour of rambling along enjoying the views (and the views are really nice) and you must return to the car park. Walk down the steep trail, uh no. Get back on the ski lift? Not again please. the best option, and the most fun, is to take the toboggan ride down, YEAH a toboggan in China!

toboggan at great wall

Here is my Irish wife, pretending she is Gunther from Switzerland speeding down from the wall to the parking lot. You can get going rather fast. As you can see, a minder is waving a red flag at her to slow down. No way, this was too much fun!

So that was the Great Wall for us. A couple of souvenirs and a much needed T-shirt (because our luggage was still in transit) and we were back in the car, heading for one of the excellent meals we found on our adventure. A future post will be about Chinese food, chopsticks and all. Please share this or at least make a comment.

Stay tuned for a visit to Tiananmen Square and a visit to the forbidden city.






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