Last weekend I went to see the Great Wall at Simatai. It was much less crowded there than at Badaling, and also much longer and more beautiful. We hiked for four hours in the heat, but it was well worth it. Every once in a while “watchbags” (our name for Chinese street peddlers) would approach us to try to sell us drinks and fans. Some of them were persistent and would follow us for a long time before turning back to find shade.
The wall was generally in good condition, though a few parts were in disrepair. At one point we came across workers laying new stones to the rougher sections. It must be hard work, laboring in the sun so far from home.
The wall was very elegant I thought, the way it snaked along with the mountains and valleys, extending far into the distance – we could not see the end of it. I am still in awe of how enormous it is; I have tried to imagine its long history and battles: from archers warding off nomadic tribes, to the more recent Sino-Japanese War. Like at lot of history, it is at once epic, terrible, beautiful and tragic.