Results 1-10of 21 Reviews
November 1, 2010
Tunbridge Wells, United Kingdom
June 15, 2010
From journal January in Beijing
Halifax, Nova Scotia
August 6, 2009
March 21, 2008
New Delhi, India
September 8, 2007
The section closest to Beijing is Badaling, approximately 70km away. There are other sections too, most notably at Simatai and Mutianyu, but they’re farther out, Simatai being 3 hours one way. I’d been warned that Badaling was commercial, crowded, and not authentic (it was reconstructed in the 20th century, so what you see is modern). Mutianyu, we decided; but we missed the last bus to Mutianyu simply because our guide book had the timings wrong. We couldn’t think of not seeing the Wall – and we were down to the last day of our trip – so Badaling it was.
We bought tour bus tickets (90 RMB per person, including return fare and entry) at the Beijing Sightseeing Tour Center at Qianmen, and got into one of the buses that leave every ten minutes for Badaling. Our tour guide was an efficient girl who quickly began her spiel – unfortunately only in Chinese. Thankfully, she knew enough English to be able to give us vital information: where to find the bus once we’d finished with the wall; what time to get back; and so on.
An hour or so later, we were in Badaling. It was as bad as everybody said it would be: shops, tour buses by the score, food courts, a huge Beijing Olympics 2008 sign across a hill. The worst part is that you can’t avoid it; the route up to the wall is lined all the way with commercial establishments. We refused offers of Chinese fans, fake jade, I climbed the Great Wall T-shirts and much more before finally making it to the Wall.
The Wall’s a combination of steps and ramps, grey stone and steep in places. Climbing isn’t much of a problem unless you’re woefully out of shape, but the descent can be dangerous. What bewildered me was the number of stiletto-wearing women who were gamely climbing up – and down. How do they manage it?
Fending off hawkers (they’re up there on the Wall, selling souvenirs, mineral water, even ices), we toiled up far enough to shake off most of the crowds. Some appreciative admiring of the view – the Wall is impressive – and then we edged our way down, holding on to the rusty railing along the parapets, stopping for a break at a watchtower. We were down at the bus parking with an hour to spare, which we (in classic touristy style) spent buying cheap trinkets as souvenirs.
Verdict: attempt the Wall at Badaling only if you have no choice. It’s the Great Wall of China, yes; but there’s a superficial and irritatingly commercial feel to it that’s hard to get rid of.
From journal Beijing: The Usual Suspects
September 7, 2006
From journal Father/Son Trip to China
May 6, 2005
We chose to go to Badaling because this part of the wall had a cable car to and from its summit and has been well-restored. The down side is that this part of the wall is one of the most commercialised, and we would be guaranteed some heavy sells. It was an absolutely superb day visibility would be good. We relished our leisurely journey on the cable car (60RMB for a return journey), the wall profiled against the clear blue sky, but on occasions the ground seemed perilously close.
A short walk from the cable car and we were at the entrance for the Great Wall – one small problem we’d failed to buy our ticket from the small booth that’s tucked away to the left of the exit from the cable car. A gentle stroll later, we are climbing the staircase to top of the wall, and within seconds, we are standing on this structure. It snakes its way along the contours of this mountainous region and we were left truly amazed but wondering how defendable this huge border really was. I guess the true strength of the wall was its vastness and the statement it must have made to potential assailants. I certainly couldn’t resist imagining life in the guard towers firing off the odd arrow or two at marauding insurgents or setting off the first beacon to transmit a message back to the military headquarters. Indeed for a moment I pictured the distant hoard of oncoming tourists as backup troops. This place just encourages fantasies!
We hauled our way up to the top turret passing many a wheezing tourist as the struggled to negotiate various depth and width of step on the steep slopes of the wall. But the view from this upper vantage point is magnificent as the surrounding countryside is laid out in front of you like an intricate tapestry. Once we shrugged off the traders selling personally engraved plaques, scarves and T-shirts with slogans like "I walked the Great Wall," we were able to find a peaceful spot and pick out the wall’s looping manoeuvrings along the contours of the land.
