Wednesday, June 3, 2009

“The few wonders of the world only exist while there are those with the sight to see them.” - Charles de Lindt

Post by: Beth
(Gear up.. this one's long, but it's The Great Wall.. What else can I do?!)

Last Thursday was a holiday, so to make it a really long weekend, Raja took off Friday and we planned a trip to the capital of China: Beijing! We were lucky enough to have friends (Ada & Stefano) that were also considering that weekend for the same trip, so we got together, made travel plans, and then we were off!

I'm posting the obligatory trip to the The Great Wall of China first. I have to admit that on our vacations, I'm much less likely to get excited about the tourist-y activities that include staring at old buildings, monuments, and concrete creations. I much prefer exploring the more tucked away "souls" of each city... tiny bookstores, small cafes passed down through generations of family members, and I'll even vote for dinner/nightlife and shopping options over staring at a building alongside thousands of other tourists. I was forewarned by Raja to not try to feign sickness and secretly waste away my time in my bathtub reading my books (more on the bathtub to come in a later post) when it came time to visit the major tourist attractions in Beijing. Luckily, I was pretty enthusiastic about visiting The Great Wall... It's one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the weather was great that day, a tour with a guide had been arranged, and all four of us (Raja, myself, Ada, & Stefano) were going together.

A little background info:

First built in the 7th century B.C, rebuilt and maintained between the 6th century BC and the 16th century, the great wall was built to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire from Mongolian attacks during the rule of successive dynasties.

The Great Wall stretches over approximately 6,400 km (4,000 miles)from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Nur in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia, but stretches to over 6,700 km (4,160 miles) in total.

It was built by over a million people who happened to be peasants, prisoners and soldiers and thousands of them died in the process.

It used to be called the Ten Thousand Li Wall which referred to the wall’s length. (1 li equals half a kilometer or one third of a mile).

A list of facts can't come close to summing up how it feels and what it's like to climb a portion of this wall. We visited the Mutianya site, which is visited by less tourists, is a little further away, and is much less crowded than the popular Badaling section. In order to reach the site we wanted to visit, we rode in a chair lift for about 10 minutes, then were let off on the ground once we reached our site. From there, we climbed up hundreds of brick and stone steps to reach several watchtowers and explore the area.

Lots of photos to share... I don't think any of them TRULY capture the steepness of some of the walls, the vastness of the land around the site, the size of the mountains surrounding you, or the enormity of the wall itself, but hopefully it will give a general idea. :) It was an amazing experience... Hope you enjoy the photos!

Our first unobstructed view of the wall is depicted below. We drove up into the mountains for about 20 minutes or so before we got to the parking area. We could see little glimpsed of the wall every once in a while while driving up, but there was always forest or hills in the way, keeping it from being a very clear view.

Ada & Stefano getting onto the chair lift ahead of us:

In order to get back down the mountain to the main entrance of the wall area, you can take this huge slide that winds down and around. You operate the sled by pushing a large lever forward to go, pulling backwards to brake, and leaning left or right to turn. It's really fun, and a quick way to return to the bottom. You're not allowed to take pictures while sledding, but here are Stefano & Ada loading into their sleds.

I took this shot while we were riding up on the chair lifts. You can see this man sliding down the huge slide to get to the bottom:

We took all these stairs all the way to the last watch tower at this site, which you can see in this photo:

Looking up into a stairway to leads to the top of a watchtower:

Here, we're on top of one of the watch towers. You can follow that beige line snaking along behind us... That is the wall curving around the mountains. It seems to go on forever, in multiple directions!


Janet said...

Wow - amazing pictures. I'd love a go on that slide!

The Freeman Family said...

I am glad you decided to chose the Great wall over bathtub reading. It is the Great Wall.

Dave and Carrie Tyson said...

That was beautiful and amazing to see. Thank you for sharing your experience and pictures. Maybe one day I will get to see the enormity of the wall as well. I'm glad your trip went well.
Was the slide anything like bobsledding? =)

Rajinder said...

Beautiful pictures. Great job. Thanks.

Rajinder said...

Beautiful pictures. Great Job. Thanks.


Beth + Raja Gupta said...

Thanks for all the comments, you guys! :)
And yep, Carrie -- similar to bobsledding. It was lots of fun!