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29 Oct 2013

Great Wall of China Badaling 万里长城 , China

Beijing [北京]  • 29 OCTOBER 2013
It has always been my dream to visit the Great Wall of China. The section of the wall that I was so fortunate to visit is known as Badaling. When embarking on your long walk upon the wall, proceed to the right side if you want to take the easier route. The left offers a more challenging hike up the wall. I did a little bit of both. Don't get to excited and go up to fast, or else, you could get winded quite easily, especially if you are not in shape. haha.

The Great Wall of China was built mainly during the three dynasties – Qin Dynasty (221 B.C to 206 B.C), Han Dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D ) and Ming Dynasty (1368 A.D - 1644 A.D). The most powerful Yuan Dynasty and the last Dynasty – Qing Dynasty did nothing about the building of the Wall since they were “barbarians” against whom the Wall of China was supposed to have been built.

Actually the history tells us the Wall played no role in preventing the “barbarians”. Never did the Wall stop any invations, large or small. But the Wall did do many things: it proclaimed the frontier, it employed the thousands, it prevented defections, it displayed the mighty of the emperor.

The Wall is not an “it” as you think. It is a “them”, walls in the plural, and they do not form a continuous line. They are in bits built in different dynasties. Those “bits” of the Wall are scattered around the northern China stretching from Shanhaiguan in the east to Jiayuguan in the west, snaking along the southern edge of Inner Mongolia.
Beijing is a good place to visit the “bits” of the Wall built in Ming Dynasty. Most of the “bits” of the Wall here are tamed and reconstructed for the safety of travelers. So the tamed sections give way to wild ones – crumbling, overgrown and barred to walkers.

[From Badaling station, it is only 15 minutes walk to the Badaling greatwall entrance. The ticket price to enter Greatwall is RMB 45. I think it is a economic way of travelling, rather than hiring car/driver that cost us over RMB 250 - 600 just to get to Badaling.]

There are approxi 8 bits of the Wall around Beijing. 7 of the 8 bits of the Wall are legally open to tourists home and abroad. “legally open” means these sections of the Wall are tamed, repaired and controlled by a local Great Wall administration bureau.
Within its administration, the entrance fees are collected, a police station is set up and security guides are dotted along Wall. These “legal” sections of the Wall are Juyongguan, Badaling, Mutianyu, Jinshanling, Gubeikou, Huanghuacheng ( certain sections opened) and Simatai (temporarily closed ). Jiankou is not open to tourists due to their wildness and treacherousness. Below are the tips for choosing the right bit of the Wall you most like:

1) If you don’t have much time, but you still want to have a glimpse of the Wall, especially on a busy day, choose Juyongguan Great Wall.
2) If you want to see the most popular and gorgeous section of the Wall in Beijing, go to Badaling Great Wall.
3) If you want to visit the Wall with beautiful green scenery and environment ( travel with kids ), visit Mutianyu Great Wall.

Tourist Bus No.867  to Mutianyu Great Wall
Directly running to Mutianyu Great Wall 慕田峪长城
The Tourist Bus 867 operates two daily departures: Start at 7:00am and 8:30am; return at 2:00pm and 4:00pm
Valid time: from March 15 – Nov 15 each year.
From: Dongzhimen Public Transport Hub (东直门交通枢纽)

Bus No. 916 Express (916快)To:
Mutianyu Great Wall 慕田峪长城
Important Notice: The final destination of the Bus 916 Express is actually Huairou Beidajie (怀柔北大街)in Huairou District, then you have to change for the local bus No.936 (Huairou – Dongtai 怀柔至洞台), continue to take the bus 936 (936路支线) for another 18.6km, pass 8 stops and get off at Mutianyu Great Wall finally.

Bus 916 Express (916快)Fare: RMB 12
Bus 936 (936路支线) Fare: RMB 8
Bus Operation Time: 6:00-17:00 ( every 20 minutes ) 
From: Dongzhimen Public Transport Hub (东直门交通枢纽)

4) If you want to hike the wild and original bits of the Wall, go to visit Shixiagan Great Wall, Jinshanling Great Wall, Gubeikou Great Wall,  Huanghuacheng Great Wall and Simatai Great Wall (temporarily closed )  or put them together.
5) Jiankou Great Wall is forbidden to hike according to the official rule and regulations concerned.

