What a dream of a day! It started much earlier than I wanted it to but that turned out to be a blessing. Located a mere 70 kilometres from the hustle and bustle of Beijing lies a wonderfully ideal entry point to the Great Wall of China. Mutianyu is close, but just far enough to remain less crowded than nearby Badaling and Juyongguan, and it was perfect for fulfilling the dream I’ve had of walking on the Great Wall since I was a teenager.
I’d like to share some tips that I think were key to our lovely experience. Due to some scheduling issues, my dear friend from Spain and I were literally forced to head out of Beijing by 7:30am, something we wouldn’t have done under normal circumstances — we both like our sleep and that’s damn early…but it was the best thing that could have happened to us. I had booked our car and driver through WildChina, a comfy Audi. It was waiting and zipped us easily, with zero traffic, to Mutianyu, where the top most parking lot was still virtually empty, it was awesome.
There is an entrance fee of 45 RMB ($7.35 USD) and an optional toboggan ride down the mountain for 80 RMB ($13 USD). Once you buy your ticket/s, you pick one of two options for heading up the mountain, then it was just a quick 5 minute chairlift ride up to the Great Wall, with the chairlift guys sort of yelling at us as we hopped on and off oddly enough. I guess we were moving too slow for them! We chose the Zhengguantai option that goes up at around tower 6 and it was just perfect. Check out the Instagram VIDEO I shot of us heading up!
I didn’t realise it until later but we were gifted perfect photo ops because of that 7:30am departure, with literally no one else around, making for the most perfect souvenirs imaginable…taken in spots that would normally be more populated, and would be as we were leaving. As we stepped onto the wall, we seemed to be the only ones there except for two cute Chinese ladies selling water, coffee, fresh green tea and snacks. They offered to take our photo, which we accepted, and then of course we bought one coffee and a tea from them as thanks, which I’m sure many people do. They were quite clever little sales gals!
From there we explored and snapped photos and walked around happy as clams. The Wall was exactly as I had dreamed it would be, truly breathtaking with a backdrop of crystal blue skies kissing the rolling hills as far as the eye could see. The towers have windows that frame the landscape splendidly and I caught myself trying to imagine the workers and soldiers who had looked out the windows all those long centuries past. It really was a series of moments that I will remember for the rest of my life, like the first time one sees the Colosseum or Tour Eiffel or la Sagrada Familia.
It seemed like each section had a vendor peddling a few trinkets and drinks. Our favourite was the guy around tower eight who saw us coming, noted my very Americana look and shouted in a zippy tone ‘cold beer for you!’ which surprised us. Sure enough, we looked down and he had several brands of ice cold beer there for sale! But what made him our favourite is that as soon as we passed by, a Chinese couple was coming the opposite way and his greeting totally changed from day to night. In lieu of his zippy tone he stated in a low and respectful voice, ‘ni hao’ instead! We were crackin’ up at that.
To return back to base, we opted for the super awesome toboggan ride that turned out to be the funnest thing I’ve done in AGES! Check out the Instagram VIDEO I shot of it! Walking on the Great Wall was magical but speeding down the mountain toboggan style was pure bliss. All I could hear was the wind whizzing past me at times, the speed was exhilarating and I stepped off that thing feeling like a child — with the biggest smile on my face and a 100% desire to head right back up to the top just to ride the toboggan again! When you go, definitely experience it. I still have a smile on my face hours later from it!
Please take my advice and head out from Beijing by 7:30am to enjoy your own private moment on the Great Wall. By the time we were heading down the mountain it was impossible to take photos alone anymore. And as we headed out and towards the parking area, throngs of tourists were filing in by the dozens, stepping out of tour buses one after the other.
OH, and be sure to stock up on nuts and dried and candied fruit on the way out. It’s wonderful that local vendors are there selling healthier snacks to visitors and we bought candied ginger that is to die for! Super fresh and very well made.
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