In a post on the China Travel Blog, Michaela Kron reflects on the experience of seeing what's left of the western terminus of the Great Wall of China, where a weather-worn 1,000-year-old Han Dynasty-era fort just outside of Dunhuang evokes far different feelings and thoughts than the iconic Ming-era stretches of the Wall north of Beijing:
When I visited the Great Wall of China at Badaling (near Beijing), it was just as I had imagined it to be. The weathered brown and grey bricks extended for miles, tracing the lush, mountainous terrain, growing thinner and thinner before eventually disappearing into the fog. The air was fresh and misty, a welcome change from Shanghai's sweltering humidity. This was it. After a grueling climb, there I was, standing on the Great Wall! I took it all in; I wasn't sure when I'd see it again.
It didn't take long. Just over a week later, I was back.
This time, I was in Dunuang, a city in northern Gansu Province where there isn't much to do besides explore the desert (and the famous Mogao Caves) and visit the Shazhou Night Market to buy dried fruit and jade souvenirs. But a couple hours outside of the city and in the middle of the desert is a valuable piece of Chinese history: the western end of the Great Wall.