Of all my travels around the world, I don’t think I have ever been to any country with as much history and with so many jaw-dropping sights as China. I was fortunate enough to visit the PRC three times, and to visit Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as well. (I will leave it up to you, Loyal Reader, to decide whether or not those last three destinations are part of China or not.)
I still haven’t made it to Tibet, home to the North Face of Mount Everest, and to the Potala Palace, which looks stunning in pictures. One day. I have, however, explored several sections of one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall of China.
The Great Wall of China is comprised of several centuries worth of earthenware fortifications that run along the southern border of Inner Mongolia, in northern China. In total, the wall is said to span almost 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometers). Despite its length – and contrary to what many of us were told growing up – you cannot see the Great Wall from space.
The most-visited, and most easily accessible, section of the wall is the Badaling Great Wall, pictured above. Even with traffic, it is less than one hour outside of Beijing, and is in the best state of repair for anyone concerned about safety.
For better or for worse, Coca-Cola vendors set up shop along the Badaling Great Wall!
I lucked in a pollution-free day when I visited the Badaling Great Wall in May, 2007. This is something of a rarity.
A few days later, my friend Miles and I went to Jinshanling, perhaps 90 minutes by private taxi from Beijing. Little-visited at the time but gaining in popularity since the 2008 Olympics, Jinshanling is the start of a roughly five-mile (eight-kilometer) walk to Simatai, the next-closest road access point to the Great Wall.
It is a proper hike over a spectacularly-ruined section of the Great Wall, and resembles a dragon’s back-type roller coaster at times.
This Chinese woman, whose facial features suggest Mongolian ancestry, greeted us at the entrance. I wish I would have gotten a close-up of her face. I could crop the image accordingly, but that somehow seems like cheating in retrospect.
The mountains around Jinshanling and Simatai are covered in green, and resemble my beloved Santa Monica Mountains, except for the fact that these receive more precipitation, aiding in terrace farming, as shown in the picture above.
It was a humid day, but the low-hanging clouds kept the sun’s rays at bay, making the hike bearable and the background colors more evocative.
Sepia tone version of the previous image. Which one do you like more?
This local, standing in the courtyard of one of the larger towers along the way, proudly displays his pipe and hat.
What better way from the Simatai Great Wall to the lakeside car park than by zipline?!
The following May, I visited the industrial city of Datong, an overnight train ride east from Beijing. The Great Wall that runs near Datong predates the Beijing sections, and is dirt!
This stretch of wall is known as the Shanxi Great Wall, after the province it is in. Close to here are the Datong Caves, which also merit a visit.
There was nary a soul around when I visited the Shanxi Great Wall with my friend Suzi and our guide. Suzi snapped this pic of me scrambling to what passes for a guard tower. Going up was easier than coming down.
From Jiayu Pass in the west to Shanhai Pass in the east, the incredible series of stone, dirt, and wood walls, towers, and fortifications that, together, make up the Great Wall of China make for what is perhaps the ancient wonder to end all ancient wonders.
All pictures were taken with a Canon Powershot camera. All images are the property of GringoPotpourri unless credited otherwise, and should be used with permission only.