Heading To The Mountains
We hated to leave the world class service at the Ritz-Carlton Financial Street Beijing. But on our visit to Beijing, we did not want to miss a chance to walk the Great Wall of China at Badaling! It was yet one more of the iconic Chinese sites we saw on our 4 weeks in China with Viking Cruises!
The bus headed out at 7am and it took about 2 hours to get to the base at Badaling. There are many spots where you can get up on the Great Wall. But this site was selected to give us great panoramic views. We were so excited at our first glimpse of the Wall from the bus window.
Over time, the Great Wall of China has be built and re-built. Most of what is still standing today was built during the the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). The road was built largely for defence and along the wall there are many watch towers. At one point, it was also used as a tariff collection border for people who travelled the Silk Road. Today the wall is about 8,850 km (5,500 mi) long. Popular myth suggests that the Great Wall is visible from space. However, the wall is much too narrow and blends into the earth of the hills making it largely indistinguishable from that distance.
Heading Up On The Funicular
There are three different ways to get up to walk the Great Wall of China at Badaling. There is a steep set of stairs, a cable car or a funicular. Our group headed to escalator that took us to the funicular. At the base of the funicular, we stopped for a group picture. As we walked around, we saw the first sign of the changing colours of the leaves for autumn.
The ride up and down in the funicular gave us a great panoramic view. We saw the other car pass us by.
When we exited the funicular there were several sets of stairs to get up on the wall. We looked back and saw the funicular station. And benchmarked where we needed to be to return. The group set off on our own for 2 hours on the Great Wall of China at Badaling.
Walking On Top Of The Great Wall Of China
At the top we got our first view of the wall going off in both directions. It stretched as far as we could see. We walked set off in one direction.
The Great Wall was much narrower than walls we walked on our Yangtze River Cruise in Jingzhou or on our visit to Xian. But much wider and safer than when we walked on top of the city walls in Obidos, Portugal! The flat parts had large blocks underfoot. We went up and down as we walked on sloped walls. At times the slope was more than 30 degrees from the horizontal. In many places there were stairs of different heights, some very high.
When you walk the Great Wall of China at Badaling, make sure to wear good walking shoes. When our guide told us we would take the funicular up and not the stairs, I thought I was ok in walking sandals. That was not a smart choice!
Views From The Watchtowers
At regular points along the wall there were watchtowers. Small holes in the walls were once used by archers as they defended the wall.
We climbed our way to the watchtower we saw off in the distance. Only to find that the path did not continue past here. Much of the wall has not been rebuilt and is unsafe for tourists. The view looking back and forward wound up through the hills. Other watchtowers were in the distance. Behind us we saw the path we would re-walk to get back to the funicular.
From various points along the tower, we stopped to look far off in the distance in the other direction. David’s zoom lens picked up the cable car and a much busier spot on that part of the wall.
At one point, there was a path down to a viewpoint. Several sets of stairs later and there was not really a much better view.
We walked back at a slower pace before we headed back down.
A Jaded Lunch Break
No day is complete without a shopping stop. The bus drove us from our great morning outing to walk the Great Wall of China at Badaling. And dropped us off at a massive jade store. We started our tour with a very brief jade carving demonstration. A man carved a jade block from the inside to create three balls inside of each other all from the one solid piece. This was called a Family Happy Ball. On the outer surface we saw a Phoenix (the queen of birds) and a dragon ( the king of mammals). They are a happy couple.
We then got a brief presentation on jade. Jadite is the most expensive in the world. It is harder that diamonds and only used for jewelry. An expensive piece of jewelry was put on one of the women in our group and we saw the colour changed based on body temperature and oils. Because of this, it is often referred to as “live jade”.
We learned that a jade bangle was the symbol of love. The greener the jade, the more expensive. Jade with two colours brings extra happiness. The bangle is worn on the left hand close to the heart.
Other types of jade are used for statues and pieces of art. The clearer the jade, the more pure it is. It was also noted that every statue is unique.
When we moved to the showroom, we got yet another demonstration on how to tell real jade from fake. The glass bracelet was solid and did not let the light through like the jade piece. After we had lunch we had almost an hour to shop. Many people went home with souvenirs or expensive jewelry.
A Walk Along The Sacred Way
We had one final stop on our day to walk the Great Wall of China at Badaling. The Sacred Way is located in the area where 15 tombs of the Ming emperors are buried. There are 7 imperial tombs, 7 for concubines and one eunuch’s tomb. On our visit to Xian, we saw the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xian. This large army guarded the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. But on our visit to Beijing, we did not have time to visit the Ming Tombs and explore more history of China.
From the main avenue of the Sacred Way, paths branch out to all of the Ming tombs. We started at the north gate of the Sacred Way and walked to the south gate. The south gate used to be part of the wall that protected the large area of Ming tombs. A sign inside the gate provided the history of the Ming Tomb Sacred Way. And some information of each of the statues that led us through the path.
As we walked we saw the wide variety of stone statues that lined the path. The first group were administrators and warriors.
Then came the animals. Horses, camels and elephants lined the path. There were mythical animals along the path too.
In the south gate there was a giant turtle. The Chinese believe that turtles are good luck. So many people stopped to rub the head or tail of the turtle.
See The Olympic Sites
As the bus headed back to Beijing on our day to walk the Great Wall of China at Badaling, we had one more site to see. We took the path that went past the site of the 2008 Summer Olympics were held. Several different sites were pointed out. Many of these will be re-used when Beijing hosts the 2022 Winter Olympics.
What A Day To Walk The Great Wall of China at Badaling
It was a bright sunny day when we left Beijing to walk the Great Wall of China at Badaling. The leaves were just starting to change as we drove into the mountains. We had quite a short walk on the wall. But that did not diminish the awe we all felt at visiting this ancient site.
Seeing the jade mined in these mountains added another interesting dimension to the day. A final stop on the Sacred Way reinforced the history of this part of China. A truly memorable day trip on our stay in Beijing. And yet another iconic Chinese site we were glad not to have missed on our 4 weeks in China.
Did you walk the Great Wall of China at Badaling? Did you go from another spot?
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