The Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City
Visited, December 2007
I was visiting Beijing on business and had a free weekend so I decided to visit the Great Wall and hike to the highest point in the Badaling section, about an hour outside of Beijing. Temperatures were surprisingly cold (about 40 at the base and 20 at the high point). There are dozens of people hawking goods, everything from gloves to knit caps with the Olympic logo (selling for about $2). It was fairly crowded, but it was a weekend.
The hike up was surprisingly steep and took about 45 minutes. Be extremely cautious when there is water or ice (you can get seriously hurt, very quickly and very easily). The views were impressive and the fact that it was a clear and crisp day made it even more enjoyable. When I descended, there was the option to take a roller coaster to the bottom! Only in China!
That same weekend I visited the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. I also had the opportunity to visit several crafts factories (referred to as "Friendship Stores" with artists making clay and jade sculptures, and a variety of other pieces and modalities). The craftsmanship was superb and I highly recommend spending the time seeing these artisans at work.