At Badaling, the most popular of the Great Wall stretches for tourists, there is a gondola that you can take to half-way up the hill. We did. It was a very good idea, not only because you are half-way up the hill, but because you by-pass the crowds at the entrance. There are still enough steep stairs to make everyone happy. Then there is the hazy air – this is my fourth time in ten years and the air quality/visibility has always been the same: never really clear. And then there are the crowds: mostly Chinese enjoying an outing with many of them bringing a picnic and – at best – finding a place at one of the makeshift resting places that have been built along the way. In order to control the flow of traffic, there is now an additional pathway built alongside the wall. You go up on the wall and down on the pathway, accompanied both ways by non-stop blaring canned music from unseen loudspeakers.
One thing has changed over the years: there is now yet another parking lot and shuttle bus service. And you can mount a Bactrian camel (two humps) if you wish. Colorful makeshift saddle included.
You can tell my level of enthusiasm was not high for this trip. If at all possible, avoid going to Badaling. There are other –somewhat farther away – less crowded places that will allow you greater enjoyment of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.