Stuff Laowai Like 3 - Great Wall (Simatai)

Which one is Badaling and which is Simatai?*

After a long hiatus, we're back on the laowai watching track, and what better to talk about than the Great Wall? The Great Wall is one of the wonders of the world, it is an absolutely amazing place to see that is a must for every visitor to Beijing. Laowai make it a point to visit the Wall, but in typical laowai fashion, just seeing the Wall isn't enough for them.

The Badaling section of the Great Wall is packed with tourists all times of the year, often including those "evil" groups of Chinese tourists in colored baseball hats. This is because Badaling is the closest part of the Wall to the city and the most accessible. Much of it has been rebuilt/renovated to make the climb a little easier and trams and rides make it even more touristy. You don't even need to be part of a tour, a city bus will take you from Dongzhimen to the foot of the wall in an under an hour for less than RMB20.链接
This is too easy for laowai, who deride Badaling (crowded, but still beautiful) as "inauthentic" and "boring" in comparison with the Simatai section in Miyun. To laowai, Simatai is the authentic and "genuine" Great Wall, all other sections are imposters. To get to Simatai, its an over 4 hour trip independently, but most laowai organize a tour through one of the many Nanluoguxiang hostels (as laowai love staying in hutongs). Further, they often do it as a hike from Jinshanling to Simatai, as laowai love to pretend to enjoy the outdoors. Plus, it gives them the chance to insult Beijing's air (as in "wow, it feels so good to see blue skies and breathe fresh air") making it an optimal choice.

Though any section of the Great Wall is sure to impress and amaze visitors and friends, if you want to become friends with a laowai, definitely propose a trip to Simatai.

*For those wondering, the first is Badaling and second is Simatai


S said...

I've just stumbled across your blog and am very much enjoying it, but wondering do you really need to be so smug?

Whilst you could use this post to encourage others to visit a part of the wall that you think is often overlooked. Instead you choose to crassly patronize those who hold viewpoints other than your clearly superior one.

Yes, you could probably write me off as a Simitai-loving Laowai if you wish - for I must confess I have not only visited that part of the wall but done the very hike you mention!

The self-congratulatory tone of this piece, and your other 'Stuff Laowai Like' articles makes me cringe - not for the lampooned Laowai, but for the author.

Anonymous said...

I loved the post and the whole series. I always read Stuff White People Like and like the fact you guys do a China-centric version. Laowai are always complaining about China, its about time someone complains about them.

Rebekah said...

Great post. I reposted it here to the travel forum of

Forum Editor

Laowai? said...

What does Laowai means?
I've found this word after this "laowai" video on youtube, and get to your blog after some research...

Joel said...

haha, so true. I'm a laowai, and I think Simatai and Jinshanling kick butt on the ridiculously overcrowded and mickeymouse-ified Badaling. Even the Jixian Great Wall north of Tianjin, though obviously rebuilt, is better than Badaling because there are no crowds. Then again, I've never actually been to Badaling...

I don't know anyone who thinks any of these places are "authentic" or "original." But for laowai, "less Disneyfied" counts for something. So does "not ridiculously crowded."

I even wrote about it and put up a picture gallery, because I'm a laowai:

Also, your photos are cheating! Of course it looks the same when shot at a distance through the haze. But a shot of Badaling where you can't even see the ground for all the people compared with the vast empty stretches of Simatai or Jinshanling? No comparison. When our relatives come visit, we aren't taking them to Badaling. Last time I hiked Jinshanling we saw maybe 5 other people, and that's counting the trinket sellers. No tourists in our Great Wall photos! Sometimes laowai like to pretend we're the only ones on the planet.

good idea for a series.

Silvia Elena said...

This laowai think that Jinshanling is more "real" than Simatai.
It seems that laowai now a days love to hike from Simatai to Jinshanling.

Laowai love the great wall.
Zhongguoren love tiny steps for their tiny feet.