I toyed with the idea of going to the infamous Badaling section of the Great Wall, being close by to Beijing and public buses running from town. However, I was SO glad to have chosen the Jinshanling section. Especially after returning to the hostel and asking a couple how busy the Badaling section of the wall was in their opinion. They answered “it was ok, you could move forwards” in a positive way. Gosh, that was even a week day.

Hawkers aside, the views on this section were stunning and it was quiet enough to get could get beautiful winding views without anyone else in the way. I was lucky enough to get a reasonably clear day so hopefully, the photos below speak for themselves…

The day started with a 6am minivan pick up from a hostel-arranged tour bus. They promised that the “tour” was only transport and buffet. Indeed it was, so I was pretty thankful after hearing some of the horror stories. The buffet I could probably do without, but being an all-day thing and having a big appetite, it would probably prove better value for money for me than most. The minivan picked up 4 people from the hostel and transported us onto a large coach for a total of a 4 hour drive (one way) north east of Beijing. The breakfast “included” turned out to be a shameful McDonalds egg muffin and coke but was probably the best thing as comedy value for the group.

As we entered the parking lot, it was obvious that pre-arranged transport is a must for this section of the wall. Very few cars and only one other coach. There were however, plenty of hawkers. As I came to understand, these were some of the best cold reading hawkers I’ve every come across. With the coach still moving, the hawkers surrounded the coach and were pointing and laughing. After checking there was no egg muffin on my face and seeing them pointing at others passengers too, I soon realised what was going on. They were essentially taking their turns to bagsy each of us as customers for what was to become a test of emotional endurance for the time at the wall. They each carried a bag with bottles of water and souvenirs.

As we started the walk, we were hotly pursued by our designated hawkers…

02 jinshanling great wall hawkers

As you can see, these hawkers were mostly women in their 30s-50s. The thought of them doing this every day. They must be pretty fit. Starting with the normal conversational small talk like “where you from”, they were doing their best to cold read their chosen customer to spark up conversation. I wasn’t giving them anything to go on. I was both shocked and impressed though when I heard them talking about my trousers though. I overheard one hawker say to another close by hawker (in Mandarin) “Shaolin Temple” and then turned to me and asked “you kung fu?”. At the time, I was indeed wearing my kung fu trousers, which to everyone else just looked like a grey, comfy pair of trousers. I bet these hawkers would make good poker players.

Deep down, I didn’t have an issue buying a drink at an inflated price, because the way I saw it, these hawkers could spend at least 4-5 hours carrying whatever they think they MAY sell in their bag and could make nothing at all that day. They would try to give advice of where the good views at each tower were. They were bearing all the risk for potentially no reward. Although all the advice is to ignore the hawkers, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for these people. I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t want to have someone by my side at every given opportunity through my walk. I thought about giving them something followed by “but I’m not going to buy anything else” but then I figured that would probably cause them to stay longer. As time passed (over an hour) and they soon realised I was a bad choice to follow, I was indeed left to my own devices. I decided I’d give one of them some money at the end.

[I’d love to know what experience travellers think about this – whether you buy something or just give them a little money]

The walk itself is very straightforward, enough for our “tour guide” to explain on the map at the entrance and then thankfully leave us to find our way for the next 4 hours. A steep route up to the far part of the wall, a cable car (44 RMB) up to the middle of the wall or a 30 minute walk to the other end of the wall. I opted for the latter, given that meant seeing the most of the wall. 

01 jinshanling great wall various routes

 

Walking on the path parallel to the wall, before heading towards it, gave us a peek of it through the trees…

03 jinshanling great wall standard route

 

Once you’re up there, you realise it’s pretty well sign posted at the guard towers…

04 jinshanling great wall well signposted

 

As you start, the condition of the wall is good – flat brickwork and reasonably high walls. I can only think this is from some restoration work…

05 jinshanling great wall start

 

As you head further, you notice towers that have somewhat crumbled. I quite like the crumbled look…

06 jinshanling great wall some towers crumbled

 

You can see the obvious transitions from restoration to no-restoration… and no walls…

 07 jinshanling great wall transition

13 jinshanling great wall rugged end

 

This section of the wall is considered one of the steepest, so here you can see why…

08 jinshanling great wall steps

 

As you go further along the wall, the condition of the wall continues to deteriorate, and with the steepness, becomes too much for some. The worst part (in terms of footing) I walked over looked like this…

09 jinshanling great wall most rugged

 

The further you walk, the fewer people there are. Given the low number of people who visit this section of the wall, towards the end I was lucky enough have some pretty spectacular unspoilt views (including the cover photo for this blog post)…

11 jinshanling great wall less people

12 jinshanling great wall less people

DSC01551

 

This was the point I stopped. At the time of writing, the Simatai part of the wall was closed for restoration. I believe once open, you’ll be able to continue onto there as before the work started…

14 jinshanling great wall end simutai

 

At this point, you had the choice of heading down the stairs back to the entrance or turning back and walking the wall again. Obviously, I felt the need to walk the wall again…. but not before getting a mandatory cheesy photo first…

15 jinshanling great wall mandatory pose