The Great Wall experience

Going on the Great Wall is always an experience as it is incredible to imagine that this immense wall has been built hundreds of years ago, like a snake sliding through the mountains in order to protect the Chinese empire against foreign invaders (especially the Mongols). It is even more incredible that this wall has never served its initial purpose of defense, because by the time it was finally consolidated the Mongol Empire had already declined. :-)

And although it is slowly falling down (a little bit helped by poor locals using the stones for construction elsewhere) there are still big parts standing that are protected, partially renovated and thus can be visited by paying a very expensive “relic protection and cultural heritage protection” price (freely translated as “extremely high for foreign tourists” price). ;-)

In order to get the “Ultimate Wall Experience” we went there one day beforehand and stayed in some shabby guesthouse so we could get up early the next morning to see the sunrise and have a full day on this masterpiece of human construction. This would also have two other advantages: the first one to get there before the guards get up and just skip over the barrier which would avoid us paying the entrance fee and the second one being there very early before anybody else gets there and thus have the Great Wall to ourselves! :-)

So at 4h45 we jumped out of the bed, got dressed, grabbed our camera and sneaked out of the room… to find the entrance door of the guesthouse locked. Aaaaaaaah!!! Our perfect plan was all going to fall into pieces because of one non-calculated factor: a locked door! Our brains working at high speed, we turned around in the inner court, desperate to find a way out. And there it was! We could “just climb” over the wall. Some hesitations from Jean-Christophe were quickly shoveled aside “no, the wall will not be high on the other side”, “no, nobody will see us” and “no, there will not be a dog on the other side waiting to bite your buttocks” so off we went. Jean-Christophe went first and everything went well until he was just ready to jump off the (ok, it was quite high) wall when a lady appeared in the inner court, in bra and slip, obviously heading towards the toilets in the other building and obviously not expecting some foreigners at 5h00 in the morning trying to climb over a wall! First she looked at us in awe, before realising seconds later she was half naked and ashamedly tried to cover herself up. Luckily she did not start to scream and while Jean-Christophe jumped off the wall, she hastily went inside to get the key, excusing herself one hundred times. :-)

Laughing about this story we walked to the entrance gate, ready to jump over it, when a guard showed up apparently not letting us pass without entrance ticket. Our carefully planned plan was just falling into pieces one after another! :-( After getting an entrance ticket, we reluctantly entered the empty park that led towards the Great Wall, waiting for the next thing that would happen “not according to plan”. The next “not according to plan” turned up quicker than expected: we thought that we would be the only ones out here in the early morning, but, again, we underestimated the Chinese!! A complete Chinese tour-group was walking up the wall in front of us, screaming, yelling and even using megaphones!! Great! :-(

Luckily they were screaming and yelling so hard that they had not have a lot of energy and breath left for walking up the wall so we could quickly overtake them, leaving the noise behind and marvel at the sunrise, which was great! :-)

The rest of the day we walked along the wall to a town further on from where we would take the bus back to Beijing. We had splendid views on the surrounding pollution mountains as we followed the Wall’s snakelike path winding up and down. We encountered many, many tourists of course but luckily outside the “cable car areas” not too many tourists were to be seen, except for some Americans with local guides walking along. This is understandable though, because it is true that there is only one Great Wall and you might walk on the wrong one! ;-)

Locals were to be seen (and heard) in great numbers everywhere though : “Hello! You want postcard? Cheap price! Hello! T-shirt of great wall!” Grrrr!!! We were wondering if they would be selling some t-shirt with texts like “Bagger off!” or “No, we don’t want anything!” because those t-shirts would probably sell very well! :-)

All in all it was a great experience though and one we will not forget quickly. We need to do some better planning in the future though! ;-)

Vera & Jean-Christophe


  1. Posted September 27, 2007 at 22:55 | Permalink

    Lol. I would have liked it very much to be on the other side of the wall barking like a dog. Some weeks ago I saw a video on a little fair in my town. Musicians from Königstein were representing Germany in China in concern to the olympic games. I thought it must be a great feeling to stand alone or with the person you love on this wall and have a look over the landscape including sunrise and sunset. Now I know there’s a need to have some condition to get it. But is must be wonderful.

  2. Posted September 29, 2007 at 10:09 | Permalink

    Hallo Vera.
    Het moet een ongelooflijk gevoel zijn om daar alleen te lopen, terwijl je weet dat er zo er zoveel mensen zijn, pas goed op jullie op. Mam.

  3. Posted September 29, 2007 at 19:23 | Permalink

    hey kids!

    Loved the Beijing photos (the ones i could have had….have to admit i did breifly think of swopping my photos for yours ;)) made it home in one piece and back to reality with a thud! will be checking in every now and then so that i can feel really depressed and jealous( only joking!) take care of each other, you are great guys to hang out with

  4. Posted September 30, 2007 at 15:51 | Permalink

    Nice to hear from you Lorna, do not get to much depressed, since we left Beijing we had at best 2 days where it was not raining like hell, but it was still dark gray sky.
    But it was still a nice experience to go through Datong, Pingyao and now we are in Xian. The Buddhist caves, the hanging monastery, the old Chinese city were still beautiful behind the rain curtain. We hope to write soon about it, but the pictures are not fantastic, the light and sky were not that great…
    Take care you too

  5. Jean-Christophe
    Posted September 30, 2007 at 15:53 | Permalink

    @Jurgen: this is true that you should have some condition to climb the great wall (except if you use the cable car) furthermore if you want to see both sunset and sunrise, you should have also a good sleeping bag as it can be chilly up there!

  6. Posted October 1, 2007 at 19:27 | Permalink

    Good story!
    Our greatest wish is to visit this famous wall. Maybe in 2009, the year after the Olimpcs.
    I’m just back from an oncology congres in Barcelona.Also a beautiful city.
    Berst wishes
    Giel and Paul

  7. Posted October 2, 2007 at 22:32 | Permalink

    I heard from one of the girls, a kind of cheerleaders from the group of musicians I mentioned, that it was chilly, more than ever in a miniskirt.

    Meanwhile you must be in Australia, aren’t you?

  8. Posted October 19, 2007 at 15:25 | Permalink

    Hoi veertje,

    alweer zo’n heerlijk verhaal met zo’n machtige ervaring, bijna alleen lopen langs De muur in zo’n onvoorstelbaar druk land..trouwens, je schrijfstijl vind ik er eentje om van te smullen!

    Groet, Yvonne

    Ps ben benieuwd wanneer Ben en Eef gaan lezen en commentaar geven…