The Great Wall had been on my "must-do" list for several years and as we paused for breath I realised that words to describe this wonder of the world were hard to find. I do remember reading that Richard Nixon had summarised his experience with the words "it sure is a great wall". I’m not sure I can top that!
From journal Visiting Outer Beijing
January 9, 2005
From journal Beijing Bowling Classic
August 2, 2004
Another unique aspect of this part of the wall is that you are starting at a point on the wall where you could actually go either direction. Others sections there is only one direction to go, either because the wall is not passable the other direction or that it has ended at a reservoir. I went the opposite direction for about 15 minutes to throw off the lady that was trying to accompany me and eventually sell me something. When I figured she’d found someone else to following I turned around and went the correct way. She had waited for me and latched on as soon as I reached the point of the wall where we all first entered. I was huffing up steps with sweat pouring down due the heat and the little English she knew began with, "where are you from?" to which I replied, "don’t want to talk". She would try this several times until I found one section of fairly flat cobblestones and took off very quickly outpacing her. I wanted to enjoy the nearly spiritual feeling this place had on me.
The distance between the towers was greater than those at Simatai and not uniformed. Shape and sized varied as did the degree of ruin. This section is known for its obstacle walls and other items to throw off intruders. I found myself heading up stairs that dead-ended at the wall of a tower or I found I could not exit the tower on the other side. (The latter resulted in taking a dirt path that paralleled the wall.) On this section I found the hike alternating between ascending and descending whereas at Simatai it was straight up one direction and back down the way you came.
After covering about half the distance, a gentleman in next watchtower served as the ticket seller for the Simatai section. So here you pay another Y30 to walk on the wall. When you reach the last tower before the reservoir there is a hanging bridge you need to cross for Y5. After crossing this you are now at the first tower for the Simatai hike. Taking the road down you have the option of taking a flying fox line back across the reservoir and being returned by boat. This is just for fun of course as it is not a short cut. Not too many takers for this. Perhaps it was because the harness was just Velcro.
From journal Beijing Now! Before The Olympics
July 28, 2004
Badaling located 47 miles nw of Beijing is the most crowded. This section of the wall includes restored towers and turrets, a museum that shows a 15 minute video of the wall, and a cable car. Tours typically give you about 2 ½ hours to explore. The cost is Y40.
Mutianyu was opened to relieve some pressure off Badaling although it has begun to get crowed as well. Like Badaling this section of the wall has been restored and again tours are usually 2 ½ hours long. The cable car is Y35 one way and Y50 round trip with entrance to this section Y35.
Both Badaling and Mutianyu are the relatively close to Beijing and half day tours are offered to both or can be combined with a visit to a tomb. On the other hand, the following sections of the wall involve a three hour drive one way with walking and hiking necessary on rough terrain.
Simatai is 67 miles ne of Beijing and not restored. From the entrance there is the choice of hiking towards the left towards Jinshanling or to the right which is the very steep and can require climbing on all fours depending on how far you go. Tours are not readily available, but mini bus transportation can usually be arranged at hotels for Y80 with the entrance another Y30.
Huangyaguan is 18 miles nw of Huairou and is not restored. The reservoir, water pass and beacon tower along with the yellow leaves in the fall (hence the name) provide the uniqueness to this section. Entrance is Y15. There are no tours for this, but 2 bus routes followed by a mini bus will get you there.
Jinshanling is the least visited section but the best preserved (not to be confused with restored). It is 94 miles from Beijing and includes highlights such as 67 watchtowers with 7 miles, a storehouse tower and obstacle walls which are walls within walls. Aside from public transportation, there is are usually mini buses arranged at hotels for transportation only for Y90. The entrance is Y30, but halfway to Simatai you have to pay Y30 again for the Simatai section.