I was about to write " a nightmare" but it was a lye: not even that, only... impossible. Our only chance to access the wall in Badaling was to leave the bus more than 2 km before it, and walk along the desperate row of jammed cars.
No problem... it's China.
Walking on the walls ir harder than it seems: they are very steep and... long. If it happens under a strong sun things will get worse, and the risk of dehydratation must be seriously considered.
Of course, you may go back whenever you want, but... even down it is hard to walk. So, be prepared, and... enjoy!
The first time I visited Beijing and the Badaling Great Wall, we were in a big group with our own bus and English-speaking tour guide. I went back last September shortly after the 2008 Olympic Games and this time I brought my son on a self-tour. Since the tour with the English speaking guide is much more expensive, we took the local tourist bus at the S/W corner of Tiananmen for CNY160 that included the Ming Tombs and a simple lunch at the jade factory. We were the only non-Chinese on the bus and got to the Badaling Great Wall at around 2PM. The tour guide told us to be back at the parked bus by 3:45PM. First problem, it took us 30 minutes just to get a ride on the cable car to the top. Of course the view at the top is breathtaking so we got distracted and cut the timing a bit close. Next problem, we missed the cable car station at the top which was tucked under some trees and bushes to protect the view and had to hike back uphill on the steep wall. Finally, it took another 30 minutes just to get a cable car ride down to the bus parking lot. To make a long story short, the bus left without us and we were stranded in the Badaling Great Wall! Fortunately I had read the VT site so I knew that there was a public bus service, crowded and quite cramped for "big boys" like us, but it got us back to Beijing for CNY12 each. Another warning, bring plenty of drinking water as the price of a bottle jumps from CNY3 in the city to CNY10 at the top of the wall.
When you walk on the Great Wall to the North you'll find a German Beergarden! Who really needs a German Beergarden on top of the Great Wall? But, if you cannot live without German Weisswurst and Koelsch Beer, then here is the internet-adress:
When walking down the steep steps, do cling onto the rail - trust me you'd feel weird looking down the seem-like vertical drop. It apparently took longer going down then going up.
There was this crazy chinese lad who had descended the stairs so fast that he knocked so many people aside at his path (me included). He fell on top of an old woman and a young child and they fell downwards with him.... luckily their injuries weren't that serious but the stupid lad got told big time by everybody around him....
The whole ordeal took my breath away in not a nice way. I was really anxious to get back down again but my legs couldn't stop shaking and I felt like crying.
However it's worth going as it has tested my fear of height and the courage to carry on and don't give up.
There is absolutely no need to walk through the caves at the entrance to the Great Wall. Everything inside is made of concrete - stalactites, stalactmites, and even a moon!
I guess, the Chinese try to develop a sort of "amusement park" around the Great Wall - as if the Great Wall wouldn't be attraction enough.
Anyway, the caves are included - see it, smile or shake your head, and move on to the really thrilling Great Wall.
Yeah, well, this "original" Mongolian doesn't attack anyone. I really admire his patience at this touristic place - still being friendly.
If he knew I was taking a photo, he probably would have earned some more money (or be even friendlier) ...
Be cautious when climbing the Great Wall! Anywhere it can be very steap and the steps don't have the same height! Wear good shoes and take a waterbottle with you, when you visit the Great Wall. Everything you buy at this place is very expensive!!
At the wall section of Huanghua private persons simply request andentrance fee of 2 Yuan. They let pass Chinese, but Westerners are charged.
Also at the exit point a guy requests a 2 yuan "exit fee". When we refused to pay he blocked the way and even got aggressive and physical. In the end we paid ....
As a female traveller, my experience of walking up the Great Wall wasn't easy at all. It is very steep and the path is very rugged. Go earlier and walk slowly and try not to bring too much on your backpack.