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Published: August 19th 2012
There is a Chinese saying that goes "he who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man". Well, those are quite challenging words, so I set out with my new Beijing friends to prove ourselves. On the top of the list of the New Seven Wonders of the world, the great wall is probably the top tourist attraction in China. And the crowds proved it. I had been warned that the crowds are nuts, but you never really understand until you experience it firsthand.
We first had to get to the wall which consisted of taking a public bus that operates just to take tourists (mostly Chinese tourists because I am not sure a non Chinese speaker would be able to navigate the system too easily) straight to the Great Wall at Badaling. This is about 60km nw of Beijing and is probably the most touristy of the places you can visit the wall. Other places that are farther away allow you to see other, less restored parts of the wall with less people to fight but also cost quite a bit more. While I always don't mind getting away from people, I was happy
with going to Badaling.
The bus does a smart job of dropping you off right at a ticket booth that sells packages for a combined entrance ticket and a ticket to ride the rail car that takes you up the first huge climb up to the wall so you can save your energy for the wall itself. I would usually skip the car as I don't mind walking, but Daniel and Meng were quite keen on the car, so we went with the package along with just about everybody else from our bus (Chinese people tend not to question the tour operators on the bus when they tell you to buy the package...). I hope by taking the car, we are still a "true man".
This part of the wall we were visiting was greatly restored but still impressive nonetheless. Where our rail car dropped us off, we could walk from tower 4 along the wall up to tower 8. And it was definitely up, with parts being really steep but not unmanageable. If anything all the people just made it a little more difficult. We walked along, took pictures, and enjoyed the fact
that there was a nice cool breeze on top of the wall. All in all, our journey out and back to the wall took about 5 hours.
By the time we got back to the city in the late afternoon, Daniel had to take off but Meng wanted to take me to the Olympic park which was on her way home. We arrived around 5, looked around a bit and then grabbed dinner. I planned to just hang out there until dark when the buildings were supposed to look more impressive. We parted ways after dinner and I'm glad I stuck around as the park is pretty cool at night and the weather was perfect. It was a little weird being there just a couple days after the London games had wrapped up and also impressive that the park is still such a huge tourist draw, since the place isn't really used for much else. While I really liked spending time in the evening there, I could tell my dinner was no settling well, so my time was cut short to give myself time to get back to the hostel.
I also had to
prepare to fly out the next morning to my last stop on my trip, Dalian. I left Beijing with an OK rating after spending three days there. Thanks to Daniel, Meng, and Walt I got to see some great aspects of the city and learn a lot. But it is such a big city with so many people that I often felt myself very tense and a bit on edge. I'm looking forward to spending my last bit in china in a smaller city with my friend's family. It will be a great way to finish off this adventure before heading home.
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