Beijing – Part 2: The Great Wall of China

On our second day in Beijing we drove about two hours out of the city to the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall. This section of the wall is the part of the Great Wall that has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Because the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall is further from Beijing than other portions of the wall, it is much less crowded and during our visit there were very few other visitors.

We started our trip to the Great Wall by taking a cable car from the entrance area. The cable car is totally worth the very small cost. We did so much climbing once we were on top of the wall, I can’t imagine we would have walked nearly as far and climbed as many stairs if we had also made the climb to the wall itself.

Actually walking on the Great Wall is one of those, “I can’t believe I’m actually here” experiences. I thought to myself several times as we walked on the Great Wall how fortunate we are to be on this trip and to be having these once in a life time experiences.

I also thought several times how glad I am that we are doing this while we are still young enough to walk and climb and enjoy this experience. Much of the wall is very steep and there is a lot of stair climbing.

One of the interesting elements of our time on the Great Wall was the “stalkers” we picked up when we got off the cable car. We watched two women climb the path to the wall, cutting off the main path and taking a dirt path which leads directly to the top of the cable cars. We didn’t realize it as we admired their climbing, but these ladies were climbing to the cable car station to begin following us. These two ladies shadowed us as we walked along the wall. Our tour guide, Ping, informed us that they were following us with the hope of selling us something. Unlike most vendors, they don’t begin selling to you right away. They just followed us, occasionally trying to be as helpful as their limited English would allow. They were very nice and of course we eventually bought some postcards from the lady you see following Holly and Ping in the picture below. Holly felt good because she used her rusty negotiation skills to reduce the price of the postcards from 40 Yuan to 25 Yuan ($6.61 down to $4.15). That Holly is quite a negotiator! Later when we got back to the parking lot, feeling like a master negotiator, Holly tried to negotiate 2 apples for the price of one. Unfortunately Holly was not as successful and paid full price for the single apple. It was however a very good apple.

The trip to Great Wall was an amazing experience. (I know I’m starting to overuse “amazing” in this blog, but when it fits, it fits.) We were on the Great Wall about two hours. We walked down the path back to the entrance rather than walk back to cable car, because we had walked so far on the wall, getting back to the cable cars was a longer walk than walking directly to the parking lot. Besides, when you’re descending, gravity is your friend.

When we got back to the parking lot, we ate the lunch that Ping has brought with him. Ping felt that the restaurants in that area of the Great Wall were suspect in terms of sanitation, so he asked us the day before what kind of sandwiches we would like from “Subway”. OK, we thought, we are having our first American Fast Food in China. Well, turns out Subway doesn’t open until 10 a.m. (well after we left for our drive to the Great Wall), so Ping purchased sandwiches instead from the 7-11 Store, which he reminded us is open 24 hours. While not quite Subway quality, by the time we had hiked the Great Wall and back to the parking lot, we were hungry and so we gratefully gobbled down Ping’s 7-11 sandwiches and the apple that Holly had just finished purchasing at the end of her unsuccessful negotiation. She paid 10 Yuan for the apple, about $1.70, but it was a really big one. We ate in the back seat of the car – no picnic tables. Holly remarked that we had to come all the way to Chine to eat our first 7-11 sandwiches.

Here are some more Great Wall photos I couldn’t resist posting:

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