Chasing Mirages

Escaping toxic Beijing

by on Jun.29, 2011, under Posts

The air in Beijing was especially bad the last couple of weeks.  According to the U.S. Embassy’s air quality monitoring station, Beijing’s Air Quality Index was consistently above 200 (unhealthy to very unhealthy) for many days in a row.  I knew the air was bad because I could see it, and Beijing is too dry to be foggy 24/7!

Fortunately, I had an out.  A family friend has a place in 八达岭 (ba da ling), a town northwest of Beijing known for its touristy section of the Great Wall.  A mere hour away from central Beijing, Badaling is a great place to go for some fresh air.

Northern gate of Chadaocun

Even better, Badaling has more to offer than the commercialized, crowded, re-built section of the Great Wall for which it is best known.  My friend who lives out there showed me a quiet, beautiful old village called 岔道村 (cha dao cun) with a history of 450 years and an amazing, largely intact village wall.

Here’s a view of the town from atop the southern gate.  This is a good example of rural reconstruction that has preserved the local historical architectural style.

Here’s a view of the western part of the town wall, taken from inside the town:

…and one from atop the wall:

The east side of the wall isn’t in such great shape:

On the surrounding hills are several conspicuous pyramidal mounds.  I imagine that they used to be guard towers or ancillary Great Wall structures.

More apparent remnants of the Great Wall also surround the village:

As seen from this vast, overgrown, empty parking lot, this village hasn’t become the tourism cash cow that its developers anticipated.

I blame the ad designers:

Visit our quaint country home and savor our frightened, caged bunnies and pheasants! Kept fresh and behind bars just for you.

Note:  To get to 岔道村, take bus 919 快 from 德胜门 (de sheng men) between 积水潭 (ji shui tan) and 鼓楼 (gu lou) and get off at 八达岭镇政府 (badaling zhen zhengfu).  Alternatively, take the light rail from 西直门 (xizhimen) to 八达岭站 (badaling zhan).  The village is walkable from either the bus stop or the train station.  Here’s a Google map of the area.

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