I have found my hermit residence for when I tire of this material world.


Believe it, you can escape the people mountain people sea during Golden Week.


This national week of holiday, beginning first of October, is one of China’s worst times in terms of traffic and tourism. Students and workers, who rarely get any time off, pile into trains and planes and congregate at every tourist destination, popular or otherwise. There is not a single attraction that has ‘fewer’ or ‘politer’ crowds. Principle of arbitrage cancels out any hope you may have of a relaxing vacation.

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It’s hilarious how all my relatives unanimously said the best thing really is to just stay at home, avoid public transport, and catch up on snooze.

I took their advice for the most part, crossing off a few more items on my China bucket list:

  • Badminton
  • Eating something strange (Octopus skewers, that strange enough? No? What about live scorpion?)
  • KTV (a.k.a. karaoke)

For the latter half of Golden Week, I headed out to Chenjiapu, an unrestored section of the Great Wall out in Hebei Province. I have my guesses for why there are so few visitors to this section of the wall, but ultimately I was completely delighted to find a place so pure of air and life.

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We stayed in the village with the Chen family, and for 300 RMB per person we got:

  • Transportation to and from Beijing
  • 1 night stay
  • 2 dinners and 1 breakfast (Mouthwatering, scrumptious, country cooking)
  • A trail guide (you’ll want one for the hardest slope)

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Out of all my travels in China, this was the most worthwhile trip. The unrestored Great Wall is worlds better than the rebuilt segments, even without all the people. Every hiking trail is breathtakingly beautiful. I got to hike some crazy, crazy trails, and without a guide I definitely would not have believed it possible to explore many of the places we did.

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There are two places I can’t decide between for my hermit home: one is at the highest, highest point in all of the Beijing-Hebei area, at over 1500 meters high. You scale a vertical wall to reach the ramparts, but once you’re up there and all the world falls away, that’s it — you’ve found nirvana.

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The second place is at the edge of a cliff. You get there first by sliding down slopes so steep that I wouldn’t have dared go down on my own, then by picking your way through the bones of the Great Wall bleached white by time. The cliff sits in the middle of a valley spreading far, far, far. If you climb to the top of the highest mound of rocks, the wind rushes right through your soul and everything is right with the universe.

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The unrestored Chenjiapu Great Wall is a marvelous, wondrous place. Given the chance, I would come here again and again. You can plan your own trip at the Great Wall Fresh here, designed by one of the many foreigners who stayed with the Chen family and loved the experience. I certainly did.

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