We were on a bus seventy kilometers outside of Beijing when we caught our first glimpse of the Great Wall of China, firmly perched on a tall ridge in the distance. We were visiting the wall at Mutianyu, a bit more rugged and less popular than Badaling, where most tourists go. We hopped on the gondola at the base of the hill and were swept up to the top in no time.
[ptcPhoto filename=”GreatWall6.jpg” title=”Loong” caption=”It’s still the longest human-made structure on earth.” position=”center”]
The first thing that strikes you is how big the wall really is – it’s 25 feet tall and seems to go on forever. The section at Mutianyu stretches for 2.5 kilometers through dense forest. It doesn’t sound far, but with the steep hills and 22 watchtowers it takes three or four hours to see everything.
[ptcPhoto filename=”GreatWall7.jpg” title=”Hills” caption=”Stretching up through the hills.” position=”center”]
This portion of the wall was reconstructed over an earlier wall dating back to the sixth century. The solid granite fortifications that make up what you see today were added 300 years ago to keep out the nomadic tribes to the north. Contrary to popular belief, the Great Wall wasn’t built all at once in a continuous line.
[ptcPhoto filename=”SamWall1.jpg” title=”Mongols” caption=”In fact, Ghengis Khan just walked around it and conquered China.” position=”center”]
The section at Mutianyu remains largely intact, unlike some sections that were dismantled for use in other building projects. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s, people were actually encouraged to take bricks from the wall for use in their farms and homes.
[ptcPhoto filename=”SamWall4.jpg” title=”Dadonghai” caption=”So many lives were lost during construction that people called it the ‘longest cemetery on earth’.” position=”center”]
On the day we visited it was practically free of visitors. So we got to take a lot of silly photos like these.
[ptcPhoto filename=”SamWall2.jpg” title=”Wall Jump” caption=”After a dozen tries, we finally got it!” position=”center”]
[ptcPhoto filename=”SamWall3.jpg” title=”Wall Evil” caption=”Because why not.” position=”center”]
It was SO hot that day that we were really thankful for the little stands selling Tsingtao beer.
[ptcPhoto filename=”SamWall5.jpg” title=”Wall Beer” caption=”As an aside, we STILL can’t pronounce ‘Tsingtao’ properly.” position=”center”]
We also liked Mutianyu because in addition to the gondola ride up you can take a toboggan ride down. In this heat, the less effort the better!
[ptcPhoto filename=”SamWall6.jpg” title=”Toboggan” caption=”The toboggan ride back down.” position=”center”]
At the bottom there’s a string of stalls selling souvenirs, paintings, and “ObaMao” t-shirts.
[ptcPhoto filename=”ObamaWall.jpg” title=”Obama” caption=”Well this makes me uncomfortable.” position=”center”]
And after returning to Beijing we celebrated the Great Wall by finding Great beers.
[ptcPhoto filename=”BeijingBeer.jpg” title=”Cheers” caption=”The perfect ending to a very hot day.” position=”center”]