The Great... Triumph @ Mutianyu
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
35Trip End Mar 28, 2010
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What some people don't realize is how many points you can approach the
1) Badaling - Most tourists go here. It's close; only about 1 hour away and is the most "famous."
2) Mutianyu - Less tourists go here. This is where my brother and I decided to go. It's the same distance as Badaling but is not crowded. And it has some of the older parts not yet restored which can be seen too. To get up there's a cable car (we didn't use this!) and even better, to get down, there's a sledging track
3) Simatai - The least amount of tourists go here - mainly because it's the farthest to reach, ~2hr ride. But from here you can do a 10+ km hike to another point called Jinshanling. Or vice versa. There's also something called the Flying Fox zip line which goes from the top down. I will probably try to do the next time that I am there.
The day that we went it was snowing. The wall wasn't covered but there were spots where the snow had not yet melted. On the one hand, this added charm to the wall. It wasn't monochrome anymore. On the other hand, it meant that climbing was extra challenging. The steps on the wall ranged from "I need to use my hands to get up the stair" to "Wow, this is not long enough for my foot." Then add snow and ice. =) Of course, when we saw an elderly French couple traversing the wall unfazed, we realized that it was more than worth the trouble.
Sledging down was really really fun and I would recommend it to anyone who visits. It was interesting to go down without using the hand brake often and get yelled yet in Chinese, "Man yi dianr!" (this means, "Slow down!"). I also took a video which reminded me of Mario Kart. Oh the memories...
Overall, the Great Wall lived up to the great hype. Although it was more or less like I imagined, its grandeur can only be truly appreciated when actually there.