Discover China: The Great Wall

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China is beautiful, beguiling, mysterious and crammed with history, culture and traditions.  The modern and ancient blend together in this intriguing country.   Picturesque landscape, centuries-old history, hospitable people, mystifying traditions and delicate cuisine, make China a unique travel destination.


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The Great Wall of China


When we announced to our near and dear ones that China was our next travel destination,   we were given a quizzical stare and were inevitably confronted with, "China? Why China?".   By sharing our travel highlights of China through this travelogue,  it is hoped that the wrong notion that most people have of China is erased,  and a  visit to China will be henceforth be met with the exclamation   "China !   WOW China!!!.


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We were absolutely fascinated with China during our nine day trip and wish to go there once more to cherish and behold other beautiful sights and sounds which we missed during this visit.
 
Come along, discover a little of China with us….


BEIJING


Beijing,   capital of the People’s Republic of China, is a city of superlatives.   It boasts of the biggest square in the world, the Tian?An Men Square,  the largest conserved imperial palace buildings,  the Forbidden City,  the biggest sacrificial complex in the world, the Temple of Heaven,  and portions of the world’s largest manmade structure,  one of the wonders of the world,  the Great Wall.


Other attractions and tourist destinations in Beijing are the Summer Palace, Beihai Park, Beijing Zoo, Drum Tower, Bell Tower, Lama Temple, Ming Tombs, Beijing Hutongs etc.


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Nightlife in Beijing is vibrant & pulsating – from acrobatics,  martial arts shows and street theatre to delicate puppetry, outdoor ballroom dancing, the omnipresent karaoke,  massage parlors and trendy nightclubs.  Beijing is a wonderfully warm and welcoming city that retains an intimacy one would find hard to match anywhere else.  When you pass through the traditional Hutongs, the famous ancient city alleys in Beijing,  you feel as if you have taken a step back into the bygone era.


Beijing will host the 2008 Olympic Games.  Preparations are in full swing and as per our Chinese guide, registration of volunteers has commenced recently.


I have briefly highlighted below some of the main attractions and hope you enjoy what is portrayed.


THE GREAT WALL


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The Great Wall of China,  one of the most magnificent man-made project in the world, lies across the northern part of China, like some great sleeping dragon, winding its way across deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus, stretching approximately 6,700 kilometers and spanning nine provinces. Snaking infinitely across China?s northern landscape, the Great Wall remains China?s most potent symbol and one of the world?s most awe-inspiring sights.


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Contrary to the popular belief, it is not one big stretch of wall, but broken into different sections.  Some sections of the Great Wall of China have almost disappeared, some have been overwhelmed by the elements of nature, some covered by the desert, nevertheless, the Great Wall still stands in silent splendor, enduring the passage of time and welcoming the changes of the seasons as it has done for many hundreds of years.


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It is said that the Great Wall is the only man-made structure to be visible from space, but there is a long standing disagreement about this, which is best left unsaid at this juncture.


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We visited the Badaling section of the Great Wall, which is about a 1 hour drive from Beijing.  The Badaling section of the Great Wall has 19 strategically located watchtowers.


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The wall of Badaling has a total length of 3, 741 meters with an average height of 8 meters, the highest part is 15 meters.  It was constructed during the Ming Dynasty around 1505 and made by huge bar stones. Some of the stones have a height of two meters with a weight of hundreds kilograms. 


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The portion of the wall at Badaling has undergone heavy restoration, and in 1957,  it was the first section of the wall to open to tourists. 


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We walked and strolled the lower part of the Badaling Wall, and when we were exhausted and could walk no more, took the cable car to the topmost point of the wall and with gay abandon and an extra spring in our step,  walked and sprinted up the Great Wall.   The view from the top was absolutely stunning and it was amazing to see the daunting wall zigzagging  down the mountain side, like a giant snake slithering down the mountains.  It was a feeling of pure contentment when we went running, stomping, walking, strolling and wandering on one of the seven wonders of the world, a feat which not many would be lucky to pull off.


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Note the Slogan for the Olympic 2008 games –  ‘One World One Dream’ sprawled on the mountainside near the Great Wall.


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Summer Palace


The Summer Palace (YiHeYuan) is the largest and best-preserved imperial gardens in China and is renowned for its grandeur and natural beauty.  As its name implies, the Summer Palace was a summer residence, a pleasure ground in the countryside,  for the Qing Dynasty in 1750.


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The Summer Palace blends rocks, trees, temples, pavilions, bridges, paths and large lakes to create a poetic effect between ever-changing scenes.


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To the north is the Longevity Hill, which is clustered with grand buildings, to the south is the Kunming Lake.  Some of its famed structures are the Halls of Benevolence and Longevity, Cloud Dispelling Hall, Hall of Virtuous Brilliance,  Pavillion & Tower of Buddhist Fragrance,  Temple of the Sea of Wisdom, the Marble Boat and the 17-arch bridge on the Kunming Lake, which is more than 150 meters long.


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To be continued, stay tuned….!

Author: Judith Serrao- UAE


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