As far as travel lists go, I don’t usually make one (wait, have I told you otherwise elsewhere in the blog? Forgive me, for I must have been inebriated when I said that.) Also, you wouldn’t usually find me in places thronging with people, in stampede-inducing situations. But when I found myself in Beijing, finishing up my Trans Siberian train ride (Oh, I promise never to talk about that trip ever again in these pages), I couldn’t resist a trip to the Great Wall of China.
I had just two-days in Beijing and couldn’t do anything productive and offbeat anyway (other than hunting for cheap street food, of course.) So I embarked on a little trip to the Badaling side of the Great Wall one morning with my travel buddy Lars.
You’d assume, given that the Great Wall of China is a world wonder, it would attract international tourists by busload. On the contrary, the Badaling side of Great Wall – apparently most popular section of the Wall – was buzzing with domestic tourists on that sunny day in September when I visited.
Located in Yanqing, 60km from downtown Beijing, the Badaling Wall has been open to foreign tourists starting 1953. Only 3741 m of the wall is open to tourists.
According to the signboards, while it was included in the world cultural heritage list by UNESCO in 1987, the wall received two Guinness World Records in 2002. One for record number of visitors and the other for ‘highest reception number of head of state’ (go figure.)
The Badaling side of the Great Wall is called the scenic side and that is not without a reason. Between being squeezed dry by the thronging mass of people and taking pictures, if you looked around you will see azure blue skies, green peaks and dense tree cover all around the wall.
At a distance, even Beijing could be seen on a clear day (which is kind of, sort of rare for a city like Beijing whose pollution levels surpass even that of Delhi’s. Or vice versa.)
‘It is a bridge of friendship between the international friends and the Chinese people,’ reads the signboard, along the lines of standard propaganda-speak.
The signboard further announces that this section of the wall was ‘ranked first in the selection activity of China’s Forty Best Tourist Destination in 1991.’
Have you been in Beijing? Have you been to the Great Wall? Leave a comment and let me know.