Sunday, May 9, 2010

Beijing Photos: Part II - The Great Wall

On our second full day in Beijing, we headed out to spend some time on the Great Wall. When Jeff and I were there in November, we went to one of the closer sections of the Wall, so wanted to try something new this time. Our hostel offered driving services out to the HuangHua section of the Wall, a couple hours out of the city. After another great breakfast of neighborhood street food, the three of us piled into what felt like a very luxurious, air-conditioned car with our driver, the owner of the hostel. Once we got past the city traffic, the drive itself was beautiful. And, once we pulled up to the base of the Wall, we could tell immediately that the day was going to be a great one.

The HuangHua section of the Wall isn't one of the sections run by the government, but instead sits along private property and a village reservoir. We were given instructions for how to get onto the Wall, which entailed following a trail part way up the mountain, stopping first at the base and again half way up to pay local villagers 2 RMB (about 30 cents) a piece for the privilege of passing through their land. Before embarking on that journey, we enjoyed a lunch at a very local restaurant with an amazing view and then began to make our way up. Once on the Wall, we encountered an unexpected obstacle - a guard was there, telling us that we couldn't go up, as it was too dangerous. He did say, though, that we could come down, once we made our way around to another area to get onto the Wall. This was all a little confusing, given language barriers and the contradicting instructions we'd been given. Nevertheless, we headed part way down the mountain, where we reached the second person we'd paid to get to the Wall. She was an older woman with an imposing presence (helped by the large ax in her hand.) From what we could tell, she lived in a tent and made a living by collecting the 2 RMB from passersby. Anyway, after a series of gestures, we got the okay from her to go up the other side of the mountain, following a rough trail over a series of switchbacks.

All fine and good, but we had no real plan for how to get on the Wall once we reached it. Jeff forged ahead and found a spot where the Wall was "only" 8-10 feet high and there were a pile of large rocks that could be used as a booster. After only a little finagling, Jeff was able to get himself up on top of the Wall. He was then able to help Beth shimmey up. I, though, feeling as ungraceful and risk-adverse as always, took my time figuring it out. Once the two of them finally hoisted me up (see the photo above - I swear it was scarier - and higher - than it looks!), I took it all in from a reclining position for a while. Relief and relaxation achieved, we hiked on and were able to see some pretty incredible views. We hiked for a couple of hours before heading back for celebratory beers.

The construction of the HuangHua section of the Wall was overseen by General Cai during the Ming Dynasty. Legend has it that he was so particular about quality that each worker built only one inch a day. For this extravagance, he was beheaded, but was later posthumously recognized for excellent work. It shows, too, as the Wall, even where it was crumbling into the mountainside, was definitely impressive.

We ended our day back in the city, at the shores of the Hou Hai Lake, which is lined with restaurants and bars. More pictures of it all here:


  1. Wow ... quite the adventure!

  2. Looks awesome! the great wall..... definitely on the bucket list