While planning our trip to China, Mrs. Selfish and I determined that a trip to the Great Wall was mandatory. I mean, how could you go to China and not visit the Great Wall, especially if you’re staying in Beijing?
After a little research we discovered that there are numerous sections of the Great Wall ripe for visiting, all in various states of disrepair. From Datong we could have visited a dilapidated section of the wall – it’s bricks stolen by local farmers to use as building materials – but the more famous sections are near Beijing.
The Great Wall is big business for the Chinese government, so sections near Beijing have been restored to match what they would have looked like back in the day. Instead of holding back throngs of Mongul hoards, however, many sections of the Wall now house throngs of Chinese tourists and hoards of Chinese merchants hawking crappy t-shirts and calendars.
With that in mind, Mrs. Selfish and I quickly settled on the Jingshanling section of the wall – and while we did spot a few hawkers, the wall was blissfully empty for the 6 hours we hiked its heights.
Getting to the Jingshanling
The Jingshanling section of the Great Wall is roughly 2 hours by car from Beijing, and is one of the hardest parts to reach. Many people book a tour or find a hostel shuttle. The tours are notorious for scams – they’ll either take you to a jade outlet for a “special price,” or even better will take you to a “doctor’s” office. The doctors analyze you for ailments(such as a susceptibility to scams), before prescribing you a very expensive cure – eastern medicine that they just happen to sell.
Mrs. Selfish and I decided to bypass that altogether and book a cab from our hotel. The cab ended up costing a whopping 1100 CNY for the full day, so I’m not entirely sure we got away scam-free.
Beijing traffic is apparently bad, so unless you leave really early, plan on leaving around 9am and hitting the Wall a little before lunch.
Whereas getting to the wall is quite expensive, the wall itself is quite cheap – with an entrance fee of 55 CNY to 65 CNY ($10.50) depending on the time of year you go. They also have a gondola that you can take up to the top for around 40 CNY per direction, which Mrs. Selfish and I opted to do to save more time for the wall itself.
The Great Wall
The Jingshanling section is stunning. While we did run into a few groups, there were several hours where we found ourselves alone. Jingshanling has been mostly restored, but large sections of the wall in the East and West are still in their original condition, which only enhances the otherworldliness of the whole experience.
Our walk around Jingshanling was moderate, with a lot of ups and downs, but wasn’t too strenuous. Had we had the time I would have wanted to hike to another section of the wall, but since this was our first time Mrs. Selfish and I opted to stay in Jingshanling, which is roughly 10.6 km in length.
If you’re coming to China I highly recommend a trip to the Great Wall. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, and one of the coolest experiences in my life.