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Visiting the Great Wall of China in Beijing

Updated on November 9, 2011

On the Great Wall

View from a watchtower
View from a watchtower | Source

Visiting the Great Wall of China in Beijing

I have to say, right up front, it was far more than I expected (see slide show of larger photos below).

Before the Beijing Olympics, I was on my way home from Seoul, S. Korea to New York City. Thought it would be worthwhile to make a stop in Beijing and visit the Great Wall. Ten of us took a tour bus to the site.

The Great Wall is over 4,000 miles long extending from east to west and took more than 2,000 years to be completed. Building began from the 7th century BC. During the age of cold weapons it was a comprehensive defense network. Now it is an amazing tourist attraction. Many of its sections and passes have been designated by the Chinese government as key national cultural sites. In 1987 the Great Wall was inscribed in the list of the world cultural heritage sites by UNESCO. We visited the Badaling section which was built in 1505 (or the 18th year of the Hongzhi reign of the Ming Dynasty).

On the road to the Great Wall, we passed two slanted buildings under construction (see photo) as well as the Bird’s Nest Stadium where the Olympics opened (another photo). It seemed most of Beijing was under construction for the Olympics. We also rode past the Olympic Village where a duplicate of the Great Wall was nearing completion. How cute I thought. We’ll get there to the Great Wall and I’ll jog up the steps like those steps in the model village and then take a stroll around. It would be like the wall I walked around in Suwon in S. Korea. Or I will climb the steps and stroll around like I did on the wall in the walled city of York, England. It’ll be fun. Lots of fun.

Well, it didn’t quite work out like that. First of all, I had no idea China was so mountainous. But as we continued to drive to the portion of the wall in Badaling, mountains started to loom up in the distance and then all around us. The mountain tops seemed to be up in the clouds and we seemed to be down in some valley.

In the parking lot our tour guide had us buy tickets because well, there were no steps to jog up to this wall - we would have to take a tram up to…somewhere. Honestly, I still didn’t even see the wall. Once through the gate, pass the bear compound, we had to walk up a long steep path to where the trams were - seven out of 10 of us lagged far behind. At one point one of the guys on the tour pointed out a part of the wall - it was way up there through the clouds, near the sun or the moon or a planet. It was by taking the tram that we finally got up to a portion of the wall that we could walk on. We were still not near a top part of it - that would be another walk. All I know is - I was looking down at clouds (see photos).

I don’t know if I ever made it to the top at this point but I bought a t-shirt that said I did - so I guess I did. Going down was another adventure. I could walk down the way I came up on the tram which was steep and without handrails - or I can take a route with some handrails - I took the handrail route. It took me down to the other side of the world - at which time I found a cab to take me the miles back to the bus parking lot.

Eventually, we all met up at the tour bus having lost each other up on the Wall. I even purchased a book up there on the Wall so I could show everyone pictures of clouds with the wall running above it and through it. I hope my photos will give you some idea of its structure.

I can understand why this was always known as one of the ‘wonders of the ancient world.’ Visiting the Great Wall was without a doubt one of my favorite trips! I like being awed.


The Great Wall, Badaling section, Beijing

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A view from a higher part of the Great WallClimbing up higher on the Great WallWalking down on the Great WallThe Olympic sign on the face of the WallModern slanted buildings under construction in BeijingThe Olympic Bird's Nest Stadium in the distance
A view from a higher part of the Great Wall
A view from a higher part of the Great Wall
Climbing up higher on the Great Wall
Climbing up higher on the Great Wall
Walking down on the Great Wall
Walking down on the Great Wall
The Olympic sign on the face of the Wall
The Olympic sign on the face of the Wall
Modern slanted buildings under construction in Beijing
Modern slanted buildings under construction in Beijing
The Olympic Bird's Nest Stadium in the distance
The Olympic Bird's Nest Stadium in the distance

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