The Great Wall and the Anantara Spa
“Fresh air makes me throw up. I can’t handle it. I’d rather be around three Denobili cigars blowing in my face all night.” -Frank Sinatra
Travel to Beijing is a long anticipated task, which makes the distance worth its torture. It is the capital of China and a heroic ancient city. Visiting Beijing can be overwhelming with sweeping traffic and overgrown city limits, and, after three days, I felt my glands swelling and my lungs gasping for clear blue sky; air pollution in Beijing is intolerable and visibility reminds me of Los Angeles smog.
My plan for the fourth day was to get out of the city and finally visit the Great Wall. In brief, the wall was built, rebuilt, and maintained between the 5th century B.C. and the 16th century. The wall stretches for 5,500 miles. It took about two hours to reach the wall from Beijing, but not bad at all in comparison—it took an hour of driving to any destination while in traffic-congested Beijing.
Climbing the Great Wall was more challenging than in my imagination. But once on top, the wall was beautifully positioned and I felt heroic standing on one of its peaks looking north. The humidity that day caused the scene to be even more picturesque with haze in between the valleys. I was happy to be there; it felt like being in a watercolor painting.
After climbing down, the Anantara Spa at the Commune by the Great Wall Kempinski was the ideal spot for total relaxation. It has a full spa facility and hotel, and provides the perfect marriage of elements. It is beautifully nestled in the Shuigan Mountains with a view of the Great Wall and offers timeless designs of contemporary architecture with private collections of modern Chinese art.
I highly recommend a stay at the Commune while in Beijing. It is remotely located, but being in Beijing isn’t efficient in any way, especially with the air quality and traffic.