I finally made my way over the Hebei province to visit the famous Shanhaiguan Great Wall(长城,山海关段). Its pretty straight forward to get there; there are a number of trains and buses from BJ lasting anywhere from 2.5 hours to 6 hours. I took the D5 which left around 9am from BJ train station arriving in Shanhaiguan at 11.30am. Though I was looking for a place to stay within the walled city, it was impossible to get a homestay (due to Olympic hosting restrictions for foreigner). So, after about an hour looking for an affordable place I came across the newly opened Guan Yun hotel, about 5 minutes walk from the south gate. The staff was EXTREMELY friendly; I thought for a moment I am in another country. Mind you that the hotel seems to worship the goddess Guanyin and this devotion seems to spell over to the guests.
Shan hai guan(山海关) - Great Wall of Chinatravel in China- Shan hai guan(山海关) - Great Wall
The hotel opened about 2 months ago and has sparkling clean rooms, some prettier that others. The beautiful double rooms were available for 150 Yuan; I paid 100 yuan for my room.
I had 3 days to wander around Shanhaiguan, taking in the walled city, hiking up to Jiaoshan Mountain and spending about 5 hours at Laolongtou (Old Dragon's Head). While there, I chatted with the wonderful girls of the Tourist Information Center. Miffy showed me around and told me much about the history. She and her collegue are English majors at the university in Beidahe.
At Shanhaiguan, the Great Wall juts out into the sea. This part of the wall is known as the "Old Dragon's Head". Bus 25 will take you to the entrance for ¥1. If you turn left before the entrance, that road will take you under the wall and to the beach. From there you can see where the wall reaches the ocean without paying entrance fees. At low tide it is possible, albeit illegal and dishonest of course, to walk around the end of the wall and enter the paid-area without a ticket.
Further inland, The pass of Shanhaiguan is to be found. The pass of Shanhaiguan is a square, with a perimeter of around 4 kilometers long. The walls reach the heigh of 14 meters, and are 7 meters thick. The pass's east, south and north side is surrounded by a moat of 8 feet deep and 17 feet wide. There are drawbridges to get over the moat, and in the middle of the pass stands a tall bell tower.
All four sides of Shanhaiguan had a gate: Zhendong (East), Yinun (West), Mangyang (South), and Weiyuan (North). Due to disrepair over the centuries, only Zhendong gate still remains today. Zhendong Gate is the most important gate in Shanhaiguan due to its position, which faces outside the pass. On the gate hangs the board, written on it "First Pass Under the Heaven."
About 4 km from the walled city is a forest park, with Jiaoshan Mountain, near another section of the wall. Here, the wall can be seen snaking it's way over the hills. It is possible to take a chairlift/cablecar to get a better view, or if you're feeling fit, you can walk up a steep section of the wall. On a clear day (which I didnt have) the mountain offers views to the lake and supposedly to the Bohai see.
There's also a museum dedicated to the Great wall in the centre of Shanhaiguan (which was clsed due to renovation).
Much of Shanhaiguan has been extensively restored in the 80s. Currently much of the "old" town is being completely reconstructed. Quite a few entire city blocks are being remade into a faux-old Chinese city that, in fact, promises to be quite fake looking when construction is complete. As of the time of writing, September 2008, the walled city or "old town" was still under construction with only a few restaurants open. Come back in a year and you should see some activity in the "old town".