Great Wall of China; we all know it, we’ve seen pictures of it, and have probably read about it. But to visit is, frankly, surreal. If you’re in Beijing it’s best to avoid the closer “touristy” section of the wall and spring for Badling which can be accessed by a 2-hour drive from . This means you’ll need to rent a car. But if like me and you’re staying at a major Beijing hotel (I was at the Grand Hyatt Beijing), you can get a driver for about $50 per hour. Beijing
A mid-week visit is best, late spring even better. Why? Because the Wall is walled-in with people. Thousands of them. Perhaps more. Arriving at this section it’s a weirdly disturbing sight to spy dozens of tour buses, hundreds of cars, and a stunning display of humanity. Oh yeah, and there’s a Starbucks here. Trash is littered by the entrance and the throngs of people milling about aimlessly make it feel like a refugee camp.
These images might pull you out of the moment, but don’t let it. The entrance fee is about $8 and once you enter, veer left, not right, and you’ll find fewer people up the steep slopes. You will however still see people pimping T-shirts, and hats, kitschy crap, folks talking on their cell phones, tour groups wearing identical hats – a formidable display of non-stop people. It’s unavoidable, so let it go.