The Great Wall
I am disappointed with the photo CD from Wolf Camera and plan to scan better versions of the pictures later.

On June 17th, Nick and I visited the Great Wall.  Our guidebooks recommended the Simitai (instead of the Bidaling) section, because Simitai has fewer tourists, better views, and more unreconstructed, original portions of the Wall.

The ride to Bidaling took around 3 hours and the bus was more crowded than I thought possible.  After every seat was filled, the center aisle (that you would run down if you needed to make a quick exit) was filled with additional, retractable seats.  After more than two and a half hours of driving, the guide instructed the driver to stop at a roadside cafe, purportedly for a "restroom break".   If you'd like, I can relay the Great Wall Bathroom Tale in person.  To give you a general idea, it involves feces and giant, leaping maggots.  We didn't know it then, but we were only ten minutes away from cheaper food and much cleaner bathrooms at the wall itself. 

At the wall, I was surprised to discover the ubiquity of food and drinks.  You can hike three miles along the Great Wall and, next to one of the aged towers, encounter an ad hoc cafe with a freezer,  bowls of instant noodles and a television.  The unexpected commercialism disrupts the experience and diminishes the sense of escape and untouched nature.  However, it also means you don't have to carry food and drinks for a hike.  Ever.  

Along your trek, you acquire travel companions that Nick dubbed "self-appointed guides".  They attach themselves to tourists, provide information and try to capitalize on a sense of gratitude and obligation by selling postcards and other souvenirs.  Many travelers seemed to dislike their newfound travel companions and found a way to shake them.  I didn't mind them -- they kept me from getting lost and provided helpful information.  

The views along the wall are spectacular and convey the sense of adventure, serenity and history that I hoped for.  As you climb from tower to tower, you get clearer views of the wall winding to the west and fading into mist covered hills.  

  



The mongol hordes are coming!  Quick, get Mulan!

 

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