While we stayed in Beijing, we had the opportunity to see one of the best known parts of the over 6000km long Great Wall in Badaling, which is about 70 km north of Beijing.
When we planned our stop in Beijing, it was mainly because we wanted to visit a good friend of ours who is currently living there. We didn’t even know that the Great Wall was only a short bus ride away. When we checked what places of the book are near Beijing, we instantly knew we would have to go and see the Great Wall, but we had no idea how to even get there.
Getting to the Great Wall
Since China is not the easiest country to travel, most western tourists don’t do individual travelling when they visit China. Instead they opt for a guided tour through China which most likely includes the Great Wall. Even most individual travelers and backpackers like us don’t go to the wall on their own, but instead the book a tour from Beijing.
We would have booked the tour also, but luckily we found a cheaper and more interesting way to get there. A guided tour would have cost at least 30€/person or 10€ if we would have taken the tour that includes many hours wasted with touring the different factories.
The cheaper option was to take the local bus to Badaling which only cost 2,40€/person (roundtrip). It took us a while to find the right bus, but we got there after an interesting 1 hour bus ride with Chinese tourists.
Getting the best experience at the Great Wall
Many people told us that although Badaling is the most beautiful part of the Great Wall, it is also the most touristic. So, we were prepared to share the place with loads of tourists. Luckily, the herd instinct of tourists helped us to get a great view without the tourists and even a few minutes with Great Wall all to ourselves.
After arriving at the Wall, we had the choice to take the (quite expensive) cable car to the top of the mountain to the right or to walk. Being on a budget, we decided to walk. For some reason – probably because of the aforementioned herd instinct – almost all visitors went to the right side of the wall. We decided to take the wall on mountain on the left.
The ascent to the top of mountain proved to be much tougher than expected, but exhausting hike up with the steep slope were rewarded with a spectacular view. From the top we could see the Great Wall making its way up the hills and down the valleys reminding us of a giant snake or a Chinese dragon.
After 1 1/2 hours there were only very few people left and we could feel what it must have felt like for a watchmen in the past to stand up there and be on the watch for the Mongolians from the north. Our dreamlike status was only interrupted every few minutes by other some lonely tourists and even a jogger, who probably was training for the Great Wall Marathon.
When we looked over to the right side of the mountain from our lonely spot we could see the Great Wall covered with what must have been thousands of tourists.
Is it really one of the 1000 places?
Although we’ve seen so many pictures and documentations about the Great Wall before, it was still very different than expected. The feeling you get when having this amazing view and the history that you start to image in your head can only experienced when you see the Great Wall of China with your own eyes.
This one is in the book for the right reasons and everyone should see this once in his life.