Day 13: Beijing

April 23, 2010

We were up at 5:30 AM, on the train by 6:15, and by 7:00 we were eating Egg McMuffins on the bus to the Great Wall. Finding the bus stop the day before had been a smart thing to do; the station was very busy but we knew exactly where to go. Hiring a car for the day would have cost around $100; a round-trip bus ticket was $3.50. After an hour and a half we arrived in the city of Huairou, where we took a 15-minute taxi ride the rest of the way to the Great Wall.

Can't read much on this sign but all we needed to know was "Bus 916"

There are several sections of the Great Wall open to visitors; I chose Mutianyu after reading numerous positive trip reports about its scenery and lack of tourists.  Our ticket included admission, a ropeway ticket up to the wall, and a toboggan ride back down (this was another reason I chose this spot).  The ropeway was just like a ski-lift; after five minutes, we were on the wall and greeted by a souvenir vendor who immediately took our picture.

Like the hats?

The weather was gorgeous: 60 degrees, sunny, and clear.  FINALLY.  We decided to walk north, then turn around and come back to the toboggan slide.  Since we arrived so early, there were only a few others up there with us as we started the hike.

View from near our starting point


We wore too many layers for the beautiful weather

As expected, the views were incredible.  The wall sloped up and down through the mountains, sometimes very steeply, though there were usually steps to help out.  It seemed impossible to take a bad picture; everywhere we looked was amazing.  Like at the rice terraces, it’s hard to describe the views in words; pictures are better…

Looking back south along Great Wall


Great Wall nature


Uphill climbing ahead

Stationed along the wall were watchtowers, some of which we could climb for a better view.  Vendors set up small stands with water and postcards, and we eventually passed a second access point that featured enclosed gondola cars instead of our ski-lift method.  We took a break and shared a Snickers bar looking out from one of the towers.

Matt on his way up the wall

The last set of steps before we reached the end of the hike looked steep from a distance and even more so when we got to the base of them.  After about 500 steps we were at the highest point and could walk no further along this section of the wall.  (Which was fine – we were tired.)

At the highest point of the wall - that staircase is steeper than it looks


We earned our "I Climbed the Great Wall" t-shirts

It took us almost two hours to hike this stretch of the wall; we walked back a little faster so we’d be able to meet our taxi driver at the agreed time.  By now there were many more people around; we were glad to have arrived early to avoid most of them.  We thought one Chinese family was asking us to take their picture; actually, they wanted to take one with me! 

Passing others on the way back


Looking north along wall


Heading south back to starting point


Afternoon clouds


Almost to the end

When we got back to our starting point, we took a toboggan ride down to the village below.  It was so much fun; we wish the ride had been longer!  At the bottom, we made our way through a throng of aggressive souvenir vendors where we bought the customary “I Climbed the Great Wall” t-shirts (Initial quoted price: $50!  Post-bargaining price: $8). 

Tobogganing IS so simple


Zooming down the mountain

When we finished shopping, our taxi driver took us back to the bus station.  Ninety minutes later, we were back where we started and proud of ourselves for successfully navigating Beijing’s bus system.   We stopped at McDonalds for a snack, where Matt discovered the wonders of their Sweet Taro Pie (two for a dollar or one for 80 cents, just like the crazy pricing structure at home).

Would not mind if these catch on in the US

We went back to the hotel for a swim in the pool before dinner.  We had reservations at South Beauty, a Sichuan restaurant I read about online, and when we arrived we were shown to our own little alcove with a sunken table and sheepskin carpet.  The food was fantastic; we had kung pao chicken, pork and pepper stirfry, roasted green beans with minced pork, and Beijing-style dumplings. 

Delicious Sichuan food at South Beauty


Just as good as the dumplings in Shanghai... well, except Yang's

After dinner, we did a little shopping before walking back to the hotel, tired but happy about our great day at the Great Wall.

6 Responses to “Day 13: Beijing”

  1. Could you stay another month so we could continue to read your blogs? The Wall pictures are so amazing; glad the weather cooperated. Looking forward to talking with you both maybe Monday night? Love, Mom

  2. We hate to see your journey come to an end. We have enjoyed all the pictures and all the blogs. Safe trip home. Joanne and Bruce

  3. Thanks for all the lovely comments! Keep reading; there will be two more posts, plus possibly a miscellaneous photo post when we return…

    Nicole 🙂

  4. Nicole this is absolutely a beautiful and awesome trip!! Love the pictures and the blog!!!

  5. LOVE THIS POST!!!! The pictures of the wall are absolutely awesome – I am so jealous!!! Plus, the toboggan looks really cool! haha Glad you guys FINALLY had some sunny weather!! 🙂

  6. Nick & Matt,

    What a wonderful way to share your trip with us. We just loved it. Hate to see it come to an end. You two have to get into the travel guide business. There’s a cable station out there just waiting for you. Thanks so much for the last 14 days. Learned so much.

    Love ya, Bets

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