Great Wall - which section?

Old Sep 9th, 2001, 01:36 AM
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Great Wall - which section?

We are travelling to Beijing in two weeks time and plan to visit the Great Wall. Please can somebody advise me on which section to visit and how to get there. Also, are the Ming Tombs worth seeing?
Old Sep 9th, 2001, 05:00 AM
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Sure you will get lots of opinions. Hiking from Jinshanling to Simatai is the best. For the typical tourist visit Mutianyu is better than Badaling. Typically tours will take you to Badaling and the Ming Tombs. I was not at all impressed with the tombs, although my visit there was 10 years ago. I suspect they haven't changed.

E-mail me if you have other questions.


Old Sep 9th, 2001, 05:02 AM
just came back
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We liked Mutianyu. We talked our tour guide out of Badaling because we heard it was crowded. Mutianyu has a cable car at the Base if you want to ride up; otherwise, the walk is steep but well worth taking. What an incredible experience it is to walk on the Great Wall!
Old Sep 9th, 2001, 03:50 PM
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I've been to the Great Wall at Badaling (in 1995), and yes, it is the most popular tourist section of the wall. However, we didn't find any real crowds (I guess that would depend upon the day and time, however), and a short walk along the wall (less than a half mile will leave pretty much alone. The wall at Badaling (and the hills that it crosses) is beautiful, and some restoration has been done, but I've read that if you're willing to walk about a mile or so along the wall, you'll come to an unrestored section that remains open for those that want to hike it.
Next month (although probably too late to help you), I'll be going to Mutianyu, just to see a different section.
Old Sep 9th, 2001, 09:21 PM
John G
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I don't know what section of the Wall I went up on, but I do know it was the same section that President Clinton saw. I know this because I rode up in the same gondola he did. The gondola was marked in big red letters that he had ridden in it. (I kept looking at the seat to see if he left any stains.) But, anyway, that section was very quiet. There were only about 20 people up there, plus the few vendors selling hats and Coke. I can tell you that this was one of the most thrilling events of my life; I will never forget it. Have a good time. John G.
Old Sep 10th, 2001, 12:27 PM
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Hi Michael, Thanks for your comments and for everybody elses. I do have a few questions.
How long does it take to get to Jinshanling and is the only way of getting there by booking a private driver?
How far is it from Jinshanling to Simatai?
What are the differences between doing this walk and visiting Mutianyu. Is it just that it is less commercialised and if so, how different? We are only in Beijing for 3 and a half days and I want to make sure that we make the very best of our time. What other things would you recommend we do in the time we have available?
Old Sep 11th, 2001, 01:26 PM
Peter Neville-Hadley
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Jinshanling can be reached by public minibus from either Dongzhimen or Xizhimen long distance bus station. Xizhimen has more departures and more of the comfortable Iveco buses, or similar, in which you would probably prefer to ride.

You can take any bus heading to Chengde. The route is around the shore of a major reservoir and quite pretty. The journey time is about two hours, and the place to get off is clearly marked, although the driver and conductor will make sure you get off anyway. The cost is Y40, about US$5.

From there it's a pleasant 45 min walk through a small village and fields. Peasant transport may also offer to help. Pay no more than Y5.

The walking time to Simatai is usually given as three hours, but I did it in less, even stopping for a picnic. You pass altogether about 25 towers, depending on exactly which point you mount the wall.

Jinshanling is certainly less commercialised than Mutianyu, and the number of visitors far fewer. Jinshanling has been thoroughly rebuilt (as all the officially open sections have), but as you walk you quickly reach crumbling but stable sections, with more charisma. The wall strides away in two directions along ridge tops, and its course can be viewed for considerable distances.

At Simatai you may be asked to pay a second entrance fee, and you'll have to negotiate for minibus transport back to the main road, about 10km away. It's better only to go back to the main road, and not to take minibuses all the way to Miyun. You can flag down any bus passing on its way to Beijing.

There's nothing wrong with visiting Badaling, and as someone else said, with a little physical effort you can equally get away from the crowds. But if you're willing to give up a whole day, then Jinshanling to Simatai is likely to be more enjoyable overall. Be warned: all sites involve steep climbing if you want to go any distance. On the Jinshanling to Simatai route you can cut some corners if you wish, however.

Many visitors find the Ming Tombs disappointing. The Western and Eastern Qing Tombs are both more satisfying, but each also requires a day trip. Don't worry about missing the Ming Tombs.

Peter N-H
Information about Travel in China
Old Sep 12th, 2001, 12:28 PM
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It's best if you set off for the Great Wall early and try to be the first to get there (hire a cab for the day with a few other people if you can.... save a lot of time). I left Beijing at 7am to go to Mutianyu and was there before most tourists arrived. So had about 20-30 minutes of peace and quiet to enjoy the scenary. It didn't take long to walk to the part where they stop restoring the wall and so you can get a feel of the difference between the restored wall and the original crumbling wall. You can take the cable car up and then the chute down (fun but can be a bit scary).

Simatai was a lot less crowded and it wasn't restored a few years ago (things might have changed?). Takes longer to get there (3 hours).

So if you are really pressing for time, you can spend 3 hours at Mutianyu in the morning, and you can still do some sightseeing elsewhere in Beijing in the afternoon. But Simatai will really be the activity of the day.

Was not impressed by the Ming Tombs. The statues at the Sacred Way were OK.

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