Exploring the GREAT WALL OF CHINA: The Monumental Symbol of the Awakened Giant

THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA. Whether in black and white, this megastructure is pretty great to look at!

Going to this megastructure has always been a dream of mine. Imagine my happiness when I’ve finally went here just recently! Dubbed as one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World,” and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Great Wall of China is an amazing architectural wonder. Many people have claimed decades ago that it’s the only man-made structure that can be seen by the naked eye in outer space. However, scientists have said that generally, the Great Wall is hard to see and photograph from outer space because the material from which it was made has similar color and texture as the area surrounding it. Small segments of the wall, though, can be photographed under the right sets of conditions. Nevertheless, whether seen or not from the outer space, the Great Wall of China remains one of the most impressive structures humans have constructed.

REAL ENTRANCE
REAL ENTRANCE to the Great Wall. Once you enter the gate towards a certain section of the Great Wall, you still have to walk a mile or two before you can finally reach it. This is the actual entrance towards the Jinshanling Great Wall.

In this blog, I will help you prepare should you decide to go here in the Great Wall. I went here with my good friend, Gerard (IG: @gerardonduty), so I had someone to share the expenses with. Let’s start by giving you a good description of this popular Chinese travel destination.

THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA.
THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA. Undoubtedly the most popular travel destination in this massive country is this magnanimous 21,196-kilometer wonder!

THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA

Fast facts about the Great Wall:

  1. The Great Wall of China stretches for about 21,196.18 kilometers. However, it wasn’t always that long. It started only as fortifications built with tamped earth and stones by various states during the pre-imperial China.
  2. It was Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of a unified China, who connected these fortifications in 221 BC. Historians say that aside from being a defensive system against the nomads, the walls were built to indicate expansions of the Chinese territory and their desire to safeguard their recent territorial acquisitions.
  3. Geography is one of the main reasons why the Chinese and the nomads conflicted against each other from way before. People in the northern frontier of China as well as Mongolia would depend on trade as they were animal herders who could not afford to be stationary. When denied trade by the settled societies, they would resort to raiding and even conquering lands. Hence, the need for fortifications arose.
  4. The whole construction of the Great Wall took about 2,500 long years: from the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) to 1878 during the late Qing Dynasty (that lasted from 1644 -1911).
  5. The Great Wall we see today was mostly built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), whose people rebuilt much of the wall in stone and brick.
  6.  It was first listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 1987.
  7. The famous sections of the Great Wall are as follows: Badaling, Mutianyu, Juyongguan, Jinshanling, Simatai, Gubeiko, Shanhai Pass, and Jiankou.
QIN SHI HUANG. Or is it him? I can only assume that with this striking image while we were about to enter the entrance of the Great Wall. As Qin Shi Huang is credited as the the first emperor of the unified China and connected the fortifications that would be called the Great Wall, it would be fitting if this was created in his honor.
Some sections
SOME SECTIONS of the Great Wall are not fully restored. This is why you should think carefully on where to go if you want to travel here.

Things to remember when going to the Great Wall:

1. Which part do you want to go to?

To help you decide, here are the different parts of the Great Wall that you can visit. Basing from China Highlights,  I have listed a description for each, as well as how far it is from Beijing. These are key factors on your travel in the Great Wall.

Great Wall section Description Distance from Beijing/ Travel time from Beijing
Mutianyu Described as the most magnificent section because of its full restoration. It’s also the most popular among foreigners and the most child-friendly section. 73 km away from Beijing/

1.5 hour- drive

Badaling Said to be the most popular section among Chinese tourists 72 km away from Beijing/

2-hour drive

Juyongguan One of the greatest wall forts 60 km away from China/

1.5-hour drive

Jinshanling The most popular Great Wall hiking route. Described as half restored and half wild. 154 km away from Beijing/

2- to 3-hour drive

Simatai This is the only Great Wall section open for a night tour. 120 km away from Beijing/

2- to 3-hour drive

Gubeiko Described as a wild wall and an ancient battle site 146 km away from Beijing/

2-hour drive

Shanhai Pass This is where the Great Wall meets the sea. 286 km away from Beijing/

3.5-hour drive

Jiankou Described as totally wild, this section is said to be the most challenging one due to its steepness. 100 km away from Beijing

3-hour drive

Huanghuacheng Said to have a perfect scenery of the wall against a magnificent lake 75 km away from Beijing/

1.5-hour drive

Huangyaguan A Great Wall marathon is reported to be held here every May. 115 km from Beijing/

2- to 3-hour drive

ENTRANCE TO THE GREAT WALL. This is the gate where we started our hike towards the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall.

