Have you ever considered the end of the Great Wall?
All good things must come to an end is a quote you often hear: the last slice of pizza in the box, Game of Thrones (what will we do with our Sunday nights?!) and sadly vacations. Have you ever considered the end of the great wall though?
When you see pictures of the Great Wall of China you nearly always see the section just outside of Beijing but like all good things it must come to an end and one end is at Shanhaiguan. Here the end of the Great Wall juts out into the see and rumours circulate that at low tide the defence fails as you can just walk around the wall. I don’t know whether this is true as the water was definitely too deep while I was visiting (and it probably is always too deep otherwise the whole purpose of the wall is void) but one thing is for certain the sea is not (and yes I tested it as I bravely went for a paddle!) clean and so therefore you would probably pick something up while circumnavigating the wall (or maybe that is the grand plan after all?).
One thing that you either love or loath about China is how sites are adapted for local tourism e.g. placing 7000 steps and a cable car to help pilgrims get up a mountain. In this case it involves camel rides along the wall, dancing horses or the more mundane (but more ethical) tricycle bike races. I ended up hiring a tricycle to ride along the wall and to be fair it was quite fun and not something you would find elsewhere. The wall itself has been restored in the 80s but if you walk to the end of the restored section over the barrier you can see in the distance how the wall looked pre-restoration. It is nice to see part of the wall that is original as it highlights what an amazing achievement it is. While the museum was more of a room with pictures on the wall as it is now and you can see from out its window.
This was my first weekend trip away from Tianjin and it certainly provided an eye opener to Chinese tourism. Would you rather a picture of the Great Wall or a British tourist? I didn’t give the right answer but I quickly learnt it after standing and failing to smile while 20 people queued to have their picture taken with me. Celebrity life isn’t so glamourous.
Would I go back to the end of the Great Wall or was it a disappointment? I went with a great group of people and had a fun day. The end may not be that dramatic but it is cool to think I have seen the middle and the end. Plus, going to Shanhaiguan there were no other non-Chinese tourists around so it was nice to immerse myself it Chinese tourism and all their unique quirks. For me, this is what attracts me to China and has made me fall in love with the culture. The train ride ( I took the 4 hour one to save) also allowed me to sit back and reflect on the changing landscape and diversity of China. Plus, I finally got to check out a beach in China though it didn’t inspire and I am sure there is better elsewhere (since this trip I have been to Hainan and that is beautiful!). If you have a spare day while in or around Beijing and want to immerse yourself in Chinese culture then definitely consider this day trip and it can be done on a budget.
So I am going to leave you with this very confusing thought:
What I find interesting is if you type in ‘end of the great wall of china’ it automatically comes up with Shanhaiguan and if you type in ‘start of the great wall of china’ it also comes up with Shanhaiguan. Is this possible? Can the start be the same as the end? Or is there no start and no end and well…
I could get all philosophical with you determining what is the start and what is the end but I am going to stop before it hurts my brain too much and I am going to ponder on what happened to the other end?! The definition of the Great Wall of China is the Ming wall ( there were many different routes built in the west depending on what land the dynasty controlled) so technically it starts( or ends depending how you look at it) in the Gansu region. One day I hope to visit here so I can say I have been to both the start and end (whichever way round it may be) of the Great Wall.
And if you want a definite answer to that confusing conundrum then let’s turn to one of my childhood favourite authors:
“The end of THE END is the best place to begin THE END, because if you read THE END from the beginning of the beginning of THE END to the end of the end of THE END, you will arrive at the end.”
― Lemony Snicket, The End
How to get to the End of the Great Wall?
You can do day trips from Beijing (or Tianjin as I did). The regular train takes about 4 hours while the express is a lot shorter at 2 hours. It can easily be done in a day.
What to see at the End of the Great Wall?
Old Dragon Head– This is the end of the Great Wall and juts out into the sea.
Shanhaiguan Fortifications– Part of the Great Wall and the fortifications for the town. Now you can wander along the top providing views of the town and enjoy the selection of attractions that have sprung up along the Great Wall to please the local tourists.
Shanhaiguan Town– it is a small town which is typical of Chinese life without any other major attractions.