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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Monday, June 03, 2013

The Great Wall of China

Travel Date 13th April 2012.
Click on any picture to see a large version.   

I used one of the inexpensive group day tours to the Great Wall.

If you are on a tight budget I recommend this method. It was excellent value. My memory is fading and I am not totally certain that this was the company I used, if not it is very similar: Great Wall at Mutianyu and Sacred Way (Ming Tomb) one day tour 200 RMB p/p

Lorraine decided there would be too much walking and climbing at the Wall so I went alone. For 200RMB (~$33) I received transportation in a minibus to and from my hotel to the wall, a tour through the Ming Tombs en-route and lunch included. We had a guide for the en-route visits. He led us to the cable car at the Great Wall but left us to our own devices for the two or three hours we spent on the wall itself. The tickets for the cable car and wall entry were extra, but not expensive. There were also obligatory stops of about an hour at jade and silk factories. We declined the optional tea shop. I did not mind those. I found them interesting, they broke up the long trip each way and there was no hard sell to buy the products.

After pick up from the hotel at 7:15 am the first stop was the Ming Tombs. 

It was a pleasant break on the journey. Lots of stairs to climb and descend, but not really of great interest to me so I'll slip past them. Possibly I've seen too many mausoleums in too many places.

The jade factory was next. See my previous post for pictures of the exquisite work on display there.

Lunch was surprisingly good. Beer was extra. There were nine of us around the table. Nobody left hungry.

During the trip our guide, who spoke excellent and clear English, presented a brief history of the Ming Tombs and then of the Wall. During general discussions he also gave a fascinating insight into life for a man in modern China in his early 20s saving for marriage and a family. He lived in a single room apartment in a multi-storey building with shared bathing and dining facilities. He was from a town in the far north-east, 22 hours from Beijing by rail. He could only afford to make the journey to see his parents and grandparents once or twice a year.   

He gave a different perspective to the one-child policy. He and his fiancée were both the only children of their parents, in accordance with the policy. A major problem they face is that traditionally, when families were larger, the children looked after parents and grand-parents. When there were lots of kids those responsibilities were shared among many. As the economy and political system changes from the old Communism the State support system for the aged is no longer as good as it was in the Mao years. He and his fiancée are facing a future where they may be the only financial support for not only their own future child but also four aged parents and eight aged grand-parents, all alive at this time.

This Bactrian Camel was beside the tourist buses at Mutianyu, apparently waiting for someone.

I chose Mutianyu for several reasons. The most important was that it is less crowded with tourists. It is also an excellent example of the incredible engineering skills of the wall's architects, the rugged terrain and the harsh conditions the workers faced building it.

The Mutianyu Great Wall is about 80km (50 miles) north of Beijing; a little further from town than the more popular Badaling section. This section of Great Wall was the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs. It is not as old as some sections, being originally built in the mid-6th century A.D. although it is older than Badaling. 

It is very well preserved, partly because much of it was rebuilt in the late 16th century during the Ming Dynasty. It is generally considered to be the largest construction scale and best quality among all sections of Great Wall. In the mid-1980s there was further reconstruction. An interesting difference to most of the other sections of the Great Wall is inclusion of crenelations with merlons on both the inner and outer parapets, allowing archers to repel attacks from both sides.

There are towers at regular interval along the wall. These were not only fortifications but also troop living quarters.

Different sections of the wall were built in different eras, often by soldiers but sometimes by forced labour and even children. Many workers died during the construction. The life of a soldier posted to the wall must have been horrific during the harsh northern winters, even worse if they were attacked.

My hiking days are over. The cable car was a welcome improvement for access.

The long trip home was broken by the visit to the silk factory.

Our only minor problem of the day occurred when the driver, who spoke no English, refused to switch on the air-conditioner to save fuel. It was hot and uncomfortable down the back of the bus and the passengers held a mutiny. The air-con went on. I arrived back at the hotel at 6pm after a long but very interesting day.

Cheers, Alan


  1. Anonymous7:48 pm

    Well done ! These are great pictures of the Great Wall! Which reminds me… I should go through my India pictures and post some. I log on to your blog on a regular basis. Having read this I thought it was rather informative. I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this article together. I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

    In return, I also found a great blog of Jinshanling travel tips, I’d love to share it here with you and for future travelers.

  2. Great photos, thanks for sharing. Mutianyu Great Wall is a good alternative for Badaling, often quiet, with less tour buses and stops. Badaling gets more tourists than Mutianyu. If I could visit only one, and want to enjoy a better views with less crowds, Mutianyu is right for me. http://www.wildgreatwall.com/mutianyu-toboggan-ride/

  3. Thanks for sharing this information. I found it very informative as I have been researching a lot about as how to go for great wall of china tours