Our Great Wall Adventure

9 May

There’s no shortage of tours to various sections of the Great Wall that leave from Beijing, but we decided to try to get there ourselves via the public transportation. And against all odds/despite information of varying accuracy, we actually did it!

First, we had to decide which section of the wall to visit. Our friends gave us a heads up and told us to visit Mutianyu over Badaling because although Badaling is closer, it is much more crowded. The difficulty in seeing Mutianyu is finding transportation to take you there; if you take the wrong bus or get off at the wrong stop, you’ll be stranded a long ways away from Beijing.

After quite a bit of conflicting research, we chose bus 867 leaving from the Dongzhimen bus terminal, which is a 10 minute walk from the subway station. We arrived early for the 8:30 bus and were relieved to see a few other tourists in line too. It’s a good idea we arrived 15 minutes early because the bus ride ended up being 2.5 hours, and quickly filled up to standing room only! The actual mileage is not that far, it’s just that the bus makes frequent stops.

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After getting to Mutianyu, we took the ski lift up.
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We then hiked up to three towers. The terrain is so steep that some of the stair sections look like sheer walls right in front of you! You have to essentially climb them using your hands as well as your feet.
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After walking/climbing for an hour, we turned back and took the toboggan back down. This was the highlight of our day. The toboggan is a sliding cart that rides on a stainless steel bobsled track, complete with banked turns. All you have to do is release the brake and gravity takes care of the rest. We ignored the various slow down signs waved by the flag men and zoomed down to the bottom of the mile-long track.

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After getting to the bottom, we saw the 867 bus leaving so we ran to it and barely got on. Buses only run at 2pm and 4pm back to Beijing. It ended up being a 3 hour ride on the way back on a packed public bus! We unfortunately didn’t get a seat at first, but about 15 minutes later a couple people got off at the next stop and we got seats. Whew!

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All in all, the Great Wall at Mutianyu is a great place to see, but only if you have some time to spare and don’t mind riding the bus for six hours. Otherwise hire a private driver or join a tour group. We saved some money but we certainly didn’t save any time!

The part where the guy uses his hands to propel himself is hilarious. FYI, speaking of cutting in line, the couple in front of us let 4 of their friends cut in line, and he was one of them. Not cool! Lucky for them we were in a good mood and didn’t feel like calling them out on it. However, we cannot confirm or deny if the *ahem* bump at the end was intentional or not. *wink*

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4 Responses to “Our Great Wall Adventure”

  1. Dad May 10, 2012 at 11:24 AM #

    Forget the Great Wall….the toboggan is more fun…too bad your “brakes” failed at the end of the ride!

  2. Jeff Young May 10, 2012 at 8:59 PM #

    Haha! The toboggan ride was epic! Remember a long time ago on catalina island we “modded” the golf cart to go faster? I wonder if you could make that sled go faster, maybe bring a can of oil…

    Looks like climbing the great wall brought back memories of macchu pichu.

    • Jerry May 14, 2012 at 8:01 AM #

      Yep, of course I cannot forget Catalina island!
      One thing Jeannie and I haven’t done yet is to buy a whole watermelon and bust it on the edge of the sink.

  3. Robert May 11, 2012 at 5:09 AM #

    It would have been hilarious if you would have bumped that guy off his ride and onto the track. Well accidents do happen!

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