Photographer Greg Whitton travelled with us to China and took some incredible photos on his journey. In this first part in a series on his photos we head to Beijing and the legendary Great Wall.
In August my girlfriend and I joined On The Go Tours for their Fine China trip, starting in Beijing and travelling through the country to Hong Kong, adding a little extra break of our own to Shanghai at the end. Beijing is an incredible city, so very busy, surprisingly touristy, but not oppressively so. During the tour you get to see the Forbidden City with its throngs of Chinese visitors, and get blown away by the scale of Tiananmen Square, as well as visit the glorious Summer Palace. Part of the tour also includes the Hutongs – narrow streets with residences that are sadly being systematically demolished to make way for new developments. It was during this part of the tour (taken by rickshaw), that we stopped at this lake.
Used as a social meeting point for many Chinese (the water helps keep the air a little cooler than in other parts of the city), there are many bars and night venues. Whilst we were there the authorities were trying to control algae growth in the lake, employing these men in small boats to use nets to ’round up’ the algae. I like this image because it provides a contrast between the serene atmosphere of the lake, the men going about their work, and the obvious bustling city beyond.
No trip to China would be complete without a walk along the Great Wall. On The Go take you to the Badaling section of this 6000km long defensive structure. It was the first section restored in the 1970’s and is one of the closest to Beijing, so it does sometimes get crowded. It also doesn’t have the iconic view of the Wall stretching off into the distance, it is a circular section between two flanks of a valley, albeit an impressive valley. Badaling is a strategically important part of the Wall (perhaps one of the most important along the whole thing), and not without its quieter parts. For example, ninety-nine per cent of the tourists first ascend the Western peak in the clockwise direction (due to the coach park being on this side of the road), but if you walk in an anti-clockwise direction to the East, you will perhaps have a whole section to yourself…why? Because it’s steep, really steep, on both sides, and by the time the other tourists have got to the top of the Western peak (which is higher), most just want to get down and thus turn back, so they don’t complete the circuit. Also, you get there early, so those that do the full circular route, of some 5km, they still haven’t reached the Eastern wall.
The valley in which this section sits was the main road from Mongolia through to Beijing, and so it was fiercely defended and never taken directly, although, as most people with common sense will realise, as the Mongols did, all you had to do was walk around! I took this image from the Western part of the Wall, looking over to the East. The Pagoda which is nestled on the hillside closest makes a nice foreground interest to give scale to the distant Eastern Wall.