The Great Wall of China

In honour of the Chinese New Year, I decided to dedicate this post to one of the greatest world wonders, The Great Wall of China.

I traveled to Beijing two summers ago. I remember the flight there really well because it was during the peak of the swine flu outbreak (not even global epidemics can stop me from traveling). Before we were let off the plane, government officials came in with these thermometer like guns which they scanned over our foreheads. If you were under a certain temperature, they would let you go.

The unfortunate ones were led off by strict looking officials into a private room for further questioning. Or at least, that’s what they told us…

There’s a bus that takes you directly to The Great Wall which is great, but make sure you do some research, as some tour companies are scams. It was weird arriving at The Great Wall for the first time because on one hand, you’re starring at this massive work of ancient civilization…and then you look behind you, and oh look, there’s the highway. For some reason, I had always envisioned The Great Wall to be a long continuous pathway, where walking across would feel like strolling through a park or something. Ha ha ha. Let’s just say that calling the Great Wall a breezy flat path is like stating that Hitler had no interest in world domination.

The Great Wall is best described as a never-ending set of stairs, and walking upward for a good two hours in the blazing summer sun will probably shed five pounds off of you immediately. The steps are about half a meter high so the “walk” is actually quite comparable to rock climbing. The sight is incredibly amazing though, and to think that you’re climbing up a path that’s made as early as 220 BC is simply mind-blowing.

Along the way, there are rest areas usually equipped with a gift shop in which you can purchase your much needed overpriced bottle of water. I remember purchasing a panda keychain with “I love BJ” engraved on it, which should make me quite popular among my guy friends back home (BJ stands for….Beijing, obviously). There’s some cool statues and canons scattered around which is great excuse to stop climbing, without seeming out-of-shape to your newly acquainted friends, to take lots of touristy photos and read up on some ancient history. The trek downward is surprisingly effortless, and once you’ve reached the bottom…hey look, there’s a Starbucks!

Some interesting facts about The Great Wall:

– It stretches to 8,851.8 km.

– It is actually not a long continuous wall, but broken up in different segments. Walking its entirety would be impossible despite how ambitious you are.

– Approximately 70% of the Chinese population worked on The Wall during the Qin Dynasty.

– Despite contrary belief, it cannot be seen from outer space.

– It is the largest man-made structure in the world.

– Thousands of workers died constructing The Wall. Rather than disposing their bodies, other workers continued building it on top of them. Therefore, some of them are actually buried inside The Wall. (Nice co-workers, eh?)

– Locals have stolen pieces of brick from The Wall to build their own homes.

– It wasn’t open to foreign visitors until 1970.

– Richard Nixon and Barack Obama have both visited.

– There is a Starbucks at the base of The Wall.

For anyone taking a trip to The Great Wall of China, be sure to wear some comfortable shoes. If you get thirsty, remember – you can always purchase a mocha frappacino. I’m off to Montreal for the weekend, but to everyone celebrating, “gung hay fat choy!”

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9 Comments

  1. February 3, 2011 / 5:41 am

    Haha! I'm REALLY good at the 'I don't need to rest but this view is so awesome I've just GOT to stop and admire it. Again' routine!! HNY to you too!!

  2. February 4, 2011 / 2:29 pm

    I went to the Great Wall in 2006 and loved it… the only thing that really disappointed me was the 'fairground' at the entrance – a bear pit, stall after stall of people selling tat (and like you said, over priced water!) and then a helterskelter ride to the top! Very bizarre!

  3. February 6, 2011 / 2:25 pm

    That photo does look like an extremly steep climb. Never realised the Great Wall involves so much climbing. Would love to visit it one day.

  4. February 6, 2011 / 8:06 pm

    Brenna – Thanks! Yea, Montreal is my favourite city in Canada. You should definitely visit, you'll love it! 🙂

    Red Nomad Oz – Haha, yes it works every time!

    Princess and the Pea – I never saw the helterskelter ride! That would've been really cool!

    Jazzy – Thanks!

    Tijmen – You definitely should….well worth it!

  5. February 11, 2011 / 5:12 pm

    Great wall of china.. i would love to visit… I really liked you post.. Keep blogging. 🙂

  6. February 17, 2011 / 10:39 am

    i really loled at:
    "Locals have stolen pieces of brick from The Wall to build their own homes"
    hahhaa cool foto tho:)

  7. June 7, 2011 / 7:47 am

    "the 'walk' is actually quite comparable to rock climbing."

    No it isn't. Have you ever tried rock climbing? It requires use of the hands, and the Great Wall, while incredibly spectacular, is nothing more than a steep walk. I wrote about my own first experience of the Wall last year: Extramural Activities describes our difficulties in getting there, while Wonderful discusses the merits of the new Seven Wonders of the World and the Great Wall's presence on that list.

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