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As one travels more and more, one hears and reads stories of such and such place whose reason of existence and whose composition to meet its reason will stun you. The Great Wall of China is one such composition. And the section known as 司马台Simatai is its quintessential plaything. Much has been sung about its steep drops and climbs, its uncompromising solid construction, its audacious and singular architecture, and its undisputed authenticity; but only as one sets foot on it and climb to its maximun height will the full awe snap in one's consciouseness like a heart attack. With only a 5.4 km length, 35 enemy towers ride closely on its back, which sits precariously along the sharp cliffs of the 燕山Yan Mountains in 北京 Beijing's 密云县Miyun County, about 120 km from the capital city.

Like many existing Walls, Simatai was a 明朝Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) creation, constructed in the first year of the 洪武Hongwu reign (1368), and fortified later by the general, 戚继光Qi Jiguang (1528-1588). It is part of 古北口Gubeikou, the ancient strategic pass that is the first gateway in the road toward Beijing. Four Walls -- 卧虎山Wohushan (Crouching Tiger Mountain), 蟠龙山Panlongshan, 金山岭Jinshanling, and Simatai -- linked together on both east and west side of the Yan Mountains to build the defence line of Gubeikou.

Simatai Great Wall is separated into eastern and western parts by a valley with a lake, the 鸳鸯湖Yuanyanghu (Yuanyang Lake). The most dramatic climbs are on the eastern side, which has 15 towers. Going from Tower 12 up is the 天梯Sky Ladder, a nearly 85 degree steep climb toward the 986 meter high 望京楼Watch Beijing Tower -- the summit of Simatai. Linking the summit to the next tower, 仙女楼Fairy Tower, is the most precarious segment of the entire Wall -- 100 meter long, and with as little as 30 centimeters of wide space. This segment is know as the 天桥Sky Bridge. As can be imagine, the climb up the last few towers are not meant for the weak-hearted. Only the athletic and the most adventurous will attempt the climb. But since there aren't too many, and for safety concerns, these towers are closed to the public. So, once you reached Tower 12, you will be stopped by the blockade of a few metal chains and a sign which says you will be fined dearly if you go beyond this point. But as always, there are those whose desire for the ultimate sublime experience outweights material lost and their lives.

NEW -- July 21, 2010

The beautiful city of Suzhou crisscrossed with narrow water canals

司马台长城图片Simatai Great Wall Pictures

  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall
  • Picture of 司马台长城 Simatai Great Wall

My translations of some Chinese poems.

image of Tiananmen gateimage of the seventeen arch bridge in Yiheyuan

Walk through Beijing's great attractions -- 故宫Gugong (The Palace Museum), 天坛Tiantan (Temple of Heaven), 天坛天安门广场Tiananmen Square, 颐和园Yiheyuan (Summer Palace).

image of Pingyao streetimage of the main gate tower to the Chang family's compound and gardern

The compounds and manors of the extreme wealthy in 山西Shanxi's small towns and villages. See the old town of 平遥Pingyao with well-preserved Ming and Qing city wall and street layout.

clay figure of 钟馗 Zhong Kui

Arts and Crafts that I bought along my travels.

trucks on the desert road

Pictures I took while on a bus traveling through the sandy deserts of 甘肃Gansu on my way to 嘉峪关Jiayuguan.

Travelogues and travel notes.

Travel Information

Getting There:

Getting to 司马台长城Simatai Great Wall can be time-consuming. Be prepare to set aside at least 3 hours for the journey. From 北京市Beijing city's 东直门汽车站Dongzhimen bus station, take the #980 express bus (15 Yuan) to 密云县Miyun County. The last stop will be at the county's bus station. Get off and go out to the main road, which is less than a minute walk from where the bus enters the outdoor station. When you go out, make a right turn and you will see the main road. One the main road there will be a sign indicating buses to Simatai. I am not certain of the exact spot. At the time, because of our late start and because I could not find the bus, my brother and I hired a minivan for the 60 km ride to the Wall. When I return, we took the local bus (4 Yuan) back to Miyun County. You can catch the bus in Simatai's parking lot, which is by the ticket office; or better yet, wait outside on the road that gets into the parking lot. The local bus will make a stop at 六角峪Liujiaoyu first, then picks up passengers at Simatai to Miyun. The buses come and go quickly, so you really have to be active. Be sure to let the driver know that you wanted to stop at the Miyun bus station, or at a #980 bus stop location. Let them know that you are heading back to Beijing City.

Entrance Ticket:

40 Yuan (Autumn 2009). Cable: one way, 30 Yuan; both ways, 50 Yuan. The cable stations close at 4:30 pm. Cables only get you up halfway, to climb further by machines, there is another lift that climbs up the mountain on tracks: one way, 20 Yuan; both ways,30 Yuan. My brother and I took the cable and walked up to the top. The stone steps are uneven, so the climb can be very tiring. Be prepared.

Accomodations:

There are family-style guesthouses in the village right outside the ticket office. Usually, the guesthouse is a combination of restaurant and rooms, which makes better business sense. Before entering Simatai, I checked out one of the family-style guesthouse. The rooms were clean, with either one large bed or two beds. In the rooms were toilets and showers, but hot water would only be available in the evening. Ask to be certain. Room prices depend on the season, the number of people, and the number of beds. A likely range is from 50 to 200 Yuan. I told the owner we will be back for a room, but we never did. Instead, we ended up spending the night in one of Simatai's towers.

Note:

When you use the cable car to get up to the Wall, remember that you will end up on Tower 8. You cannot get all the way down to the street level on foot using the same route without the cable car. To get back down after the cable stations are closed, you will have to get to Tower 2, which will take time. So, time well. Night comes quickly.