Meeting Mark Zuckerburg on the Great Wall of China

‘NatIt’s Mark Zuckerburg’! I shouted loudly to my sister Natalie who was at the bottom of the steps, contemplating whether to walk up and join me on my journey to Watch Tower 1.

She looked up and shouted back even louder ‘Are you sure, it looks like Chris Martin!

To be fair the resemblance was remarkable, but the unmistakable Mark Zuckerburg clearly heard my sister, (as did the rest if the people on the wall) and turned to us laughing.

Surrounded by an entourage of healthy looking youngsters, they all flew by me as I was attempting the climb up the huge stone steps to the tower above.

Red faced and huffing and puffing, I’m not ashamed to admit that my pace did pick up a bit as I took chase to follow Mark & his team up the stairs. My sister sensibly decided to stay behind.

At the time my business model was teaching people how to use Facebook to build email leads, and the income from my own email list, software I was selling, and my digital courses, had given me the freedom to travel the world and visit places like the Great Wall of China! If it wasn’t for Mark I wouldn’t be there right now. So I had a lot to thank him for.

All the way up I was thinking, ‘oh my gosh, Mark Zuckerburg, what am I going to say to him’, (‘how many more steps’), ‘shall I just approach and say hey Mark, thanks for Facebook’ (‘am I going to make it to the top?’) or ‘hey Mark, you’re the source of my business’, (why can’t I breathe anymore) ‘or simply ‘hey buddy nice to meet you’, (I don’t care if it’s the queen of England up there, I can’t go another step!). 🥵

Finally I made it puffing & panting to the top and thankfully MZ was long gone into an area that said ‘no entry’.

I say thankfully as I really did look like I needed an air ambulance, so I sat down for a few minutes to recover and gain my composure.

When I got my breath back I had a look to see where they had gone but all I could see was bushes, no track and nowhere to go! 🧐

I had no idea where they could have gone and presumed that somehow they had a secret invisible Zuckmobile hidden up beyond the Great Wall of china that whisked him away to a secret location.

However to my surprise as I turned to head back down the steps, he reappeared right beside me!

But instead of leaning over to shake his hand and say Hi. I stood, rooted to the spot completely speechless. 😳

I’m not sure if it was the altitude mixed with my still 150bpm heart rate which led to one of the most unlikely scenarios known to man – me speechless, but I couldn’t find a single word.

Instead I lifted my camera and took a quick shot as he walked past.

Mark Zuckerburg

Then I believe I said something fairly banal to his entourage and then finally fired up my Periscope app to get some video footage!

Please find below a heavily chopped and edited version of what was originally a 30 minute Periscope which was mainly me puffing and panting as I chased Mark down and up the Great Wall of China.

I have cut out the part where I was given CPR (only joking). 😂

More importantly, let’s talk about The Great Wall of China!

The Great Wall of China

Imagine stepping onto a structure so ancient and expansive that it weaves through the mountains and deserts of China like a stone serpent, stretching over 13,000 miles. That’s the Great Wall of China for you! A monument born out of necessity, ambition, and sheer human will.

The origins of the Wall date back to as early as the 7th century BC, with various feudal states erecting walls to defend their territories. However, it was during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) under Emperor Qin Shi Huang that the idea of a unified wall truly took shape. The emperor sought not only to fend off northern invaders like the Mongols but also to symbolize the unification of China under one rule.

As centuries rolled on, successive dynasties added their own chapters to the Wall’s story. The Han (206 BC – 220 AD) extended it deep into the Gobi Desert, fortifying the Silk Road, while the most well-known sections were built by the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 AD) to protect against the Manchurian and Mongolian tribes.

The Ming’s contributions are what most visitors explore and marvel at today (including us). Towering structures of brick and stone, guarded by imposing watchtowers and battlements.

The Wall’s purpose evolved with time, from a defensive barrier to a symbol of power and a tool for border control and trade regulation. This incredible structure showcases human determination and resilience, enduring through countless historical changes.

As you trace your fingers over the weathered stones, remember that you’re touching a piece of history that’s witnessed the rise and fall of empires, the march of countless soldiers, and the quiet passage of time itself!

me standing on the great wall of china

Planning Your Visit to The Great Wall of China

Visiting the Great Wall of China is an unforgettable experience, and timing can play a big part in how you experience this ancient marvel.

