Great Wall of China
Chinese Great Wall Badaling Tour
Great Wall of China is one of the highlights of a trip to China. From Beijing to Badaling, one of the closest access points, it's only 50 km (31 miles) by expressway. The Chinese Great Wall tour at Badaling can be booked from your hotel.
Great Wall of China Trail at Badaling
From the Shanhaiguan Pass near the Bohai Sea, west to the Jiayuguan Pass in the Gobi Desert, the Great Wall covers some 6,000 kilometres (3,728 feet).
This section shown here is at Badaling, and dates from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Increasingly, tours from Beijing visit the Great Wall at Juyongguan (also called Nan Pass), which is the same area as the more northerly Badaling, and should help ease congestion.
Tours from Beijing typically stop at Badaling for about an hour and a half. If you have time, make it to the view point near the top and have your photo taken to document this feat.
The Badaling Expressway runs northwest from Beijing about 50 kilometres (31 miles) to this section of the Wall.
Tours to Badaling may be part of a full-day tour that also includes other attractions like the nearby Ming Tombs, the Temple of Heaven, and factory tours and demonstrations by artisans in jade, pearls and cloisonne.
Climbing the Stairs at the Chinese Great Wall Badaling
If you intend to climb the stairs at the Great Wall, do yourself a favour and get in shape before you travel.
The stairway is quite steep, and one step may be just a few inches higher than the one before it, or as much as 12 inches higher, giving one's legs a good workout.
Fit travellers breeze up the heights. The vast majority are hauling themselves up by the handrail, pausing often, and breathing hard.
With only a short time allocated for the stop, you won't make it very far unless you are in shape.
For my second visit -- in the chill winds of mid-February -- I packed a windproof and waterproof jacket, and a fleece jacket, fleece hat and fleece mittens.
They didn't take up a lot of room in my suitcase or day pack, but added immeasurably to the enjoyment level of the climb.
Even hanging around the parking lot is interesting. Listen to the tour guides addressing their groups in whichever language is required.
I heard Swedish, English, German and French. Hotel breakfast buffets are just as accommodating of foreign cuisines.
New and Old Section of Great Wall of China
This close-up photo shows a section of the original wall, and the rebuilt upper portion.
As well as damage from wind and water over the years, sections of the Great Wall were damaged between 1970 and 1974, when stones were used to construct barracks and farm buildings.
You can go into the narrow sentry towers -- regularly-spaced battlements that were beacon towers -- and climb up tiny stairs inside to get a panoramic view from the top.
There are no handrails on the stairs, so to keep my balance, I had to walk sideways, braced with one hand on the stair wall in front of me and my back against the opposite wall.
On a chilly days only hinting at winter storms, it's hard to imagine the harsh conditions endured by long-ago sentries and soldiers.
Saving the Great Wall of China - Resotration at Badaling
The top part of this part of the Great Wall shows new concrete capping an old section to save it from crumbling further.
In October, when I took this picture, the leaves on the trees in the valley below were just starting to change colour.
September, October and November often offer the best weather, making them busy months for tourists.
As well, the Mid-Autumn Festival (Moon Festival), a moveable feast, is celebrated in late September or early October.
Many 'Overseas Chinese' travel to China for this 'Chinese Thanksgiving', and airport traffic is very heavy.
And October 1 is China's National Day, a national holiday when many Chinese are travelling around the country as well.
Restored Great Wall Lookout - Badaling China
As you can see in the photo, this Chinese Great Wall lookout tower has been rebuilt.
I took this shot to remember the vast distances the Great Wall covers, as well as how high the vantage points are.
In the valley below, bright orange persimmons were ripe for the picking.
If you would like to spend more time walking the Great Wall at Badaling, hire a private tour guide/driver and car.
It may also be possible to come here with one group in the morning and return late afternoon with another.
Most large hotels have an on-site tour office to help with this.
Great Wall Development and Construction at Badaling China
The development at the base of the wall had easily trebled in the two year interval beween my visits.
I imagine its vastly different than shown in this photo.
While there are other places to access and climb the wall, they are a greater distance from Beijing.
There's a section of Great Wall across the valley as well.
One day, I want to spend at least a full day here, and climb this further section to see into the valley beyond.
At the bottom of the Chinese Great Wall Stairs
At the base of the Badaling access to the Great Wall climbs, there are new tea houses and shops, and condo developments.
When China hosted the 2008 Olympics, construction proceeded rapidly and many more amenities are now available.
I have to wonder, though, if the small market vendors have been pushed aside, leaving only pricier options for buying mementos and snacks.
Great Wall Tea House at Badaling China
This tea house is part of the new development.
Recommended Books : Paul Theroux's Riding The Iron Rooster is his account of a train journey through China.
Theroux criss-crosses the country from Mongolia to Tibet.
If you're aware of the new high speed train line from Beijing to Tibet, you'll better appreciate its impact after reading about the final drive to Tibet, which took place before the opening of this rail line.