Climbing The Great Wall of China

Like any typical tourist to Beijing or China, Great Wall probably ranks as one of the ‘must-see’ destination along with perhaps seeing pandas, and Forbidden City. I took a day tour for this, probably expecting a little too much. It was a mere 100 yuan (~AUD$15) for the day package, and it comes with a bus that takes you there, a tour guide that talks too much, value lunch that is worse than McDonalds, a visit to Great Wall, an emperor’s morgue, old Beijing, a jade factory, a medicine shop and a lolly factory. Sounds like good value for AUD$15!! But, I probably should have remembered the old saying, “You get what you pay for!”

The day trip started with a morning call at 4:30am. Yes.. 4:30am!! We were then picked up by a ‘ganster driver’ which did not have a number plate on his car:

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He’s the driver that took us from our hotel, to the main bus located elsewhere. He got us there in record times, driving on the wrong side of the road, whizzing past red light, speeding well above the limit (not that there is one). I am not kidding either!! It was an adventure on its own right!!

The main bus, then took us on another adventure, this time in slow motion, involving major traffic jams. The bus crowd didn’t really notice too much, since the tour guide then stood up and seems to give us an endless speech about procedures, history and instructions.

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I notice that any Chinese tour guide have the following ‘features’:

1. They will do EVERYTHING to keep you awake
2. They will talk and talk and talk and talk (The one above talked at least 1 hour straight)
3. They will hurry you off and on the bus, with a loudspeaker and leave without you if they have to

We eventually arrived at the so-called “Badaling Great Wall” ???????, built during the Ming Dynasty (meaning it’s relatively recent and well preserved). The section of this wall open to tourist is probably about 700m long. It starts off on a relatively gentle gradient, increasing to much steeper ones later.

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Perhaps you will notice just how ‘foggy’ the sky looks. This wall is only about 75km from Beijing, thus it inherits the air pollution, which takes away the beauty a little. This photo probably shows the air pollution a little clearer:

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Like any major tourist attractions in China, it is very crowded. I would say, you would need some level of fitness if you want to make it all the way to the end of the open trail. Most tourists would be sweating and panting by half way, and started to take it one step at a time on steeper parts. Hence if you’re the fitter types, you will be stuck behind a lot of slower ones at the front. You may not want to look up too often, as this is what I see every time I look up:

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It’s not a pretty sight, unless you enjoy looking at asses. But, fortunately it gets better once you reach the later part of the trail, as more and more people quit making it to the end. Personally I prefer the later part of the trail, as you get to see the real, untouched section of the Great Wall:

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Along the way, you will get hassled by salesperson selling you souvenirs. Someone decided that <???????> (Bu Dao Chang Cheng Fei Hao Han), meaning “If you don’t climb the Great Wall, you’re not a good man”. You’ll get plenty of salesperson with a tomb stone with those Chinese quote on it:

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You will be demanded 2 yuan (~AUD$0.30) to take a photo next to it, or at least 10 yuan for them to print out a laminated copy. Hell, I even got sucked into taking a photo on a camel towards the end of the trail!

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Not bad, given these ‘locals’ had digital printers to print out photos on the spot for you!

Thus ends the visit to the Great Wall, after a mere 1.5 hour into the morning. We were then gathered together, with our tour guide shouting our designated number, ‘415! 415! Please gather here!’ in Mandarin of course.

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The rest of the day is filled with activities that I probably would have preferred to avoid! The one thing I HATE about using a Chinese tour operator, is that they will take you shopping after every damn spot you visit! Mine includes visits to a jade factory after the Great Wall, lolly shop after visit to an emperor’s Mausoleum, a medicine shop after visiting Old Beijing, and numerous others. Every stop involves some way to suck every yuan out of you possible. I suppose I only paid 100 yuan for the tour!

If only the visit to Great Wall, was just a visit to Great Wall. Keep that in mind the next time you decide to use a Chinese tour operator.

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