Catching the fast train from Beijing to Laolongtou Great Wall
To get to Laolongtou (literally meaning ‘old dragon’s head’) Great Wall from Beijing you can either drive or take the fast train to Shanhaiguan which takes about two hours. From there it’s about a thirty minute drive to the Wall. This seemed the easiest and most comfortable option, so one Sunday, some friends and I set out early to take the train. The train is very comfortable and travels around 302km/h. There are snacks and water on board; complimentary if you travel first class.
I had done the same trip in summer and had wanted to return to see the snow and frozen sea. Very different sights in winter and summer – in summer the end of the Wall has several hundred sightseers; winter – none!!
Laolongtou lies five kilometres south of Shanhaiguan Pass in Qinhuangdao City and is the eastern starting point of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) Great Wall. It is the only part of the Great Wall that is on the sea. It extends about 20 meters into the Bohai Sea and looks like a dragon drinking water, hence its name.
This part of the Great Wall was built in the Ming dynasty (1579). It survived for centuries, but when the Shanhaiguan Pass was invaded by the Eight Power Allied Force in the 1940s, it was almost completely destroyed. Then eighty-four years later, the people in the city of Shanhaiguan restored it.
In the day, Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty would stop here for a visit on their way to Fengtian (Present – day Shenyang, Liaoning Province and the largest city in northeast China).
Standing at Laolongtou, facing the sea, visitors can easily picture Emperor Qin, the first emperor of China, sending people into the sea to find a drug that would give him immortality. Clearly whatever drugs he took didn’t work as he is no longer with us!!
You can see the Great Wall as it zigzags over the rolling mountains like a giant dragon to the north. Looking to the south you can see the vast expanse of sea stretching far to merge with the sky.
Apart from thirty or forty military cadets, we were the only people visiting the Wall on this day so we had the opportunity to take great photos and walk through the maze by ourselves.
The area surrounding the Wall and beach area is made up of court yards, temples and the brick maze I just mentioned. So for the next couple of hours we amused ourselves walking in the maze and looking at the lovely scenery.