Beijing, China
39° 55' N 116° 23' E
Apr 23, 2010 14:22
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The Great Wall

You cannot go to Beijing (or China) and not see the Great Wall.  The trick is to go to the part that is less busy.  Most people visiting the Great Wall go to Badaling.  Badaling is near Beijing and has a neat setting where several different walls converge.  However, this sight is EXTREMELY busy (all the tours go there) and you are unlikely to have any time to admire the wall in private as there will be crowds everywhere.  A bettter site is at Mutisnyu.  I absolutely recommend this site, it is awesome and by comparison, empty.  Further, if you are flying in or out of Beijing,  then visiting it on your way to or from airport arrival/departure is a good idea as it is another 1/2 hour beyond the airport going away from Beijing. 

Note, a real bonus from visiting the Great Walll at Mutianyu is that to get down you can either take a chair lift or a sled slide that is a few miles long and full of twists and turns.  The slide is a blast, especially if you can go down at your own pace (which hopefully is FAST).

What follows is a general description of the Great Wall generally (from Wikipedia).  Thereafter is a description of the Wall at Mutianyu:

The Great Wall of China; literally "The long wall of 10,000" is a series of stone and earthen fortifications in northern China, built originally to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by various nomadic groups such as the Xiongnu from the north and rebuilt and maintained between the 5th century BC and the 16th century. Since the 5th century BC, several walls have been built that were referred to as the Great Wall. One of the most famous is the wall built between 220–206 BC by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. Little of that wall remains; the majority of the existing wall was built during the Ming Dynasty.

The Great Wall stretches from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Nur in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia. The most comprehensive archaeological survey, using advanced technologies, has recently concluded that the entire Great Wall, with all of its branches, stretches for 8,851.8 km (5,500.3 mi). This is made up of 6,259.6 km (3,889.5 mi) of sections of actual wall, 359.7 km (223.5 mi) of trenches and 2,232.5 km (1,387.2 mi) of natural defensive barriers such as hills and rivers.

Below is Wikipedia on the Great Wall at Mutianyu:

 Located in Huairou County about 45 miles from Beijing, Mutianyu Great Wall enjoys a long history and is part of the glorious culture of China. It connects Juyongguan Pass in the west and Gubeikou Great Wall in the east. The wall was first built in Northern Qi Dynasty (550 - 557). In Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), Tan Lun and Qi Jiguang, two famous patriotic generals, rebuilt it in order to strengthen its defensive potential when they guarded the strategic pass. It served as the northern protective screen, guarding the capital and imperial mausoleums for generations.

Mutianyu Great Wall winds 1.4 miles through lofty mountains and high ridges, many sections of which are made of granite. The unique structure makes the wall almost indestructible. It measures 23 to 26 feet high and four to five yards wide. Both of the wall's inner and outer sides have parapets to defend against enemies coming from the two sides. Some parapets are saw- tooth shaped instead of the regular rectangular form. Below the parapets, there are square embrasures the top of which are designed in an arc structure, different from the traditional round embrasures.

There are 22 watch towers distributed at close intervals along the wall. They are located not only in the main wall but also at the distinctive 'branch cities'. Branch cities are built on the hill ridge against the inner or outer side of the wall. They measure from several yards to dozens of yards across. On the northwest over 3,281-feet hills, lies a section of the wall called 'Ox Horn Edge'. On the steep and lofty peaks, there are two walls named 'Flying Eagle Flies Facing Upward' and 'Arrow Lock'. What is more rarely seen on the southeast side is a general gateway platform guarded by three watch towers together. In locations of strategic importance, batteries are set up to reinforce the defense capabilities. Mutianyu Great Wall really deserves to be the archetype of the ten thousand li Great Wall. 

Besides its strategically important location and compact layout, the Mutianyu Great Wall is also famous for the breath-takingly beautiful scenery. Woods cover over ninety-six percent of the total scenic area. The wall presents different aspects of beauty in the four seasons. Flowers bloom all over the mountains in spring.  Grasses dress the hillside green in summer. Trees are laden with sweet fruits in autumn, and especially in October, leaves are turning red or yellow, touching the mountain tops with gold. In winter, the wall is covered by snow, making it seem more magnificent. The pine trees around Mutianyu Great Wall are well-known. There are more than 20 pines over 300 years old and about 200 pines over 100 year old. Besides, spring water at the foot of the wall tastes pure and fragrant, much appreciated by visitors.

Photos / videos of "The Great Wall":

What is so impressive about the Great Wall is that it indeed does go on for what seems forever and ever.  For the record, the Great Wall is over 8,500 K long.  In some spots there are several different walls. Family shot at the top. It was a mild spring day and the crowds were other than dense (here). Jane just hanging in there. Emeny side. Goes on and on.  For the Chinese and China, it is all about scale.  When they go out a do something there is no holds barred.  And this was built over 600 years ago. Other side of the Wall.  This is the non-enemy side. You can figure this out as there are stairs to get up a little bit further along. Relatively uncrowded. If this were Badaling it would have been wall-to-wall visitors (but you would see several walls joining and some shear cliffs and mountain sides).  Went there in 1992 and 2003. One of the stations along the way.  Every several hundred metres there is another guard tower and station.  The Chinese of that day were not tall, I had to be mindful of height or I would easily hit my head (which I did and those stones are very unforgiving). Note the workmenship (workperson ship) and effort that went into building the Wall. Looking out one watch tower to the next (and the next and the next). Unfortunately it was early spring and the leaves and greenery was not out yet.  Pretty good visiblity though. Enemy side. You can walk for miles and miles and  ....   The Great Wall, it is suggested, is visible from outer space, one of the few manmade objects that ths can be said for.  Another is the Palm Jumeriah in Dubia. Tower to tower, Wow!! At this part of the Wall has a steep incline.  How they built this is beyond me.  A Chinese story says that for every metre of the Wall one worker died (8.5 million metres long), so it is with mixed feelings they admire the Wall.  Note, under Mao upwards of 80 million people died. Here you can see for several miles, and jsut remember it goes even beyond the hill in the misty end of the photo. There are two ways down, a chair lift (in the background) or a winding sled on a fixed rail.  Let you guess which one I took? I could have spent the day just going up/down the sled ride.  If you let the person in front of you get way ahead you could really fly.  Unfortunatley there were some people who should have gone down on the chair lift.  I just waited and created the open space to blast down. I ignored the sign.