Best Times to Visit:

  • Spring (April to June): This period is arguably the best time to visit. The weather is pleasantly warm, not too hot or cold, making your hike along the Wall comfortable. The spring bloom brings the landscape to life, with vibrant flowers and a fresh green backdrop enhancing the Wall’s majestic presence. It’s also a sweet spot before the peak tourist season, so you can enjoy a bit less crowding.
  • Autumn (September to November): Similar to spring, autumn offers mild weather and the added spectacle of changing leaves. The Great Wall set against the backdrop of red, orange, and yellow foliage is a sight to behold. The comfortable temperatures and the reduced likelihood of rain make for ideal hiking conditions.
  • Summer (July and August): If you don’t mind the heat and the company of more visitors, summer can be a vibrant time to visit. The landscape is lush and green, and the Wall feels alive under the bright sun. However, be prepared for the possibility of crowded sections and higher temperatures, which can make longer hikes more challenging.
  • Winter (December to February): For the adventurous soul, a winter visit offers a unique perspective of the Wall blanketed in snow. It’s a quieter time to explore, with fewer tourists. Dressing warmly is crucial, as the wind and cold can be quite biting. The snowy landscape provides a serene and almost mystical experience, but do check the weather as some sections may be closed due to heavy snow or ice.

We were there in March, just as Spring was on it’s way. It was chilly, as you can see from our hats (in fact I bought my beanie there that I’ve been wearing in cold temperatures ever since!), but also sunny and pleasant. In fact I didn’t want it much warmer when attempting to ascend the steps!

Getting To The Great Wall of China

The journey to the Great Wall is part of the adventure, and there are a few ways to approach it, depending on your preferences and where you’re starting from.

From Beijing: The Wall’s proximity to Beijing makes it an accessible excursion from the capital. Sections like Badaling and Mutianyu are popular choices due to their well-preserved state and visitor facilities.

  • By Tour: Joining a guided tour can take a lot of the guesswork out of the trip. Tours often include transportation from your hotel in Beijing, entrance fees, and sometimes even a meal. Plus, having a guide can enrich your visit with historical insights and stories.
  • Private Car: Hiring a private car or taxi for the day offers flexibility to explore at your own pace. It’s a bit more costly but worthwhile for those who prefer a personalized experience or are traveling in a group.
  • Public Transportation: For the budget-conscious or adventurous traveler, buses and trains to sections like Badaling and Mutianyu are available. It requires a bit more navigation and time management but is a rewarding way to experience the Wall like a local.

We chose the private car option which was great, but I think if I went again I may join a tour just to get a bit more out of the experience.

Each option has its pros and cons, so consider what suits your travel style best. Remember, planning ahead can make your visit smoother, allowing you more time to soak in the awe-inspiring history and views the Great Wall of China has to offer.

me standing on the great wall of china

Where to Visit the Great Wall of China

Choosing the right section of the Great Wall to visit can significantly shape your experience.

Here’s a deeper look into three popular sections;

Mutianyu

This is the section of the wall we visited. Family friendly and for those looking for a mix of accessibility and a touch of adventure, the Wall here is impressively well-preserved, with a couple of steep parts, but mostly relatively gentle slopes making it easier for visitors of all ages to explore.

The lush surroundings, especially vibrant in spring and autumn, create a breathtaking backdrop and if you’re lucky you may even meet a celebrity or two!

What really made the experience unique was the toboggan ride back down. Yes, you heard that right. A toboggan ride on the Great Wall of China!

After reaching the Wall via cable car, we explored the ancient fortifications, marveled at the panoramic views, chased after Mark Zuckerburg and then descended in the most exhilarating way possible. The ride is safe, fun, and offers a quirky twist to the historical exploration. Check out the video below to see our toboggan adventure in action!

Jinshanling

If you’re keen on a more serene and physically engaging experience, Jinshanling will not disappoint. This section is known for its rugged beauty and relative tranquility, making it a favorite among hikers and photographers.

The Wall here snakes over mountains and ridges, providing some of the most dramatic landscapes. The mix of restored and original features gives a sense of the Wall’s age and the immense effort that went into its construction.

Be prepared for a bit of a workout, as the terrain here is more challenging, but the views and the sense of peace are well worth the effort.

Badaling

For those short on time or looking for the most straightforward visit, Badaling is the go-to section. It’s the most visited part of the Wall, thanks to its proximity to Beijing and the ease with which visitors can access and walk its broad, restored pathways.

While it can get crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons, the majestic views and the sheer scale of the fortifications are undeniably impressive. It’s an excellent option for those who want to experience the Great Wall’s grandeur without venturing too far from the capital.

Each section of the Great Wall offers a distinct experience, from the adventurous and family-friendly atmosphere of Mutianyu to the hiker’s paradise of Jinshanling and the accessible grandeur of Badaling. Consider what kind of adventure you’re looking for and choose the section that best suits your travel style and physical preferences.

