And looking back on our trip now, if forced to choose a single sight that was a highlight, I'd choose the Great Wall.
It's something I'll never forget seeing, one of the highlight sights of my life. The hand-laid bricks stretched as far as the eye could see, over mountains, into valleys, with turrets cut out for defense and towers every two arrows' shot apart, just incredible.
We opted to go to see the Wall at the less-touristy section that is accessed via the town of Mutianyu. The wall there is from the 14th century and 3 kilometers have been reconstructed, but beyond the reconstructed area, there is some "wild wall" -- the original. While it said we couldn't go into that area, we had to. It took about a million stairs to get there, so we weren't going to stop until we were ready to head back. When we finally felt we were ready to turn back, we stopped and ate our little picnic.
As described there:
The Mutianyu Great Wall is one of the sections of the Great Wall with a long history and brilliant culture. According to literature research, it was constructed on the Northern Qi Great Wall sites under the supervision of Xu Da, a great general under the leadership of the Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty. As the essence of the Great Wall, it was awarded as one of the 16 scenic spots in the new Beijing in 1987, one of the Beijing tourist attractions with world records in 1992, a 4A scenic area in 2002, and a national 5A tourist attraction in 2011. On Nov. 11, 1990, Chairman Jiang Zemin inscribed "Mutianyu Great Wall" personally for this scenic spot.
The Mutianyu Great Wall is of a special architectural style, as it is equipped with intensive watchtowers and perilous passes, battlements on both sides of the walls, and a main pass platform with 3 watchtowers standing abreast on the southeast side, which is quite rare among the whole Great Wall. The northwest section of the Great Wall named Ox Horn Edge is built on the mountain ridge over 1000 meters above the sea level, while the sections named Arrow Buckle and Flying Eagle Facing Upward are built on the knife-steep mountain peak, and look extraordinary and rugged. The whole section stretches and winds by following the terrains of the mountain, just resembling a huge dragon flying.
The Mutianyu Great Wall is surrounded by mountains with beautiful scenery and vegetation coverage of 96%, for which it enjoys the reputation of "Mutianyu surpassing other sections of the Great Wall" both at home and abroad.
We climbed up as far as you can see the Wall going in this photo:
Ah yes, the stairs (going down was much easier!):
This stretch right here was over 500 steps!
Looking up the stretch of over 500 steps straight. Would have been much easier if they'd been uniform in height and all evenly paved, but you know, it's the Great Wall...
As a total non-tech person, totally unaltered, just a picture I took:
You know it's steep when it appears to just drop off:
Looking down into the valley:
Another "upward" shot -- you can tell I was taking some breathers!
A tort lawyer's dream! Haha, you definitely had to watch your step -- no railings, and random openings in the wall...
Other people eating along the wall:
Pictures don't really capture it. Like I said, one of the best experiences of my life.