Walk on the Great Wall of China, check! This is definitely a bucket list item. This place, its history, and the legends, and myths surrounding it is known the world over. I remember this being discussed in history class. Visiting it though didn’t quite go without a hitch.
We were up bright and early on our second day in Beijing. Our goal was to see the Great Wall of China, and then have enough time in the afternoon to cross off another temple on our list. We were on our way to the bus station from the train station when we ran into a middle aged lady, who I’m sure was trying to be helpful. She was directing us to get on a bus and told us that it would for sure be en route to Mutianyu. She then got on the bus with us. I remember being skeptical about this. I told my friend this while we were on a bus, and we tried to get off on the next bus stop we saw.
The lady we met earlier saw us alight from the bus, and followed us, telling us again, that we should get back on the same bus number. My friend, Jem, did some Googling, and found some information that the lady might be right. So per her insistence and the thought that people are generally nice, we got on the next bus she suggested.
We were hours away from the city and on the last bus terminal when we got confirmation we were wrong. We tried asking for directions but it was difficult with the language barrier. Finally, my friend was able to get someone to help us. A local driver called his daughter, who spoke English, on the phone and had her give us instructions. With her help, we were able to find our way back to the right bus and back to Beijing.
We really weren’t sure what happened. It didn’t seem to be a scam, because the middle aged lady who insisted on riding this particular bus number got off the bus way before we did. There was nothing to be had. I’m chalking it up to probably outdated information and good intentions gone wrong.
Our second attempt was much better. We were determined to get to the Great Wall today. We decided to follow the original set of instructions Jem had found before we left Manila. We were not going to deviate from our plan. Sure enough, it worked. We made it!
There are two options when you get to the Great Wall. You can either hike up, or do as we did, and ride the cable cars up to the top. Awesome view, though not for anyone acrophobic.
It was surreal when we finally got to walk on the Great Wall. They weren’t kidding about how long this thing is. It’s massive. There was no end in sight.
We also got lucky. While Beijing was all gloom and doom and grey skies, here it was a beautiful clear blue. Also, there’s not a lot of tourists around. I’ve seen photos where the place is packed with tourists. It certainly wasn’t the case here. At times, it felt like we had the place ourselves.
We spent quite a while here, just trying to see how far we can hike, taking lots of photos, and exploring the little exits on some areas of the wall. We went tobogganing on our way down from the wall.
The trip back was uneventful. We made it back to Beijing a bit late, so we ended up just going back to the Wangfujing area for dinner and do some last minute shopping.
Are we disappointed about our setback earlier? Not really. If anything, our little mishap earlier just gave us an interesting story about trying to visit the Great Wall.