How great is the Great Wall

Whilst this blog has been quiet over the last couple of weeks, things here certainly have been anything but.  I am not going to say too much about what has been happening as I don’t want to put the chickens before the cart horse carrying the eggs we aren’t counting yet and all that, but hopefully a wandering Brit will be a-wandering again sometime soon.  Fingers and toes crossed…

To remedy this today we are sharing some pictures of The Great Wall of China.  This is one of the rare places in the world where the name really doesn’t do the place justice.  Yes, it is a wall.  Yes, it is pretty great.  And yes, it is in China.  But it is so much more than the sum of it’s parts.  If you do get the chance to go, please, please avoid the tourist trap that is Badaling – it may be quicker and cheaper to get to, but sharing a once-in-a-lifetime moment with sixty thousand other people really isn’t worth it.

A good compromise between trekking out to the wilds and going somewhere that still allows you to get back to Beijing in time for beef noodles for dinner is Mutianyu.  If possible with time, patience and money, try to arrange to go with a private driver or small number of people, rather than a tour group.  That way you will avoid the inevitable stop in a factory making “traditional Chinese goods” and the pressure to buy that goes with it.  It should also mean an earlier start, a quicker arrival and more time alone, or almost alone on the wall itself.

On the three trips that I have made there, travelling with friends or colleagues, we always arrived early and stayed until dusk or as late as we were allowed.  The moments of peace that you get are amazing.  Being able to walk along the wall for several hours, without rushing or being on a timed trip is fantastic.  You really do get a feel for the beauty of the landscape and the reasoning behind why the wall is where it is in the first place.  The subtlety and craftsmanship of the wall is worth lingering over – even if it was only done last week in one of the interminable restorations that have taken place over the years.

Every trip has been made in a different season and the light and colours have changed with each trip.  From the starkness of winter light, creating sharp, hard shadows to the softness and richness of the autumn colours in the late afternoon every corner brought a new scene into view.  Personally I thought that winter was a great time to visit as the wall was almost deserted, but the winds and the sub-zero temperatures may put some people off.

At the end of it all, do visit if you have the chance.  You won’t regret the time of the effort if you do.

As always click through and enjoy the pictures in the gallery below.

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A long-term British expat - 17 years and counting

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Posted in Architecture, China, Heritage, Photography

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