on May 24, 2006
The Great Wall of China: one of the few sites visible from space it spans over 3,000 miles. The Great Wall is a must see while visiting any part of China. The wall may have once served as a barrier, but it now serves as a location where all cultures can mingle. Close to Beijing many locations of the wall are open to tourists. These areas include Badaling, Mutianyu, Huanghuacheng, Simatai, and Jinshanling. All of these areas have their beauties and faults. The first two mentioned areas have undergone reconstruction so there are large crowds. The other areas may be physically strenuous, but with fewer tourists and vendors. Mutianyu and Badaling both offer cable cars to the top of the wall. This option allows those not in physical climbing condition to access the wall. Mutianyu was a great choice for our family to visit. A short hour drive from Beijing, you see an aspect of Chinese highway travel that may shock many visitors. This trip also allows you to see the outer city and experience how others might live. When you first arrive at the Great Wall it is nice to know that you have escaped the hustle and bustle of the city, just to be encountered with the hustle and bustle of any major attraction. Not only are there street vendors of all types, but a black bear attraction. The Chinese government brought in black bears for a zoo type setting to attract tourists. As if the wall isn't enough of an attraction. If you must buy something from the vendors and the bottom of the wall I would suggest a cheap ice-cream to discount the walk ahead of you. Buying tickets at the bottom of the wall is definitely the way to go, this will save time and hassle at the top. While buying tickets, go ahead and splurge on the cable car ride to the top and back. This will be an experience like no other and will save your feet some aching. The cable car itself is quite interesting and leaves you with a great view of the wall and surround country. Be ready to jump on the cable car while it swings by, or try to convince the young Chinese boy to help you by slowing the car down. No worries though, they really don't go that fast. When you get to the top of the wall make your way past the man taking pictures with a donkey and practice your crowd dancing walk. Find a quiet spot, possibly a turret or rock unfound by many tourists, and just take in the beauty around you. Be prepared for a long walk, people wanting to take pictures, hoards of tourist and vendors, and the most amazing thing your eyes may ever behold. To remember your experience I would suggest buying a hand painted picture of the wall for the equivalent of around $3 instead of the mass produced shirts and key chains.
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