You can also charter a taxi for day trips to the Great Wall. The drive ranges from 1.5 hour to 2.5 hours from the city center according to the different sections of the Great Wall. Below are the approximate taxi fares to the different sections of the Great Wall with waiting for about 2-3 hours while touring the wall:

Beijing Mutianyu Great Wall: 85km – RMB 600
Beijing Badaling Great Wall: 80km – RMB 500
Beijing Simatai Great Wall: 140km – RMB 700
Beijing Juyongguan Great Wall: 60km – RMB 400
Beijing Jinshanling Great Wall: 160km RMB 800
Beijing Gubeikou Great Wall: 150km – RMB 750
Beijing Jiankou Great Wall: 85km – RMB 650
Beijing Huanghuacheng Great Wall 85km – RMB 600

You can easily book Great Wall Bus Tour (daily group tours) through your hotel or local tour operators. Each morning, you will be picked you up from your midtown hotel, then you will go to visit the the Wall together with other tourists. Groups are kept to about 10 passengers in a comfortable modern 22-seat coach with professional Beijing chauffeurs and English speaking tour guide.  
Note:  There are two pre-arranged shoping stops on the bus tours.
In Beijing, all the sections of the Wall are open to tourists all year round. The ideal months for the Great Wall hike fall on spring, early summer, autumn – later March, April, May, June, September, October and early November.If you happen to visit the Wall in summer – later June, July and August, be prepared for heat stroke prevention – sunglasses, sun cream,  sun block, hat, water.
Winter Great Wall Hike is a bit challenging mainly due to the frozen weather in later December, January and early early February each year in Beijing. You are advised to dress warmly – winter hat with ear flap, ear warmers, gloves, scarf, warm jackets and ther winter accessories.
The Great Wall hike is impossible only because the road access to sections is blocked due to the heavy snow. If you plan to do the hike in winter, we do suggest you check the weather report.
It is better to hike the Wall during the weekdays instead of weekends. Strongly advise you not to visit the Wall during China public holidays.

On these special days you will waste much of your valuable time on the way from your hotel to the Wall. On the Wall, you have to take group photos since there are a great number of people on the Wall.
The Great Wall was once built to keep other people away, but these days you just can't stop them coming! From the main entrance, there is a cable car that takes you up to the Wall. Once up on the Wall, the views of the hills are really great and you can walk along a fair length of the Wall (along with masses of tourists), which provides a welcome break from the pollution of Beijing. There isn't much else to do though, and those who cannot walk much won't have much fun.
There are different sections of the Great Wall namely Badaling, Mutianyu (with cable car), Simatai (older section of the wall with bricks stamped with dates of when they were manufactured). I visited Badaling's West Wall. I learned castle terms like parapets, merlons (raised parts of the wall used as protection to hide from enemies; gave the wall a saw-tooth look) and crenels (gaps in between merlons). An intriguing custom that I saw was attaching padlocks to a chain in one section of the wall. The padlocks (with inscriptions of Chinese names) and tied with a red ribbon, symbolize everlasting love and are usually attached to one long chain by amorous couples.
Please bring wipes/tissues since most of the time you'd be holding on to the rusty handrail as you descend/ascend the Great Wall.

The Great Wall at Badaling is not an easy hike and parts of the are extremely steep, so this tour is unsuitable if you have elderly people or very young children with you. If members of your party don't want to hike between the sections mentioned on this tour, you can get the cable car both ways and just get the views from the relatively flat but extremely crowded section around the cable car drop off point. Make sure you have drinks and snacks with you while you hike and wear sensible shoes. 

[One thing I noticed while climbing and catching my breath (and taking in the views) is that most bricks had inscriptions and dates  but I can't say if the inscriptions are names of important people in history or the kind of (name) was here".]

You should budget around 200RMB per person for this trip for bus fare, entrance to the Wall, the cable car tickets and food.Don't be intimidated by the subway in Beijing—everything (including announcements) is in English and Chinese and is well marked. Try to avoid rush hour as trains (especially on lines 1 and 2) will be very crowded. 

