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Top Tips for Climbing the Great Wall of China

If you are prepared to fly long-haul for a cultural overdose, then Beijing is the perfect destination. Where else can you eat great food, meet great people, find pandas, pagodas, and visit one of the seven wonders of the world?

Standing on the top of the Great Wall, watching it flow like a ribbon into the lush green of the mountain and then merge into the blue of the smoggy sky, you truly feel on top of the world. However, wear the wrong shoes or visit with the wrong people and your trip could be spoilt. As an expert in stupid travelling mistakes, I've already done all the stupid things you might do wrong. So here are my top five tips for what you should and shouldn't do to make your life-changing visit life-changing for the right reasons:

- Hydration, hydration, and more hydration! Even if you're planning to take the cable car, or toboggan back down the wall, you will have to climb for at least an hour to reach a good vantage point: longer if you want to reach the top. Beijing is hot and humid for most of the year (and very cold in the winter) so if you travel in the spring, summer, or autumn, chances are you will be walking in 30 degree+ (Celsius) heat. For the sake of your health, and the health of your companion (who would have to carry you back down if you faint from heat exhaustion) take a bottle of water. Actually be safe: take two!

- Be fashion savvy, not a fashion victim. The first time I climbed the wall I was trying to impress a man. Thus, I wore ballet pumps, jeans and a sleeveless black sweater. On the hottest day of the year: big mistake! I would suggest a loose cotton t shirt, trainers (sneakers), and loose trousers rather than denim. Also take note of all the Asian people carrying umbrellas even when it isn't raining. This can protect you from the sun as well as a potential downfall.

- It's a long and winding wall. So choose the best bit. Most of the tourist buses and trips go to Badaling, as it is the section of the wall closest to the city. However, travel for just an extra half hour and you will find sections of the wall more beautiful, and more importantly, less congested with tourists, pickpockets, and Mao-memorabilia sellers. Try Simatai, Jinshanling, and Mutianyu for a truly mind-blowing experience.

- You're not alone. If you can, visit the wall as part of a group. If you have someone to push you up the hardest bits and encourage each other to climb higher and higher, you will see more and get more from your trip.

- Finally, have fun! A lot of people take travelling too seriously, and mistakenly think it makes them much cooler than they are. Instead I would suggest you take hundreds of pictures, ride the toboggan back down the wall and squeal the whole way, and buy a t shirt that states "I climbed the Great Wall of China!". Mine is bright yellow, and I wear it proudly.

Having travelled extensively around Asia, Tor Brierley is now an Editorial Assistant living and working in London. Tor has a BA in English Literature from the University of East Anglia, and has written travel articles for various newspapers and magazines. Passionate about good shoes, good food, and  exploring new things, Tor tries to incorporate these things in her work. Further articles and information can be found at www.torbrierley.co.uk


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