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Great Wall/photography

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Would visiting 2 sections of the Great Wall be worthwhile? I am particularly interested in getting great photos of a place I have really wanted to see in person. I would like to go to the Mutianyu section and possibly Badaling (I know it is much more crowded, but it seems easier to get there than other sections on a short trip). Are there any other sections that are more worthwhile?

I will be traveling by myself, female, late 30s. Will be coming from Korea. Don't speak Chinese. I can only make a short trip, probably around 3 nights. I am not as interested in the sights in Beijing. I would also like suggestions for other particularly photogenic attractions nearby. I prefer nature things over city things.

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    I visited the Great Wall at Badaling and Huangyaguan. I'm glad I saw both, but with a 3 night stay, I can't imagine that the time and energy it took to get to a 2nd section of the Wall would be worth it. But that, of course, depends on what interests you. Mutianyu is (at least) relatively easy to reach, unlike Huangyaguan.

    > I am particularly interested in getting great photos of a place I have really wanted to see in person

    I can definitely understand that! Are there other places in/around Beijing that you have really wanted to see?


    > I am not as interested in the sights in Beijing. I would also like suggestions for other particularly photogenic attractions nearby. I prefer nature things over city things.

    Several options come to mind, although I'm a little reluctant to endorse any very strongly, as I'm not sure any of them will meet your expectations.

    1) Several of Beijing's attractions, such as the Summer Palace and Beihai Park, have some lovely reasonably natural spaces - waterways and fields and trees and (depending on the season) flowers and birds.... I don't know why these sights would not interest you. Similarly, I spent some time in the Temple of Heaven when the ground was covered with gorgeous blue-purple flowers and large black/white/grey birds and the only other people around were a few picniking couples and I couldn't see a single bit of any of the temple structures until I walked quite a bit further. Too, photogenic corners of places like Fayuan Si and the Lama Temple, where trees and flowers cluster around temple buildings or statuary, seem worthy destinations to me. Even the Forbidden City has some snatches of nature! But these are all "sights in Beijing."

    2) Tai Shan - with its many temples and shrines, it is a reasonably scenic place. Depending on the weather, you might be fortunate enough to catch some impressive vistas from the top of the mountain over the surrounding countryside. And depending on the season, you might encounter an interesting (and photogenic) array of geologic formations, trees, flowers, shrubs, insects, etc. - all surrounded by temples, shrines, and historically significant calligraphy on rock formations. I believe some people visit Tai Shan as a day trip from Beijing; I'm not sure they could do so if they are taking the time to capture their experience (or even the most special images) on film; for that an overnight stay might be necessary.

    3) Chengde - the Mountain Resort has some lovely areas - ponds and fields and forests and (in season) masses of water lilies surrounded by schools of reddish-gold koi and patches of iris, and grazing deer, etc. - in many cases, with lovely pavilions in the background - and all in carefully contrived areas designed for the emperor's pleasure. It takes about 2 days to visit from Beijing (i.e., it is really hard to do without an overnight stay). It met my criteria for enjoyment; I don't know if it will meet your criteria for photogeneity.

    > Don't speak Chinese.

    I visited these places with very little Chinese language - I could manage basic civilities, but not much more. As JPDeM recently said on another thread, "I think that a tourist only needs to learn three expressions; hello (ni hao), thank you (xiexie) and I don't want any (bu yao), this last one to get rid of annoying salespeople."


    In all honesty, with only about 3 nights, I would urge you to consider visiting some carefully selected "sights" in Beijing. But visiting whatever you choose to visit should be manageable, even if you are traveling solo and don't speak Chinese.

    Hope that helps!

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    Thank you, kja, that really helps! I guess I should clarify that the main point of going to China for a short trip is to see the Great Wall before I move away from Asia. I love photography, so I particularly want some great photos of the Great Wall. Since I can't be away very long, I think it is much more practical to spend the other days at sights in Beijing. I am particularly interested in the most scenic sections of the Great Wall for photos within a reasonable distance (no more than 3 hours drive) from Beijing and I want to know whether it is worthwhile to see more than 1 section. Would it all look the same after awhile? I like the photos of the wall snaking over the mountains. I see on tripadvisor that Huangyaguan is highly rated as well. Is it better for photography than Mutianyu?

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    One of the reasons I chose to go to Badaling, despite the crowds, is that I came to believe that it is the site that has the most extensive vistas of the wall snaking over mountains. I'm not saying that is a fact; I'm just saying that's what I came (rightly or wrongly) to believe. Certainly, I found that one can see the Wall snaking over mountains in MANY directions from the Wall at Badaling. I didn't see Mutianyu, so I can't offer a comparison.

