Beijing is usually the first port of call for most visitors to the Middle Kingdom, and these tourists flood to places like the Forbidden City, which is not so forbidden anymore, or the Summer Palace (which is ironically more pleasant at any other time but the summer thanks to the mosquitoes). In fact, going to Jingshan Park and seeing all corners of this fantastic city is time much better spent. Yet, for me, like many others, the priority is the most famous amongst all of Beijing’s memorable sites: the Great Wall of China.
The Great Wall is a must-see and clearly everyone got the memo. Most visitors to China’s capital make the mistake of going to Badaling, which is the most overcrowded section, or Mutianyu, its slightly less-crowded brother. Both locations will remind you more of a sardine can rather than a “Wonder of the World.”
So, why not go to the Huanghuacheng section, tucked up in the Huairou District of Beijing?
The greatest aspect of the Huanghuacheng section is that, simply by spinning around in a circle, you will witness both the old, crumbling remains of a timeless structure, and the renovated modern duplicate. Along the path you will experience a level of serenity that just isn’t possible at the two aforementioned areas.
Standing on the roof of one of the umpteen watchtowers, you will ultimately ask yourself, “How did they possibly build this?” before following it up with a shake of the head and a few tut’s in both disbelief and admiration.
It is only once you return to the city itself, and sit at home that night, that you will realize what you just saw, and in a way that is very different to most visitors who just simply follow the crowds.