Saturday, January 12, 2013

China Day 2 Morning - The Great Wall

We all met for an early breakfast in the hotel and then joined our tour guide, Lisa, and our driver in the lobby to begin our day. 

Some photos of the lobby. It looks very warm and cozy but, in reality, it was surprisingly quite chilly. I must say that there were very few times in China when I was comfortably warm. 
Shiv and Kevin discussing our day's activities.
 Jan and the kids ready for the cold. Not.
The plan for this day was to drive to and hike around a section of the Great Wall in the morning, drive to have lunch in a village nearer to the Summer Palace and then end our day with a visit to the Summer Palace.

I won't go into too much detail but here is some very basic info about the Great Wall, really just enough to give you an idea as to how massive the Wall is/was. For the most part, the Great Wall was built along an east to west line across the historical borders of northern China. Its purpose was to protect the Chinese Empire against invasions by foreign peoples and forces. The Great Wall stretches from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Lake in the west, along an path that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia. Archaeological surveys have determined that the Ming walls measure about 8,850 km or 5, 500 miles. This distance includes 6,259 kilometers (3,889 miles) of sections of actual wall, 359 kilometers (223 miles) of trenches and 2,232 kilometers (1,387 miles) of natural defensive barriers such as hills and rivers. Another survey determined that the all of the branches of the entire Wall measure out to be 21,196 kilometers or 13,171 miles. 

The section of the Great Wall that Lisa took us to was called, "Mutianyu" which was 70 kilometers (45 miles) northeast of central Beijing and about a 90 minute drive from our hotel. This section is one of the best preserved parts of the Great Wall and is not as heavily touristed as the other restored sections (Badaling, Simatai and Gubeikou) that are closer to Bejing. 

To give you an idea of the different sections of the Wall...

The following is adapted from

"Located in Huairou County about 45 miles from Beijing, this section of the wall was first built in Northern Qi Dynasty (550 - 557). In the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), this section of the wall was rebuilt it in order to strengthen its defensive potential and it served as the northern protective screen, guarding the capital and imperial mausoleums for generations.
The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall winds 1.4 miles through lofty mountains and high ridges, many sections of which are made of granite. The unique structure makes the wall almost indestructible. It measures 23 to 26 feet high and four to five yards wide. Both of the wall's inner and outer sides have parapets to defend against enemies coming from the two sides. Some parapets are saw-tooth shaped instead of the regular rectangular form. Below the parapets, there are square embrasures the top of which are designed in an arc structure, different from the traditional round embrasures.There are 22 watch towers distributed at close intervals along the wall."
This is a map of the Mutianyu section that was posted in the parking area.
In order to get from the parking area to the top of the Wall (and back down again), we rode in a surprisingly modern cable car. 

The cable car took us very high up over the mountains and we had a great view of the Wall & the surrounding area. The Wall looked so tiny on top of these huge mountains!
Lots of photos from on top of the Great Wall. There were amazing views and sights in every direction.

Our group. 
The photo below is a close up of the Chinese characters (slightly visible above Jim's head in the photo above) that are inscribed on the mountain adjacent to the Wall. I wish I could remember what Lisa told us the exact translation of the characters is but I can't and I haven't been able to find anything about them on the internet. I do remember the translation being something to the effect of always being loyal and true to Mao Zedong. 
Lisa, our fabulous tour guide.
Family photo.
The Great Wall.


 The surrounding area.

On the Wall.
The kids and I didn't last too long in the cold so while the others continued to hike, we took the cable car down to the village and found a (somewhat) warm cafe and had a cup of hot cocoa.

At the base of this section of the Wall, there is a little village (also named Mutianya) that is recognized by the Chinese government as being a model village because of its rebirth from the growth of tourism and glassware industries. This village is "twinned" with the village of Shelbourne Falls in Massachusetts.

Looking up the street from the parking area towards the cable car access point. 
Camels wandering in the streets.
Not a MacDonald's in sight (surprisingly) but there was a Subway that sold, in addition to the typical Subway fare, a wide selection of regional Chinese favorites. 
Vendors selling all kinds of souvenirs as well as heavy coats, "fur" hats, scarves and gloves lined the sides of the streets. The vendors were very aggressive in trying to persuade us to purchase something and, to me, that was a real turn off. In trying to sell their wares, the vendors weren't above following us, grabbing on to our coats or standing in front of us so we couldn't pass. We soon found out that this aggressiveness is quite common in China and we were subjected to it at almost every "tourist" area we visited.  
One vendor did make me laugh though. He was incredibly insistent about me buying "I Hiked The Great Wall" t-shirts for the kids and I. I kept shaking my head "no" but he continued to badger me so I told him very sharply that I wasn't interested. The instant he heard me speak and realized that I was an American, he quickly flipped the t-shirt over to show me a photo of President Obama screened on the reverse. I still can't quite figure out the connection between "I Hiked The Great Wall" and President Obama but I did almost buy a shirt from him, if only to acknowledge his creativity. 

I was going to post about our entire Day 1 activities but it has taken me a long time just to write this portion about that Great Wall so I will post about our visit to the Summer Palace tomorrow. 

Have a great Saturday!

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