2. How much should you prepare?

Entrance fees vary from section to section. Some parts of the Great Wall are more expensive than the others.

Here’s the list of the ticket prices in the major sections of the Great Wall of China (as of December 2019):

Great Wall section Entrance fee
Badaling CNY 40/ P290 (April 1 to Oct. 31)

CNY 35/ P254 (Nov. 1 to March 31)

Mutianyu CNY 40/ P290
Juyongguan CNY 45/ P326 (April 1 to Oct. 31)

CNY 40/ P290 (Nov. 1 to March 31)

Jinshanling CNY 65/ P472 (April 1 to Oct. 31)

CNY 55/ P399 (Nov. 1 to March 31)

Simatai CNY 40/ P290
Gubeiko CNY 25/ P181
Shanhai Pass Old Town part and Great Wall Museum– Free

First Pass under Heaven

CNY 40/ P290 (May to October)

CNY 15/ P109 (Nov to April)

Of course, you can opt to avail travel tours for less hassle. Travel agencies offer about CNY 500 to 1000 (roughly P3,600 to P7,200) for a whole day tour, complete with transportation, meals and entrance fees. Travel apps such as Klook also offer travel tours that range from P1,500 and up. The price would depend on the travel package you would choose.

TRANSPORTATION IN CHINA. The cheapest way to travel to the Great Wall is by using the subway and bus. You can ride the taxis or private cars but they are a lot more expensive.

With these things in mind, which one would you choose, DIY travel to the Great Wall or travel agency package tour? Let me enlighten you with the advantages and disadvantages of these two.

RUINS.
RUINS. Here is Gerard as he poses in a ruined section of the Great Wall.
JINSHANLING WOULD REQUIRE HOURS OF HIKING.
JINSHANLING WOULD REQUIRE HOURS OF HIKING. That’s why you have to prepare to get tired when you decide to go here!

The main selling point of tour packages is accessibility. You need not worry about getting to the Great wall because you would be picked up in your hotel, transferred to the Great Wall section of your choice, then dropped off again in your hotel. The disadvantage here is, you’d most likely be touring with other tourists, which may not be very ideal if you want to take your time touring the place. You’d have a specific number of hours traveling, which may limit your exploration. Aside from that, tour packages are relatively more expensive.

BRINGING YOUR FAMILY IN THE GREAT WALL?
BRINGING YOUR FAMILY IN THE GREAT WALL? I suggest you take travel tours for less hassle. This is a picture showing a family of Chinese tourists in the Great Wall.

Now, let’s talk about the DIY travel to the Great Wall. Main advantages include less expenses and more time exploring. You’d just have to exert more effort: planning on your route and commuting via subway, bus or private car. The tendency to get lost and get lost in translation is higher. But don’t fret! With careful planning and execution, a DIY trip to the Great Wall is not only achievable. It can also be so enjoyable and fun!

SWEET CHINESE LADY. We were about to exit the Great Wall when a Chinese lady asked us to buy some refreshments. We obliged after she lowered the price of the drinks we wanted to avail.

3. What do you bring during your travel in the Great Wall?

You have to bear in mind that you always have to carry with you your passport (they ask for it in the entrance), money (You need to pay, don’t you?) and your phone (you can actually use payment apps to pay for fees). Your phone can always come in handy especially when you’re online, which is why I’d recommend for you to purchase a sim card at the airport or avail one in stores (you can also avail it on Klook). Being online allows you to browse the Internet should you need help while traveling to and from the Great Wall. It can also help you browse your map apps. Most importantly, you can use apps that can translate Chinese to English and vice versa should you encounter difficulty talking to people around!

WEAR WINTER CLOTHES
WEAR WINTER CLOTHES WHEN YOU GO HERE IN WINTER. I can’t emphasize that enough because you’re really going to feel cold when you don’t!

