You have to walk past the Chinese teahouse – they offer decent tea but at unconscionable prices. Ignore the souvenir hawkers that try to push their t-shirts of a Barack Obama mocked up in a Mao suit. There are stairs that offer a way up the mountain but the ski lift, at an extra cost of course, will most likely tempt you with its double allure of a short, 15-minute ride and scenic views. Take it.
After stumbling off the chair, you’ll have to walk up another flight of stairs. You’ll notice that the Great Wall at Mutianyu is in pretty great shape – no signs of recent battles with the Mongol hordes. Apparently, they have been restored by soldiers years ago, with convenience, not fortification, in mind.
This wasn’t what I expected. Long dormant since my move to Seoul, my inherent New York cynicism began to stir – has The Great Wall of China been desecrated by the imprecations of the modern day tourist?
I begrudgingly continued my way up the Wall when the view of the landscape opened up. Revelation occurred. I had what alcoholics call a moment of clarity. It wasn’t The Great Wall itself that was the wonder – one doesn’t go there to marvel at its ancient immortality – but rather, the expansiveness of the construction. How could I not be in awe of the blue skies that finally emerged from the gray, synonymous with the new China, and The Great Wall travelling across an ocean of mountain, each bend and swerve like a crest on a wave.