Have you heard of Meng Jiangnu's Bitter Weeping? 
This Great Wall story happened during the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC). There was once an old man named Meng who lived in the southern part of the country with his wife. One spring, Meng sowed a seed of bottle gourd in his yard. The bottle gourd grew up bit by bit and its vines climbed over the wall and entered his neighbor Jiang's yard. Like Meng, Jiang had no children and so he became very fond of the plant. He watered and took care of the plant. With tender care of both men, the plant grew bigger and bigger and gave a beautiful bottle gourd in autumn. Jiang plucked it off the vine, and the two old men decided to cut the gourd and divide it by half. To their surprise when they cut the gourd a pretty and lovely girl was lying inside! They felt happy to have a child and both loved her very much, so they decided to bring the child up together. They named the girl Meng Jiangnu, which means Meng and Jiang's daughter.

As time went by, the little girl grew up and became a beautiful young woman. She was very smart and industrious. She took care of old Meng and Jiang's families, washing the clothes and doing the house work. People knew that Meng Jiangnu was a good girl and liked her very much. One day while playing in the yard, she saw a young man hiding in the garden. She called out to her parents, and the young man came out.
At that time, Emperor Qin Shihuang (the first emperor of Qin) announced to build the Great Wall. So lots of men were caught by the federal officials. Fan Qiliang was an intellectual man and very afraid of being caught, so he went to Meng's house to hide from the officials. Meng and Jiang liked this good-looking, honest, and good-mannered young man. They decided to wed their daughter to him. The two young people accepted happily, and got married several days later. However, three days after their marriage, officials suddenly broke in and took Fan Qiliang away to build the Great Wall in the north of China.

It was a hard time for Meng Jiangnu after her husband was taken away - she missed her husband and cried nearly every day. She sewed warm clothes for her husband and decided to set off to look for him. Saying farewell to her parents, she packed her luggage and started her long journey. She climbed over mountains and went through the rivers. She walked day and night, slipping and falling many times, but finally she reached the foot of the Great Wall at the present Shanhaiguan Pass.

Upon her arrival, she was eager to ask about her husband. Bad news came to her, however, that Fan Qiliang had already died of exhaustion and was buried into the Great Wall! Meng Jiangnu could not help crying. She sat on the ground and cried and cried. Suddenly with a tremendous noise, a 400 kilometer-long (248-mile-long) section of the Great Wall collapsed over her bitter wail. The workmen and supervisors were astonished. Emperor Qin Shihuang happened to be touring the wall at that exact time, and he was enraged and ready to punish the woman.
However, at the first sight of Meng Jiangnu Emperor Qin Shihuang was attracted by her beauty. Instead of killing her, the Emperor asked her to marry him. Suppressing her feeling of anger, she agreed on the basis of three terms.

Statues of Meng Jiangnu and her husband Fan Qiliang
Meng Jiangnu and her husband Fan QiliangThe first was to find the body of Fan Qiliang, the second was to hold a state funeral for him, and the last one was to have Emperor Qin Shihuang wear black mourning for Fan Qiliang and attend the funeral in person. Emperor Qin Shihuang thought for a while and reluctantly agreed. After all the terms were met, Emperor Qin Shihuang was ready to take her to his palace. When the guarders were not watching, she suddenly turned around and jumped into the nearby Bohai Sea.
This story tells of the hard work of Chinese commoners, as well as exposes the cruel system of hard labor during the reign of Emperor Qin Shihuang. The Ten-Thousand-Li Great Wall embodied the power and wisdom of the Chinese nation. In memory of Meng Jiangnu, later generations built a temple, called the Temple of Mengjiangnu, at the foot of the Great Wall in which a statue of her is located. Meng Jiangnu's story has been passed down from generation to generation.

The Great Wall is very very long and I think there's only a few people who have walked the whole expanse...but Badaling is a fairly localized part of the wall and I think I did go up and then down through a few towers in about an hour and a half. It is pretty tiring, specially as you have to pass all those people who are huffing along the way. I could have gone even further up through the Wall and God knows where it will end..."If you haven't been to the Great Wall, you aren't a real man," Mao Zedong once said.


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