The Great Wall is a highlight of any visit to China. What a lot of people don't know is that the wall doesn't exist in one continuous stretch. Instead, the Great Wall has many sections, some totally restored, others original. In many sections, you can walk for hours without seeing anyone. You can even camp on the wall. Beijing (my current home) is less than two hours from the wall, so I've had many chances to go, to different sections and in different seasons.
Are you planning a trip to Beijing? If so, then make sure you include a visit to a hutong in your itinerary. These shared-housing neighborhoods offer a fantastic real-life glimpse at traditional Chinese culture. Unfortunately, many of Beijing's hutongs have been leveled in favor of apartment towers, but a few have received historical status, protecting them from demolition. Here are some pictures I took during a recent visit to the hutongs of Beijing's Lake District.