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Great Wall

Afternoon stroll on the Great Wall
The Great Wall of China may be the most impressive structure on the planet. Nothing could have prepared me for how impressive the Great Wall is in real life. There is no way to imagine how tall and long it is in real life. Luckily, my wife and I were there in the offseason (beginning of March) so there were not too many crowds to speak of. If you are willing to walk 15-20 minutes in either direction you will find yourself alone and be able to enjoy the scenery in peace. After we got to an isolated spot we found a bench and spent an hour just taking it all in. That afternoon was definitely one that we will never forget.
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Patching up the Wall, Simatai, The Great Wall of China, Miyun County, China.
There are a few boxes every traveler wants to tick off their bucket list. I got a chance to tick off the Great Wall a few years back, and my experience couldn't have been more thrilling. I'm sure it had plenty to do with the section of the wall we explored; Simatai, a 5.5km section of the East Wall, was quiet by tourist standards, beautiful in its ancient way, and characterized by the immense grandeur of the rolling countryside. I thought the fact that we got to ride a zipline off the wall - and over a massive lake - was pretty neat. This section of the wall was closed in 2010 for repairs, but could reopen anytime. If you'd like to speed things along, I'm sure my friend here would be happy to hire you.
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Having the Great Wall to Yourself
I've been to the Great Wall of China four times now - three times to the Mutianyu section and once to Badaling. I've never seen more than a few people at the wall on any of the visits, and definitely nothing resembling the huge crowds that you see in photos sometimes. The secret? Either head there in the off-season, or go in the late afternoon. In this case we got to the Mutianyu section on a weekday in May around 2pm. We stayed until the cable car down was about to close - roughly 5pm. We passed a few people, but most of the time we didn't see anyone else. Other than the timing, the smartest thing that we did? We bought a Chinese robe and two umbrellas at the base of the wall for my cousin's wife. With no one on the wall, the photos wouldn't have been interesting otherwise.
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Jiankou, a Remote Portion of the Great Wall of China
This is one of the lesser known portions of the Great Wall, Jiankou. It is unrestored, untrafficked, and absolutely stunning. We saw 2 other people while on this unrestored section. We slept the night before at Zhao's Homestay in a small village about an hour out of Beijing. In the morning, we hired a girl form the homestay to take us up to one of the entry points on this portion of the Great Wall. We then hiked for several hours along Jiankou, which gradually merged with Mutainyu restored Great Wall, and then we went down the cable car. It was an absolutely unique and incredible experience, and I'd recommend this hike to anyone. Full account here: http://aliscottwhatwegetupto.blogspot.ca/2012/03/great-wall-of-china.html
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Climbing the Great Wall at Simatai

Hiking the Great Wall was an amazing experience. What made it even better was going to Simatai, which isn't as heavily visited as Badaling and other parts of the Wall. It's harder to get to and takes more effort to reach, but it's worth it. The Wall stretches out for miles and miles. Totally cool. 

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Night on the Great Wall
February 8, 2010- During a two week trek across China, my friend and I decided to head out to the Great Wall. We arrived early in the morning to avoid crowds and we asked an unmarked taxi to take us to a different location then from where a usual tourist might go. The driver dropped us off, and my friend and I began walking the Great Wall, with no one in sight. The views were spectacular, and the snow on the wall made some beautiful pictures. As the day progressed, we walked further and further from where we originally started. As the afternoon approached, we realized that we had to be back by 6:00pm to catch the last bus to Beijing. I asked my friend if we should go back, or if we should stick around(since we had the necessary food, water, and extra clothes) and make an adventure out of it. We decided to stay. We continued walking the wall, and we were amazed by the beautiful scenes we encountered as the sun set. We ended up sleeping in a guard tower, and we used our extra socks and jackets as cushions against the floor. The following morning we walked back to a main road and found a taxi that took us back to a bus station. It was truly a memorable experience.
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Great Wall Bliss
This photo was taken in the late afternoon of my trip to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. The sun was about to set, and my friends and I had a few more hours of hiking the Great Wall before we reached our final destination: a guard tower where we would set up camp and sleep the night. Yes, it's illegal ... and yes, I would definitely recommend a sleepover on the Great Wall to any adventurous traveler.
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On top of the world
This was taken a couple of years ago, when I went on my first major trip solo (well, solo as part of a tour group). This remains one of my all time favourite pictures. Rather than go to the more crowded Badaling section of the Great Wall, our guide took us to the Jinshanling-Simatai section. At the time, there was approximately 10.5km of walkable wall. Two of my tourmates decided to do the entire section (there were parts that were crumbling), but the rest of us decided to get down to level ground for a little and walk alongside the wall. Accept the help of the guides - they will show you where to step so you don't slip or fall.
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Great Wall all to yourself
This was such a great find I'm not sure I should spread the word. These days the Great Wall is overrun by tourist (and all that comes with it.) We wanted to experience the Great Wall without being shoved or standing in everyones pictures. A friend that lives in Beijing recommend Huanghuacheng. It is about a 2hr car ride outside of Beijing, but worth it. This is an unofficial location so you might have trouble finding that correct location. There is a viewing platform in this are, and is just that, you can not walk on the wall. This location is about a mile west at another reservoir. You will have to pay a small fee, hike up a small hill and climb a ladder to access the wall. Once you are up there you basically have the wall to yourself. This might not be the case everyday, but the day we were there, there were only a dozen other people on the wall. This is great for taking pictures since there is no one else in your shot. This was a very mountainous region where the wall snaked up and down with an outpost at every peak. The wall is preserved quite nicely in this section. General Cai Kai's craftsmanship of this part of the wall took so long and ran over budget that it cost him his head.
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It's That Great
Visiting one of the Seven Wonders of the World makes for a good day. Head to the Mutianyu Wall location, known for fewer crowds. We unintentionally went on a horrifically polluted day in March, but that made for zero crowds and some moody photos. We only stopped roaming and climbing when we could no longer see the wall as it steeply ascended into the "clouds." Be sure to take the toboggan down this UNESCO World Heritage site, and stop at the School House on your way out of town for some delish food and an on-site glassblowing studio. http://www.theschoolhouseatmutianyu.com
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How to Be An Explorer Of The World
its the Great Wall. http://havefunflysafe.com/2013/05/14/how-to-be-an-explorer-of-the-world/
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Great Wall
The Great Wall of China runs more than 21,000 kilometers (over 13,000 miles), though not as one continuous wall but rather as fortified wall sections. Some of the sections date back more than 2,500 years, but only 8.2 percent of the existing wall is original. The Mutianyu Great Wall is one of the more accessible portions. Hike (because that is what you'll be doing, even on the wall itself) up the Great Wall, then slide down the side of the mountain on the toboggan. Alternatively, explore the Simatai Great Wall, which retains a more authentic feel—save, of course, for the fake water town at the bottom. Even more remote is the Jiankou section, which is largely unrestored, so book with an experienced group like the Beijing Hikers or Wild Great Wall.
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