What to Expect

A visit to the Great Wall of China is a journey through history, but it’s also a physical adventure that can vary widely depending on where you choose to explore.

Here’s what you need to know to prepare:

Terrain and Difficulty

  • The Great Wall isn’t just one long, flat path. It follows the contours of the mountains, which means you’ll encounter a mix of steep climbs, descents, and flat stretches. Sections like Mutianyu offer a more gentle terrain, making it suitable for families and those looking for a less strenuous visit. On the other hand, adventurous souls might prefer the rugged paths of Jinshanling, where the Wall meanders over hills and ridges, offering a more challenging hike.
  • Uneven steps are a common feature along the Wall. In some places, the steps are high and irregular, requiring a bit of caution and steady footing. A good pair of walking or hiking shoes with strong grip can make all the difference in navigating these parts comfortably.
  • Depending on the section and the time of year, you might also encounter slippery surfaces, especially after rain or in the snow-covered winter months. A walking stick or trekking poles can be invaluable for added stability and support.

Facilities and Amenities

  • The availability of facilities can greatly impact your experience. Well-touristed areas like Mutianyu and Badaling are equipped with modern amenities, including clean restrooms, a variety of dining options ranging from snack bars to sit-down restaurants, and shops where you can purchase souvenirs or essentials you might have forgotten, like water bottles or sun hats.
  • If you’re drawn to the less-visited sections for a more serene experience, be prepared for minimal facilities. This means you might not find restrooms for long stretches, and dining options could be non-existent. Packing your own water, snacks, or even a light picnic can turn this into a positive, letting you enjoy a meal with a view like no other.
  • Keep in mind that while some sections offer conveniences like cable cars, chair lifts, and even toboggan rides for an exciting descent, these might not always be operational due to weather or maintenance. Checking ahead can help you plan your visit more effectively.

Health and Safety

  • The Great Wall is an ancient structure, and while it’s been preserved and restored in many areas, it’s still important to remember that you’re navigating a historical site. This means being mindful of your steps, staying on marked paths, and respecting barriers.
  • The altitude and the physical exertion can also catch some visitors off guard. If you’re not used to physical activity, take it slow, and don’t hesitate to take breaks. The Wall isn’t going anywhere, and the views from each vantage point are worth savoring.
  • Finally, especially in the more remote sections, cellular service can be spotty. Letting someone know your plans or visiting with a companion can provide a safety net in case of unexpected challenges.

Embarking on a visit to the Great Wall is as much about stepping back in time as it is about the physical journey. With a bit of preparation and the right expectations, you can ensure your experience is both awe-inspiring and comfortable.

view from tower 1 on the great wall of china

Quick Tips for a Memorable Great Wall of China Experience

  1. Wear Comfortable Shoes: Opt for sturdy footwear with good grip to navigate the uneven steps and paths confidently.
  2. Stay Hydrated: Carry a water bottle, especially during warmer months, to keep hydrated as you explore.
  3. Sun Protection: Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat to shield yourself from the sun, particularly in open, unshaded sections.
  4. Beat the Crowds: Plan to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon to enjoy quieter moments on the Wall.
  5. Safety First: Always stay on marked paths and respect barriers for both your safety and the preservation of this historic site.
  6. Layer Up: Weather can change quickly, especially in mountainous areas, so dressing in layers can keep you comfortable throughout the day.
  7. Pack Snacks: Especially if venturing to less touristy sections, bring along some snacks or a picnic to enjoy with a view.
  8. Capture Memories: Take photos and notes, but also take moments to just soak in the views and the history without a lens in between.
  9. Respect the Site: Remember that the Great Wall is a world heritage site, so treat it with care for future generations to enjoy.
  10. Seek Unique Experiences: Whether it’s a toboggan ride down from Mutianyu or a sunrise hike at Jinshanling, look for those unique moments that make your visit truly unforgettable.

Visiting the Great Wall of China – Summary

The Great Wall of China, with or without Mark Zuckerburg, is a site to behold and well worth a visit if you ever get the chance.

Its vastness and history make it an unmissable experience for anyone with a penchant for adventure and a curiosity about the past. Stretching over 13,000 miles, it’s a monument of such scale that it’s often said to be visible from space, highlighting its size and the incredible effort that went into its construction.

Whether you’re taking a leisurely walk along its restored sections or challenging yourself on its rugged paths, the Wall offers something for every traveller.

Remember to pack your walking shoes, stay hydrated, and keep your camera at the ready, you never know who you’ll bump into!

But also take a moment to simply stand in awe of this architectural marvel. After all, it’s not every day you get to walk alongside history.


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