Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Great Wall without the crowd

The crowded day at Ju Yong Guan left me longing for a more satisfying Great Wall experience, so I went back the next day, this time by myself - Andrew and Amy stayed in Beijing. I hired a driver to take me to Mu Tian Yu early in the morning, and arrived before 7 am. The souvenir stands aren't even open yet, there are only a handful of people in sight, and it's a beautiful, cool morning. This is the way to see the wall.

This section has been restored, just like Ju yong guan, but it feels older and more authentic. The scenery here is more spectacular, too, with steeper, rugged mountains.
I reached the highest point of the restored section, and the only thing between me and miles of ancient, unrestored wall is a flimsy sign reading "closed to tourists". Without so much as a chain across the stone doorway, this is practically an invitation for adventure and one which I definitely cannot resist. Besides, the Chinese ignore every other rule and sign anyway (no smoking signs, traffic signs, etc.) so why pay any attention to this one?

For the next few hours, I explored this rustic section of the wall by myself. Shrubs and trees are slowly reclaiming the walkway, and watch towers are partially collapsed. The wall stands about 10-15 feet tall, 10 feet wide, and it's constructed from huge stones and very well-made bricks. The large watch towers are only a few hundred yards apart - surprisingly close together considering the extra effort required to build them. The amount of manual labor required to construct such a massive structure in this steep, remote location is unimaginable.

Watch a 10-minute video of my adventure below.


Jason H. said...

Very cool video. It does work, but I had no sound.

Brad Swanson said...

I updated the video - hopefully audio is working now, too.