Monday, 29 October 2012

Beijing Day 4 - Jinshanling Great Wall & Tiananmen Square


semi-overcast 13 °C

We had been to the Great Wall twice, both times as part of the packaged tour. And they tend to take you to the popular Badaling section because it's the most well maintained section of the Great Wall. It's also the closest to Beijing (for the same reason that it's the best maintained section). We decided to go to see a different section of the Great Wall, one that not too crowded and more original. Jinshanling Great Wall fits the bill.

The temperature of Beijing plunged from the early 20 °C in the last 2 day to 12 °C today. This came 1 day early to signal the start of winter.

Jinshanling Great Wall entry ticket, Beijing, China Jinshanling Great Wall entry ticket, Beijing, China

The drive started at 8am from our hotel to Jingshaling took about 2 hours. It begun to drizzle when we left the hotel. We arrived about 10am, hazy weather made the visibility rather low. As we got up the top after a cable car ride, most of the mountain was covered in fog. While it's atmospheric to look at, most of the Great Wall was shrouded in it.

Jinshanling Great Wall shrouded in mist, Beijing, China
The Great Wall shrouded in heavy mist about 10:30 am

There were only a few local tourists; most are laowai ("foreigners"). Being Monday probably had something to do with this too. This way you could take photos of the Great Wall, and the mountains, and not at the Chinese "people mountain, people sea" (人山人海 borrowing a Chinese expression). Not that it isn't a spectacle in itself. But if you like a quiet atmosphere in China, this is perhaps 1 of the very few tourist spots left. So get it fast while it lasts. In the whole 3-hour climb, I saw less than 50 tourists altogether. A rare sight in more ways than 1.

It's certainly less well maintained than the Badaling section. In some sections, there're no wall, so you could take a very short cut to the bottom by accident (I wasn't in a hurry). Because of that, more fitness and dexterity would be required to climb some of the broken staircases. I'm told that we could start from the Jinshanling Great Wall and finished up in Simatai Great Wall. I'm game, if I'm 20 years younger.

Crumbling stairs at Jinshanling Great Wall section, Beijing, China
Crumbling stairs

While it's in higher altitude than Beijing city, so we would expect it would be colder. It's in fact not that cold because of the total absence of any wind. The climb quickly raised my heart rate and body heat, and the cold was vanished within 15 mins (for the average person like Etta, and 50 mins for me. I've a reptilian circulation. Look at the bright side, chocolate never melt in my hand. And it could keep fresh in my stomach a long time).

Jinshanling Great Wall shrouded in mist, Beijing, China Jinshanling Great Wall shrouded in mist, Beijing, China
Jinshanling Great Wall, Beijing, China Jinshanling Great Wall shrouded in mist, Beijing, China Jinshanling Great Wall shrouded in mist, Beijing, China
Jinshanling Great Wall, Beijing, China Jinshanling Great Wall, Beijing, China

As we started to head back about 12:30pm, the fog had almost completely dispersed with the autumn colour of red, yellow and brown leaves intensified, and Great Wall emerging from the mist. I imagine the autumn colour would even more vibrant a few weeks earlier as we were in the tail end of autumn.

Jinshanling Great Wall shrouded in mist, Beijing, China
Mist had slowly lifted by 12 am

A local female villager in her 40s tagged along with us the whole climb, offering to carry our bags, giving Etta a hand in negotiating challenging staircases, etc. At the end of the trip, she tried to sell us a few travel books on Jinshanling. Her asking prices weren't higher than the RRP printed on the books. We decided to buy 1 of her books, which Etta liked because it got many pretty pictures of the Great Wall. We didn't have to. It was hard to turn down under the circumstances.

Lunch was included in our private tour. We asked our driver to drop us off at our next destination instead of our hotel. We were dropped off at Tiananmen Square about 4pm, so we had about 1 hour of sunlight left at this time of the year for photography.

The temperature in Tiananmen Square is probably higher than Jinshanling, but it feels about 3 times colder because of the strong wind.

Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China
Tiananmen Gate, which gives the square its name

Monument to the People's Heroes, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China Qianmen Gate, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China Guard, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China

Sculpture outside Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, The Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, Mao Mausoleum, Beijing, China
Sculpture outside Mausoleum of Mao Zedong

I don't remember when they had been removed, but the giant portraits of Marx, Hegel and Sun Yat-Sen were gone. In the middle of the Square were a couple of giant LED screens being installed. Can't say I like this is a symbol of looking towards the future. Tradition and technology don't mix so well in this case. We tried to get into Qianmen, but it was too late. We walked around Tiananmen for a while until The Man Upstairs dimmed the lights out that it was time to call off the day. I got the message, you needn't tell me twice.

zero kilometre from Beijing
Zero marks the spot
The Qianmen Gate, the Archery Tower, Tiananmen Gate, Meridian Gate, etc all lie on the Celestial north-south axis. The most important point, in a sense, on this axis is marked by this unassuming brass plaque on the ground just in front of Qianmen. The numeral '0' marks the centre of Beijing, a kilometre zero for all the highways of China. In other word, the naval of China.

It also contains the 4 compass points (in both Chinese and English letters), and the 4 animals that represent the 4 cardinal points.

1 comment:

  1. Your pictures are amazing. Just looking at those pictures make me want to climb the Great Wall of China now. In return, I also found a great blog of Jinshanling travel tips, I’d love to share it here with you and for future travelers.