    The things that I learned about that set some sections of the Wall apart from others include:
    a) How much the wall "snakes" as seen from the vantage points
    b) How easily one can reach the section of the Wall
    c) Reconstructed or more-or-less original?
    d) Fully double-sided or with single-sided sections?

    If the Wall is your primary interest, you might want to consider hiking the section between Jinshanling and Simatai. I didn't do that, but others on this board have done so - just copy one of these names into the search box above and see what pops up! Or check other sites. My impression is that it might be what you are seeking - if you are willing to devote a day or even 2 to the effort.

    Enjoy!

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    We've been to both Mutinyao (in July, very hot) and last October to Badaling, travelling by the public bus. The normal Sunday bus to Mutinyao was not going last October - would have gone there again if it were.

    My thoughts are - both are extremely photogenic, Mutinyao best for climbing photos taken on the Wall, but in Badaling you can get great photos without the climbing.

    We caught the cable car to Mutinyao ,climbed up four or five towers on the wall, and cable car back. I have wall photos with no other travellers, and we had a delightful picnic on the wall, almost by ourselves. We didn't go anywhere near the slide, which may have been crowded. It was very tiring because of the heat, but exhilarating and really wonderful. I wanted to repeat the experience! The trip itself is interesting too.

    Catching the bus to Badaling was cheap, fun and easy, from near Tiananmen Square (south). We don't speak Chinese either, and are seniors.The entry to the wall, not included in the ticket, was also very cheap. But we decided to just enjoy it without actually climbing the Wall, because it was so crowded - looked like a hoard of ants in either direction. Being jostled along as you climb is not my idea of fun. But even from the entrance area, the view is spectacular and the snaking effect in either direction can be appreciated without climbing the Wall at all.

    So I think it depends on how far you want to climb, to get away from the crowds. Both are reconstructed, unless you do lots of climbing.

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    I’d recommend Jinshanling WITH AN OVERNIGHT. Kja also mentioned an overnight. I had a driver booked from Beijing and joined 3 other people. Here is an excerpt from a report I did. The first 17 photos in this link were taken at Jinshanling with just a P&S 3x optical zoom.

    http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=k8fpf01.ijgibox&x=0&y=-14izls

    By afternoon we departed for our overnight adventure on The Great Wall, a 3-hour drive from Beijing, which included one minor fender bender en route. Upon arrival at Jinshanling, as that section of the Wall is known, the driver bid us farewell to stay overnight in the village. We started our ascent to our overnight watchtower on The Wall with the wife of the husband and wife team who oversaw the sleep-on-The-Wall operation. She led us up recently made steps for about 20 minutes until we reached a point where we could enter The Wall. The next 20-minute climb to our watchtower destination was far more interesting because we were actually walking ON the ancient Wall.

    Eventually we reached our watchtower accommodations and met the husband of the husband of the caretakers of The Wall. He offered us a variety of snacks and beverages. For the remainder of the late afternoon and early evening we became acquainted with The Wall, hiking from tower to tower and enjoying the view. After watching the sunset, a delicious dinner was delivered (true Chinese takeout!) and we dined on plastic furniture atop the tower. A table with a view!

    A mat and sleeping bag were provided for each of us and we could sleep most anywhere in a couple of watchtowers, which were covered and protected from rain. No rain for us. Two of us opted for the second story of one of the watchtowers, which was open to the stars. For the remainder of the trip I was reminded of that wonderful experience under the stars by numerous itchy bug bites. The next morning I got up at 4:15 am to hike on The Wall before the heat and humidity became overwhelming. Doing tai chi on The Great Wall at sunrise seemed fitting. There were miles of uninterrupted wall that could be viewed and hiked in solitude. Some of it was crumbling, but much was in excellent condition. I was quite comfortable hiking alone because even with my poor sense of direction, I knew I couldn’t get lost on a wall that goes only forward and backward. A breakfast of ramen noodles was delivered bout 7:00 am.

    There are no toilet or water facilities, but bottled water and other beverages are free of charge. There are sections where you can descend the wall and reach the ground when nature calls. Flashlights are provided.

    My travel agent summed it up when he described the overnight at Jinshanling as a “World Class!” Indeed it was!

    We departed The Wall in the morning and drove back to Beijing…

    Enjoy the Great Wall!

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    atravelynn, your photos are beautiful, just the type of scenery I am hoping to capture. What month were you there? I will be traveling mid-end of March, so I suspect it would be too cold to camp on the wall? How much time did you actually have for exploring the wall if you got there in the evening and left the next morning? What company did you use and how did you find them? Cost? I am intrigued by this option, but I am worried it would be too uncomfortable.

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