Beijing–Day 3 (The Great Wall)

Welcome back reader! This post will conclude the retelling of my shenanigans in the capital of China. We actually didn’t leave until the evening of the fourth day, but much of that day was spent sitting in the train station and wandering around through the biggest mall in Beijing. On the third day, however, we set off for the Great Wall!

Before leaving Kaifeng, some research was done concerning the Great Wall. The closest section of the wall to Beijing is Badaling making it the most visited section. There are many other sections you can visit, but they are further away and are much less convenient to travel to unless you’re with a tour group. Several modes of transportation are available to get to the wall, such as a handful of buses that leave from Tian’anmen to Badaling, a train line that only goes to the wall and back, and ridiculously overpriced taxis. We opted for the train because trains have never let us down in China before, and they’re usually a bit faster and more comfortable than the buses. To catch the train to Badaling, we had to go the Beijing North Station. While there, we ran into another fellow who was travelling to the Great Wall but spoke no Chinese. This was a problem for him at the ticket window because the teller didn’t speak any English, so we helped him out. The tickets were surprisingly cheap—each one was under $1! Unfortunately, we missed the first train and had to wait a few hours for the next one.

The train ride took about an hour or so, and we arrived at the Badaling station around 1 PM or so. From the station, it’s a good mile or so up to the entrance of the wall itself. It was surprisingly chilly that day: the sky was filled with clouds and there was a pretty constant wind blowing, but I suppose that’s better than unbearably hot weather. There was also a mist or fog that settled over the mountains that made photo-taking a bit frustrating. I was really hoping to get some nice, clear shots of the wall winding over and through the mountains, but most of them didn’t come out so well due to the obnoxiously passive grayness that stubbornly covered the landscape the entire time we were there. But it’s okay—I’m not bitter.

When we finally reached the entrance to wall, we decided to go to the right. Because the wall is, well, a wall, when you enter it at Badaling you enter in the middle and can choose which side you’d like to climb. I want to take a moment to briefly comment on the use of the word “climb” when in context of the Great Wall. Before I myself climbed the Great Wall, I always thought that people who used the verb “climb” to describe their journey on the wall were over exaggerating the effort required to tackle a big old fence. I mean, it has stairs, right? Right. But after visiting the wall, I can honestly say “climb” is the most accurate word to describe how this wonder of the east is tackled. There are parts of it that do not have stairs yet the surface is slanted at a 50 degree angle or so, and the bricks are quite old and have become slick and worn with age. At the sections where there are stairs, they are inconsistently spaced and are often not level. Some of the stairs might be only a few inches tall and others over a foot. The only thing more difficult than going up the wall is going down it—particularly on those stretches where the Chinese felt stairs weren’t necessary even though the wall was slanting at a 45 degree angle. In fact, most people just ran down those parts because it was easier than taking your time and trying to walk down it.

We hadn’t picked a specific spot to end at or specified a certain amount of time we wanted to stay on the wall, so we ended up turning around at North Tower 8. It’s one of the higher points of that section of the wall, and we were pretty tired by that point so after resting awhile and getting some photos, we turned around and worked our way back down. There’s a cable car that goes up pretty far along the wall, so that’s always an option if one is pretty tired and doesn’t feel like walking all the down. They also had something that looked like a little roller coaster that one could take down if they so chose. Dannysha and I declined these options but did take another way down: along one side of the wall, a newer and less intense path has been constructed that lacks the crazy dips and uneven stairs that make the wall a challenge. There are still many, many steps though.

We caught the 5:30 train back into Beijing, grabbed some dinner and then headed off to Wangfujie. We weren’t heading there originally, but I could find the street market I’d originally looked up and so we ended up at one of China’s biggest tourist streets. It was lined with many different stores and restaurants, some of which I knew and some I didn’t. We did find a little night market down one of the side streets, but it wasn’t all that impressive. Some vendors had live scorpions on sticks that they would cook for you if you so desired. I didn’t get any photos of this, however, because it was really all stuff I’d seen in Shanghai.

The next day we checked out of the hostel, went to the Joy City Mall, got some lunch and much needed Starbucks, then headed off to the train station after we grew tired of looking at overpriced American brands. This ended our trip to Beijing. I hope you enjoyed reading about it, and hope you enjoy the photos below! Again, the weather wasn’t perfect but that’s part of traveling. I hope to update again in a few days, so until then, 加油!

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