On our second full day in Beijing, we decided to visit the Great Wall of China. There are several sections open to the public, so make sure you read the pros and cons of the various sections before you decide which to visit.
We chose the Mutianyu section since it is well restored, not very crowded, has a lot of watchtowers, and you can hike for several hours without difficulty. An added bonus is that there is a luge ride that can take you back down the mountain. We were sure the boys would appreciate that feature!
It is always best to visit the Great Wall on a weekday – a Tuesday in this case. The weekends will be overrun with Chinese tourists, so if hiking shoulder-to-shoulder with the masses isn’t your thing, plan your visit carefully.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Hire a Driver to get to the Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall
Our AirBnB host arranged a driver to take us to the Great Wall. For the four of us, hiring a driver/car for the day cost a bit under $100 total, and was much easier than taking the bus. The Wall is typically a day trip, since it takes a couple hours to/from Beijing, and you typically spend several hours there. Some people plan to see the Ming Tombs on the way back, though we decided not to schedule too much.
Hiking the Great Wall
Our driver met us a bit after 7am, and we arrived around 9am. While our driver didn’t speak English, he showed us where he’d be waiting for us in the parking lot later in the day.
Once at the ticket window, we purchased tickets to take the cable car up to the wall and the luge down. If a toboggan ride doesn’t appeal to you, simply take the cable car both ways.
Upon reaching the top, we were delighted with what we found.
The pathways were quite safe for the boys, there were no crowds (mid-week in fall), and the scenery was beautiful.
The boys particularly enjoyed the watchtowers.
One observation is that even though few people spoke English, most of the signs at this tourist site had English on them. As we traveled around Beijing, this made us much more confident with our decision to travel largely independently.
We spent several hours enjoying this amazing “New Wonder of the World.”
Be aware that the area around the wall is quite hilly, so in many places, walking along the wall is a bit more like climbing.
When everyone was content with what we had seen, we decided to take the toboggan back down and find some lunch. There were several restaurants at the base from which to choose lunch. After that, we found our driver in the parking lot and headed back.
By 3:00pm we were back at our apartment. What a wonderful day!
Kung Fu Show
Once back at the apartment, we were a little tired, and decided that a tourist-oriented Kung Fu show in the early evening would be the perfect way to end the day. All of us loved it!
Other shows to consider are the acrobat shows and the Chinese opera. We found the acrobat show to amazing, the kung fu show a close second, and the Chinese opera to be quite boring – only go if you understand the language, have a particular interest in Chinese dance and costumes, or know what you are getting yourself into.