While the Great Wall of China is a bucket list attraction for many, fewer have familiarity with the Great Firewall of China.
What happens when you want to use Google services in China?
I'm truly oversimplifying the topic here, but for ease of travel planning let's say that some years ago, the Chinese government decided that a number of sites and services offered by primarily American tech companies were unacceptable for use by their citizens. The result of which led to, among other things, Google's business being banned in its entirety.
The total ban was achieved through internalization of the entire server network delivering internet access to the whole of China.
That means visitors expecting to access their Android phone services, navigate using Google Maps, check their Gmail inboxes, use live version of Google Translate, watch a travel vlog on YouTube, and even search for things to do using Google search while they're on that very vacation will be made all the more difficult.
An involuntary digital detox?
Some visitors take this opportunity to shut themselves off from the outside world.
China's a busy enough place with 1.4 billion other people there to keep you occupied and learning about something all day, every day; in nearly 3 years of living full-time in China I can count on my one hand how many times outside my home I was actually alone!
This is the only Great Wall you're going to want to worry about on your vacation
Having an easy excuse to put the phone away and just enjoy yourself is an excellent way to enjoy your trip. A sort of mini wellness break or sort of digital detox, if you will.
Like a digital Genghis Khan
Some visitors, however, don't wish to put down the tech and breach the Firewall by subscribing to a trusted VPN service, a Virtual Private Network. Like a modern day Genghis Khan they use commercially available tools to virtually place themselves over, under, around, or through that server wall.
About the time I left China there were crackdowns on various VPN services, much like Netflix sequestering identified users trying to access content from another country.
I would welcome suggestions from more recent visitors or those among China's expatriate community to get around this in a more reasonable way!