The highlight of our trip to China, a miraculous feat of engineering and labour and a mandatory must see! A very close contender, alongside machhapuchhre in the Himalaya, for the best sight on our trip so far.
Started by China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, and later added to by the Qing and Ming Dynasties, the Great Wall is the world’s longest human-made structure, stretching over approximately 6,400 km (4,000 miles) from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Nur in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia, but stretches to over 6,700 km (4,160 miles) in total. It is also the largest human-made structure ever built in terms of surface area and mass. At its peak the wall was guarded by more than one million men. It has been estimated that somewhere in the region of 2 to 3 million Chinese died as part of the centuries-long project of building the wall.
We trekked the less touristed and restored section from Jinshanling to Simatai (10k), a truly authentic wall experience. We awoke at 5am and following a 3–hour drive were ready to start our hike at 9. It was a tough 4–hours (30 towers) but it was spectacular with incredible surroundings. When you look back at the long section completed, it’s just jaw-dropping. We were very snap happy, with around 350 photographs. Amazingly, we only met two other trekkers en route, so we had the wall pretty much to ourselves.
The same hair raising feeling that you get at the Taj and the Pyramids, and one you don’t get at the other UNESCO sites, a unique cultural heritage site and a natural selection as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Interesting fact: the myth that the Great Wall is visible with the naked eye from the moon was finally buried in 2003, when China’s first astronaut failed to spot the barrier from space. The wall can be seen from a low earth orbit, but so can many other objects of human construction, such as motorways and railways. Looked at from above, the relative width and uniform colour of large roads renders them more distinct than the Great Wall, a structure even less visible from the moon. The myth has been edited from Chinese textbooks, where is has cast its spell over generations of Chinese.
Lying at the centre of Beijing is the Forbidden City (Dongcheng), so called because it was off limits to the locals for over 500 years. The imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties, now known as the Palace Museum, is the largest and best preserved cluster of ancient buildings in China and the world’s largest palace complex – consisting of 980 buildings and 8,707 bays of rooms all within 74 hectares.
For almost five centuries it served as the home of the Emperor and his household, as well as the ceremonial and political centre of Chinese government.
We have yet to visit a UNESCO Site and not take hundreds of photos. On this occasion we took only a few. The complex so vast, the buildings were so large and so busy with tourists, it was almost impossible to capture a decent shot. There was literally thousands upon thousands of tourists, truly incredible and what a money spinner.
We, like most of our travel comrades in the hostel, became frustrated walking around and in the end just headed for home. We have provided a few pictures, but they are all crap…even the ariel photos taken from Beihai Park looking down on the city are layered with smog…
The two boys in the picture below had the right idea .
Another great train journey. We went to Pingyao train station days in advance to get tickets to Beijing, only to told that there were no sleeper compartments left (hard or otherwise) or seats so we were left with cattle class – that’s plonk your ass wherever takes your fancy – woopppeee!
We left at 7pm and braved 12hrs sitting on our rucksacks in the smoking section in between two windy carriages. There is a silver lining however, at least the clouds of smoke drowned the stench of piss (or ammonia) from the French style squatting toilets either side.
Our colds were on the mend but we now feel ropey again. Still, this means we are now officially quadruple hard traveller types. Backpacking is not all about chilling and drinking beer you know…
We promised more from Pingyao, so here it goes. We’ve still not fully recovered from these damn nasty colds so trying to string a few words together is still rather difficult, we’re uploading a video instead.
It’s just a few shots of us rambling through one of the tourist streets, but we think it still captures the laid back approach that seems to be unique to Pingyao. Not sure what the quality will be like. We shot it in HD but not sure how youtube handles this type of media.
We created this blog so our family and friends can follow our life here in Dublin, Ireland. Sam is originally from the UK where we both lived together for many years. In 2008 we took a career break and completed a round the world trip across Africa, Asia, Australasia and South America. Following our travels we moved to Ireland.
We are expecting twins in November 2011 so our life and blog will take off on a different course. We would very much like you to follow us on that journey.
Please leave a comment or email us if you happen upon our site.