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I almost didn’t even bother going to see the Great Wall of China.  I figured it’s cold, it’s expensive, I’d have to wake up early, and wouldn’t it be easier to just… not go?  I mean, it’s a wall.  What’s the big whoop?

The whoop, as it turns out, is pretty big.  The Great Wall might have been one of the most awe-inspiring things I’ve ever seen.

The Great Wall of China near Beijing

The most commonly visited section of the wall from Beijing is Badaling, which is apparently the most well-preserved section, and the closest to the city — but it’s also the busiest by far.

The group I went with started at the Jinshanling section of the wall, and hiked to Simatai.  It’s a bit farther from the city (it was about a three hour bus ride each way), but aside from our group, I saw maybe a dozen other people on the wall, so it’s clearly worth it to take the extra effort.

The Great Wall of China near Beijing

Before I started researching it, I wasn’t even entirely sure what you do at the wall.  Do you just look at it?  Do you get to stand on it for a bit, then you have to leave?

Yeah, no, it’s a hike.  The stretch of wall that my group did was about six kilometres, and it was surprisingly exhausting.  A good chunk of it was uphill, with lots and lots (and lots) of stairs.

The Great Wall of China near Beijing

That isn’t any kind of camera trickery — I just stood at the bottom of the steps and took that photo.  They really are that steep.

There were some fairly steep inclines that didn’t even have any steps.

The Great Wall of China near Beijing

But man, it was so worth it.  It’s one of those things that’s impossible to capture in photographs, but it was absolutely stunning.  Between the mountain vistas and the jaw-dropping enormity of the wall itself, it was unforgettable, and something that you really should experience at some point in your life.

The Great Wall of China near Beijing

I’ve been almost entirely eschewing organized tours on this trip — partially because I like wandering around on my own, and partially because that stuff isn’t cheap.  If you’re only travelling for a week or two, it makes complete sense to pay for stuff like that, because why not?  You may as well cram as much as you can into the days that you have, and then worry about the money when you get home.

But when you’re travelling for several months, your budget is drastically different.  Every cent counts, and if you’re taking pricey tours everywhere you go, that’ll add up fast.

Still, exceptions have to be made, and in Scotland — which is known just as much for its scenic countryside as anything else — I figured I’d be remiss if I stayed entirely in the city.  Since renting a car was out of the question, a tour was really the only option.

Stirling Castle, Glasgow, Scotland

It was a fun day.  We visited Stirling Castle, which is possibly the most famous one in Scotland.

There were some great views from up there.

Stirling Castle, Glasgow, Scotland

We also went to Doune Castle, which has been featured in several movies and TV shows, most notably (to me at least) Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Doune Castle, Glasgow, Scotland

We saw Loch Lomand.

Loch Lomond, Glasgow, Scotland

None of my photos were quite able to capture it, but this place was scenic AF.

Loch Lomond, Glasgow, Scotland

And finally, we visited the Glengoyne whisky distillery and got to see the whole scotch-making process, which was actually quite fascinating.

Glengoyne Whisky Distillery, Glasgow, Scotland

It’s kind of insane that a drink with so many complex flavours is made with just three ingredients: barley, water, and yeast.

Glengoyne Whisky Distillery, Glasgow, Scotland