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The Wall

There are several areas of the wall you can get to easily from Beijing. These areas are approved tourist spots – climbing around on the ‘wild’ wall is now forbidden, but the Great Wall Marathon is still held over some of it. One area, Badaling, is so crowded that our guidebook says it’s the best place to get a feel of what it’s like to live in a country of 1.4 billion people. Other areas are recently restored (so probably look and feel brand new), and others are a little further away. So we chose Mutianyu.

It’s a little like Disneyland. You get out of the car and fight your way through crowds of hawkers selling you Great Wall t-shirts, bags, fans, Chairman Mao coffee cups and lord knows what else until you get to the ticket office. You have a choice: take the gondola up and back, or a chairlift up and ride the luge down. We chose the chairlift/luge option, stopped briefly to eat the worst lunch we’ve ever had in our lives, then took what looks like an ancient ski lift up to the wall itself.

Once you’re on it, the wall seems to be everywhere – you can see it snaking off in all directions, dotted with guard towers, the sections seemingly not always connected to each other. When the wall was garrisoned with troops, people spent their entire lives either living on the wall or in nearby towns that had been formed to provision it, and a bleak and boring existence it must have been (apart from when an invasion popped up, I guess).

By the way, China’s first astronaut was up in space a few years back and conclusively proved that, contrary to popular myth, you cannot see the wall from space.

I’ll load up a few photos below, but really it looks just like it does in all the postcards (oh, and I bought a stupid hat to keep the sun off – I’ll load a picture of that as well, so you can see how amazingly stupid it looks on a tall white bloke).

The Wall

Basic Beijing tourist

Obviously it’s important to knock off the more obvious tourist spots early on in your Beijing Experience. Here’s Reid, Zara and I ticking off The Gate of Heavenly Peace, Tiananmen Square and the Temple of Heaven. We’ll follow this up with some Great Wall shots shortly, no doubt.

Generally these tourist places are packed with visiting Chinese from out of town. These guys haven’t seen blonde blue-eyed babies much, so whenever we stop to have a drink or look at maps we get swamped by excited tourists looking for photo ops. Zara takes it all in her stride, but we’re starting to get a little over all the attention.

Anyway. The photos are in Picasa – click on the picture below.

Basic Beijing tourist


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