4. What do you wear when going here?

It is necessary to be mindful of your clothes when going here. Wear according to the season. You don’t want to be wearing winter clothes during summertime, do you? Likewise, you’d have to be prepared when you go here during winter. It’s definitely important that you wear your jackets and coats because the cold can be too much to bear! For a guide on what to wear accordingly, I came up with this list of the seasons and the appropriate clothes for each:

  • Spring happens from April to May. You may wear your hoodies, thin sweaters or shirts. Average temperature during spring is 14 to 20 degrees Celsius.
  • Summer is from June to August. You might want to wear comfortable, summer clothes. Shirts, short sleeves may do. Average temperature during summer is 24 to 28 degrees Celsius.
  • Autumn happens from September to October. Autumn here is already cold, so do not forget to bring a jacket or coat. Average temperature during autumn is 13 to 20 degrees Celsius.
  • Winter is from November to March. You won’t last here without your winter clothes! Bring two or more! Why? The average temperature during winter is -4 to -5 degrees Celsius!
ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL
ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL places I have ever been is the Great Wall of China, which is a real standout among all of this country’s travel destinations!

Going to Jinshanling Section of the Great Wall of China

Now, should you decide to follow on our footsteps (haha) and go to what is said to be the most grueling section of the Great Wall (because it is apt for hikers), let me help you on how to go to Jinshanling.

I have read many blogs detailing how to go here. What we planned on doing didn’t entirely happen, but we got to adjust along the way. Here is the list of steps that we were supposed to follow:

  1. Ride the subway and head to Wangjing West Subway Station. Take the Subway Line 13 and get out of Exit B. Walk down the bridge to the left side and proceed to the bus station.
  2. In the bus station, ride the bus going to Luanping. It is said that the buses here go by schedule every hour from 7 AM to 4 PM. Bus fee is CNY32 or P231.
  3. Get off the bus in Jinshanling highway service station. From here, ride the shuttle bus that is bound to the East Gate or the main gate of Jinshanling. The shuttle bus ride is reportedly free of charge before, but now isn’t.
  4. Once in the East Gate or the main gate, make your way to the Jinshanling Great Wall!
  5. Going back to Beijing is supposed to be the same way. Wait for the shuttle bass in the gate. Ride the bus and get dropped off in Jinshanling highway service station. Then ride the bus en route to Beijing.
LATE AUTUMN/ EARLY WINTER
LATE AUTUMN/ EARLY WINTER. I love this part of the Great Wall. The reddish brown leaves of the trees make a dramatic image signifying late autumn and the start of winter.

Here’s another way of going to Jinshanling, which is what we actually did:

  1. We rode the subway and headed to Wangjing West Subway Station. We took the Subway Line 13 and got out of Exit B. We walked down the bridge to the left side and proceeded to the bus station.
  2. Instead of riding the bus, we rode a van that was supposed to go directly to Jinshanling. We paid 50 yuan each.
  3. We were dropped off somewhere near the west gate of Jinshanling. We thought it was already near, but we were mistaken. We had to ride a taxi to go there. Now, the plan was for the taxi driver to wait for us on the east gate so he could accompany us in the meeting point set by the driver in the van we rode in. The fare was supposed to be 100 yuan.
  4. We reached the west gate of Jinshanling and took our time exploring the place!
  5. Going back, what we planned on doing did not push through again. The driver of the van did not go back as planned. The last bus ride that was supposed to be our second option has reportedly left earlier than usual (2:30 PM instead of 4:30 PM). Thankfully, three of the passengers we talked to in the van while going were also still there. And with their help (and nudging, actually), we were able to ask our taxi driver to take us to the farthest station of the Beijing subway, which was actually 150 km away! Our group paid 600 yuan in full.
HUGE BRICKS.
HUGE BRICKS. If you’re going to think about it, it’s pretty amazing how the Great Wall came to be, ‘no? Imagine putting these huge blocks of stones centuries ago!

Our original plan of going might not have pushed through, we took risks and still pursued on going. IT WAS WORTH IT AFTER EXPERIENCING THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA FOR OURSELVES!

QUIETUDE.
QUIETUDE. This photo was taken while inside one of the towers in the Great Wall. I love how the light was passing through the window emanating what’s inside while still giving us a glimpse of the surrounding mountains.

***

How was the blog post, guys? Did I miss something? I hope you were able to learn a lot! Get inspired and head to China and visit the Great Wall! I’m telling you, it’s going to be worth your time and resources! Enjoy!

ETCHED IN HISTORY
ETCHED IN HISTORY. The Great Wall of China is a great place to go to while in Beijing. Don’t hesitate to go here when you can!

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