Brief Stop in Bejing on #UTC11: Great Wall 18

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Great Wall of China with no tourists


This time through China, I was in an even bigger rush than I was during my RTW trip back in 2009-10. Then, I managed to stay in Beijing, a city I surprisingly like, for almost a full week. This time, since we were in a bit of a rush to get to Saigon to finish the Ultimate Train Challenge, we only had the one full day to explore, after getting off the train at about 6 a.m.

Through the help of the wonderful folks at China Odyssey Tours, we managed to pack in a lot more in one day than I ever could have anticipated. They provided us a car, driver and guide for the day and we headed immediately, and sleepy eyed, from the train station up to the Great Wall of China. No time for the Forbidden Palace, this time, but I think I’ll be back yet again to enjoy their beauty and odd internal naming.

If you are going to do the Great Wall at any of the spots close to Beijing, you need to be prepared for the crush of tourists. Fortunately, our guide insisted that we head out there as quickly as possible and even better, directed us to a part of the wall where…. we were the only people around.

They sky in this area seems to be permanently shrouded by a haze of pollution, so I am not incredibly happy with my photographs, but when is the last time that you saw one of the main parts of the Great Wall empty of tourists??

Great Wall of China no people

even at one single location, the scope and immensity of the whole wall impresses


graffiti on great wall of china

even the graffiti on the Great Wall seems almost timeless… well, at least the Chinese graffiti


chinese flag flying over great wall of china

the flag flies proudly for the hordes of Chinese tourists coming to see one of their greatest tourist sites


After the Great Wall, we headed to Ming’s Tombs, which is a pretty massive complex of… you guessed it. Tombs. Thirteen of the sixteen Ming Emperors are buried there (I dare you to name one without goggling it). The Sacred Way has a long series of pretty cool statues. All in all, not a bad spot. I wouldn’t recommend a whole separate trip there, but if you are hitting the Great Wall at the closest point to Beijing, it is on your way going or coming and well worth an hour’s stop.

michael hodson at ming's tombs china

Some people complain I am never in any of my photos…. so… here’s me.


elephants seated statues sacred way mings tombs beijing china

loads and loads of statues


mings tomb

Emperor, statue, big building, you get the picture


After a long day, and many trains, but some great sightseeing, we all wanted just a few things.  A nice, non-moving bed to sleep in — thanks to our UTC sponsor Hostelbookers we got that at Happy Dragon Courtyard, which is in the cool, old part of Beijing that I like. And some dumplings…. which I proceeded to eat for the next three or four meals in a row.


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About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

18 thoughts on “Brief Stop in Bejing on #UTC11: Great Wall

  • The Travel Chica

    I get crap for not being in any of my photos too.

    Props for beating the tourist hordes to the Wall for some great photos. If only you could have gotten them to clear out the pollution for you too.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      I know. I need to actually get in a few more photos. I just am NOT photogenic. Some people are (my sister for one), but I’ve never had it. O well.

  • Phil

    Is it just me, or has your photography really gone to the next level over the past several months? The “haze” might even add something.. Still amazed that you managed to fit this in on your way to Saigon.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Thanks, Phil. I have really been working on my photography. Trying to read more, try more things, edit more. And learn from other great photographers. Glad you are enjoying the efforts.

  • Kurt W

    Excellent shots! The Great Wall is something that becomes more impressive each day after viewing the majestic site in person. It seems that when I was there it was impressive but what makes it truly special is the passage of time.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Kurt, I agree. I am more impressed with the Great Wall every time I go back. In fact, I now have this time lapse idea I am thinking about for it….

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      I suppose I could take offense in the “getting better,” but I shant ask what you thought of them before 😉

      Kidding. And thanks. I look back on my old photos now and cringe, BUT since I am a better editor now, I might be able to pull some of them back up to respectable.

  • Baron's

    To be honnest, I am amazed at your pictures…what kind of camera are you using? and where did you take the first picture from. I mean where were you standing on the great wall to achieve this depth of view?

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Thanks, Baron. I am shooting with a Nikon D7000. Love it. Will upgrade in 2013, but planning on using this for another year to improve my skills. Generally shoot with two lens, a 18-200mm and a 10-20mm. On the Wall, we were at the main part, closest to Beijing, but the guide told us to head left at entering, so there were far fewer people there — and we got there before the main tourist buses showed up.

  • John

    Wow, it’s incredible that there were no other people there. I went years ago, and there were tons of tourists and locals hiking the wall. The funniest thing was that I was worried my hand was getting frostbite while old Chinese grandmoms walked the wall in just one layer of clothing.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Our guide really helped us out. I had been to this part of the Wall before, but didn’t know about the entrance he took us to. That part of the Wall was empty early on, but the section that I would have gone to without the guide’s advice was already crowded.

  • California traveler

    Wonderful guide to take you to a location to let you take pictures like that!!! I never would have thought you could have the opportunity, especially the long shot, with no tourists. 🙂

  • Michael

    It is unbelievable that there was no one at the great wall when the photo is shot! i was there last October and i could hardly walk due to the big crowd. Perhaps, i had chosen the wrong time to visit the great wall.

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