Thursday, July 7, 2016

Beijing, China, Part 2: The Great Wall of CHINA

Our last day in Beijing, Parker and I headed to the awe-inspiring, ridiculously-breathtaking GREAT WALL OF CHINA.

The Great Wall is huge, obviously - and there are many parts of it you can choose to visit. Naturally, some parts of the Wall that are closest and most accessible to Beijing are often very developed, crowded, and extremely touristy.  I've visited one of these areas before - it was awesome getting to see it, but I remember the Wall being crowded with vendors and people selling all sorts of touristy gimmicks.  Parker was dedicated to going to see parts of the Wall that were further away and much less crowded - which is how we ended up buying a tour to see the Great Wall at Jinshanling.  I'm so glad he did, because it was TOTALLY worth it.  There were almost no other people at this section of the Wall besides our group, extremely few vendors (and I was glad for the ones that were there because they were selling life-saving water), and the views from this section were completely breathtaking. BREATHTAKING, I SAY.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Yes, Jinshanling has much more baller portions of the Great Wall, but that means it was a 2.5 hour drive out there from our hotel in Beijing = 7:00AM hotel pickup.

Luckily, Parker got up early to grab us breakfast because he has a passion for street carts

This delicious dough/egg/burrito/omelette thing saved my life, because later on the bus, the guide announces to the entire bus: "Breakfast is included for all of you! Oh wait, except for the people from [insert our hotel name here] - you guys are the only ones that don't have breakfast included."  Yep, just me and Parker.  WHY.

And then we arrived at Jinshanling!  Sans free breakfast.

The first portion of the hike was on parts of the wall that have been completely restored

I'll let a lot of these photos speak for themselves - it was so, so beautiful

One of my favorite parts is that you can see a watchtower on every peak in the distance

Some of the hikes up to the watchtowers were no joke - especially in the million degree heat. But it was amazing when you'd reach one, and it'd be cool and shady and have beautiful views

The Great Wall is over 21,000 km long - or >13,000 miles.  Construction on it started as early as 700 B.C., and it was added to and fortified by many succeeding emperors and dynasties.

Photos. So, so many photos.

And blissfully few people. This entire hike took about 4 hours.

As you kept walking, the restored parts of the wall gave way to more rough, crumbly parts that were unrestored.

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I love the look of some of the unrestored watchtowers

This part of the wall is called Simatai - constructed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

Standing in the ruins of one of the watchtowers in Simatai

These signs are amazing. FIRE IS HEARTLESS

And the grand finale near the end of our hike - the parts of the Great Wall that have been retaken by nature. So, so cool to see

Parker on very crumbly wall bits

And bushes are growing through the wall


One last view of the wall before the end of our hike

  • It was sweaty city, and incredibly, incredibly hot - but one of the most amazing things ever. Getting to see the restored sections was totally amazing, as you could easily envision the Great Wall and how it looked at its peak back in the day: a towering, intimidating blockade of stone. And then being able to visit the parts that have been slowly overtaken by nature, which is also incredibly beautiful in itself.  The best part was not having to fight with throngs of people (by contrast, the most visited part of the Great Wall - Badaling - can have up to 70,000 people/day in the peak season).  There were so many parts of the wall that we just had to ourselves, which was such an incredible treat.  

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • The Great Wall used to be constructed by bricks pasted together with rice flour. This is amazing. You have no idea how amazing this is.
  • While the Great Wall was constructed to prevent foreign invaders, it never actually worked that effectively. It was probably more effective psychologically to outsiders - a symbol of China's incredible strength.
  • During Emperor Qin's reign (247-220 B.C., he was one of the most famous emperors of all time), there was a point where almost 20% of the entire population of China was working on the wall.  I'm sure I don't need to say this, but lots of people died.

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