Some experiences last a lifetime; climbing the Great Wall of China is definitely one of them.
When we were planning our trip to China for October 2006, we knew that we would be visiting the Great Wall of China, but we did not know that we would be actually climbing it.
The Great Wall of China is an amazing historic treasure built by several dynasties beginning with the Qin Dynasty in the 3rd century and ending with the Ming Dynasty in the 17th century. It is the longest manmade structure in the world measuring 6,352 kilometers (3,948 miles), is one of the eight major scenic wonders of the world, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987.
Constructed as a defensive wall against invaders, the Great Wall was made of limestone, granite, brick, tree trunks, and even compacted earth, although only the stone portions of the wall remain. The Great Wall winds over the top of the mountains like a giant ribbon with a series of steps that lead to watchtowers and barracks.
Staying at the Commune By The Great Wall Kempinski in the Shuigan Mountains, we had our first experience seeing the Great Wall. A section of the Great Wall is located on the property of the hotel, and during our stay, we took a short walk from the hotel to begin our Great Wall of China adventure. Led by our butler, Pei, we climbed up a steep trail until we finally crested and had a glimpse of the Great Wall stretching out in front of us seemingly into infinity, and it was completely magical, because not often do you get to witness history to such magnitude.
The next day, our driver, Mr. Gao Feng, and our guide, Mr. Jia Lu of East Tours went to visit the Badaling section of the Great Wall, approximately 60 kilometers from the city center. This section of the wall, built in 1505, was an important defense for the Ming Dynasty, and is 7.8 meters on average in height with a width to accommodate five horses or ten people walking abreast.
The Great Wall
We visited during a national holiday, and the Great Wall was teeming with excitement, as national and foreign tourists young and old came to experience history. Although we thought we were just going to visit the Great Wall and take a few photographs, Mr. Jia Lu had other ideas for us. There is a famous Chinese quote, "Bú dà Chángchéng fĕi hăo hàn," (You are not a real man until you have climbed the Great Wall); hence, we had to climb the Great Wall.
The day started out sunny and cool as we began our adventure, however, by the time we started climbing up the extremely steep section of steps, we had shed our coats, and were taking regular breaks along the wall to capture the beauty, as well as photograph the stunning scenery. The imagery was like nothing we had ever seen, as we experienced a part of history. We continued climbing the stairs as they led us up the mountain, down into the valley and then back up again.
Debra and Edward Climbing the Great Wall
As we passed people along the way, we would exchange the greeting "Ni Hao" (Hello) and wave, and soon, the friendly people were asking us to pose with them and their families for photographs, which we readily did. We continued climbing the Great Wall sometimes having to pull ourselves up the extremely steep sections using the railing and making new friends along the way, for more than 4 kilometers (2.5 miles).
After our morning climb, our legs were a bit stiff, and we were more than happy when we found out that we could ride the train down from the Great Wall instead of walking down the mountain. Seated on a rollercoaster-like ride, we slowly made our way down the mountain taking photographs along the way, and savoring each moment of our very memorable journey.
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes if you plan to climb the Great Wall, and take a bottle of water with you. Summer Hours: 6:30 am - 7:00 pm, Winter Hours: 7:00 am - 6:00 pm. Admission is charged.
Read other articles on China in the Destinations, Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, Chefs' Recipes, and Spas sections.
For information on the Commune By The Great Wall Kempinski please visit: www.Kempinski-TheGreatWall.com, www.Commune.com.cn.
For information on the Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center please visit: www.Kempinski-Beijing.com.
For information on EAST Tours, please visit: www.East-Tours.com.
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