Friday, 30 August 2013

Day 24 - The Great Wall and Ghost Village of Chadao

After some problems (or not as my Chinese is very limited) with the trains, I had to take the bus to get to Badaling and see the Great Wall today. Taking the 878 or 919 bus is not a big deal however as they are actually faster than the train, depart almost every minute in busy periods (like today) and drop you off only a few hundred meters from the entrance vs the 800m the train station is located from the entrance.

You might now wonder why I chose the most touristy of places to go and see the Great Wall? Well, first it's the easiest to get to from Bejing and second I have been to a different part last time so decided to just give it a try. I mean how bad can it be?

Despite what everybody says, going to Badaling is not all that bad but you have to stay away from the section the crowds frequent. So if you go in through the 'climbing' entrance (and you want to be climbing) head to the south section. Not only will all the crowds be headed to the north section but you also get the nicer views of the north section and landscape around.

The south section is shorter to walk though and less steep overall so you might still want to brave the crowds for the busiest part in case you are done quite fast and want to do more hiking. I have done both and while I liked the south section, I did not like the north section at all and wished that I would have just gone back an forth in the south section.

Once I was satisfied of having seen and climbed the Great Wall enough this time round, I decided to head to the train station and take the train back. It's always fun to take two different modes of transport and find out which is nicer or better.

Since I had some time till the train departed and I saw a sign for the Folk Village of Chadao near the train station, I figured I go and check it out to help pass the time.

Well, what should have been a quick 10-20 minutes wandering around took me almost 2h of walking around and I wished I could have spend the whole day here. What I saw was not a 'Folk Village' or 'Historic Village' but a ghost village, full of deserted and overgrown houses, a mostly empty main street, dusty windows, faded paint and almost no people at all.

It was again a mostly bizarre setting but such a cool one that I forgot everything and just went along taking pictures. I loved it and in some ways was glad not having it seen earlier of the Great Wall visit would not have happened.

There are newly build houses, with electrical switchboards, the piping is laid out, even AC units are installed but everything is empty, unfinished and from the looks abandoned.

Maybe it was a project to attract tourists but as it did not happen as planned, it now just lays to waste. There are people around from what I have seen and most were amused and surprised by me wandering around with a big smile on my face taking pictures of abandoned houses.

So here another one of my tips. If you visit the Great Wall, don't be afraid to go to Badaling (but take the bus or train and save the money for a tour) and climb the south section. On your way back however do make sure you go and visit Chadao Village, you won't regret it and don't be afraid to just wader as nobody will stop you.

Tomorrow, I will have to get myself a ticket to Xi'an and try to squeeze a visit to the Temples of Heaven and Earth before taking the train.

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