They say that the Great Wall of China is one of the few (or probably the only) landmark/s that you could see from outer space. I heard it was a myth though. I couldn’t say for sure. I haven’t found a way to go out there just yet… I was, however, able to visit the Great Wall of China!
Last year, I invited my sister to go to Beijing with me for one of the many quick-escapades. For some reason, I couldn’t be brave enough to explore it on my own. Maybe, it intimidated me. Or maybe, my gut told me that it would be better not to traverse it all alone. My sister was hesitant though, given that we would need to apply for a visa. But I’ve made up my mind. It was Beijing or nothing.
October was a really good time to go there. From our experience, the weather was perfect! It didn’t rain, it was mildly hot (because you’re really up high) and not humid at all.
Visa. Why is it of all the places I would invite her to join, I chose the one that required a visa?
Well, this was definitely worth it!
The wall. We decided to join a group via our hostel through a tour company and head to our chosen wall: the Mutianyu Great Wall.
(About the tour: It wasn’t really a tour, per se. Basically, the company organizes a scheduled pick-up and drop off from each partner hotel/hostel to Mutianyu, gives a brief background about the wall, and gives enough time for self exploration. The tour package not only comes with the guaranteed bus ride, which was pretty convenient, but it comes with lunch. Drinks, however, are not included.)
Mutianyu is only a part of a very long stretch of the Great Wall of China. From the recommendations we’ve gathered, this is not that far from the city, not that crowded, not that difficult, but more importantly, offers an amazing view!
From the city proper, it was about two hours to get to Mutianyu. To get up to the wall,we were given two options: 1. via cable car, and 2. climb up to the local watchtower. I initially thought that we could do option 2. However, I think I overestimated my stamina. For some reason, I was having difficulty in breathing in our walk from the map area to the ticket area. In my mind I was freaking out that I could have a heart attack. Seriously!!
Which is why, we decided to take the cable car (with return). We weren’t sure if we still have the energy or the time to walk downhill, so a return ticket was essential. Plus, it’s cheaper than buying it separately (65 RMB one way; 80 RMB if with return).
Finally, the Great Wall of China. Hello Mutianyu!
Riding the cable car, we arrived at tower 14 and decided to head west. I can’t remember why, but it felt right to head this way. It’s probably because it’s more challenging because of it’s uphill.
(From what I’ve read, the west-end is headed to Jiankou Great Wall),
The walk was easy at first. Maybe, it was because we were sooo excited that it felt sooo surreal and we had so much energy. Or maybe, it was the distraction of eagerly taking tons of photos of the wall and of ourselves. Taking it all in was harder! We had to constantly remind ourselves that we are in fact at the Great Wall of China! The taste of love!
Me and my sister walked as far as we could, not minding how tired we were. But yes, we eventually felt the exhaustion caused by the sun, the upward and downward steps, and the distance that comes with it. Well I guess, we weren’t the only ones who got tired. A kid, however, managed to pull quality photos in spite of. (Look at that kid).
It was also nice to observe other people taking it all in with their photographs too.
The Mutianyu Wall is nicely restored and quite tourist friendly. Although, some parts of the wall was quite steep and even at midday, the rocks were slippery. I literally had to take baby steps in some inclined routes and get support from the wall. And you probably figured this out, it goes up and down without a particular pattern. So one has to be prepared for it.
Here’s a view of where we just came from:
And here’s a view of where we still needed to go. By this time, we were as slow as turtles!
By the time we reached tower 18, we were really tired. Our legs were really complaining already. I really wanted to push myself because I knew how rare this opportunity comes by. We still had a long way to go and I didn’t want to stop yet. I encouraged my sister and promised her that we would stop really soon.
Look at that, it’s pretty intimidating. But hey, we did it!
My sister managed to (almost) reach tower 21. Here’s where she parked while I walked some more.
Me and my sister parted ways at Tower 21. She stayed just below it. By the time I was at the tower, I had an internal debate if I should continue or not. There was actually a “no tourists” sign located at the still-restored area above the tower. After a good 10 minutes or so, I just knew I had to do it. No way was I gonna miss this opportunity. Can’t back down. Not now. Missing it would be one of my regrets.
Tower check: 21
View: Uphill where a no-tourists sign could be seen.
Tower Check: 21
View: downhill. On the right sign just below the steps, you could see my lil sis.
Looking back, here’s the view of the wall that we just walked!
Now, here are some mountain views surrounding the wall.
I climbed farther up. Along the way, I ran into a fellow busmate and asked him how far was the end. He told me that the end of the wall isn’t far off and told me that I should go up to the part where the un-restored area was. Can’t remember though if I should go farther than that or just stop there. He also promised me to tell our guide to wait for us, just in case.
(It turned out, when he got down, he couldn’t find our group! He waited and looked for me instead. He was looking for “the girl with the red trousers,” so that we could go altogether to where our group was.)
From this point, a lot of people have stopped and didn’t continue. I am proud to say that I still went on with my walk.
The view(s) below: The wall I’m leaving behind
View below: Farther to the end of the wall
There were only a handful of people along the way, and, at some point, one or two would come out from either direction. Then, I was alone. Can you believe it? Me, alone in one of the top sites in the whole world?
And then there it was: the end of the trail. Red ribbons tied along the trees. Just before the unpaved path. Just before the unrestored area. Just after the last tower, 23. I effin did it! I DID IT!
I wasn’t brave enough to go farther. I can hear echoes farther away but I wasn’t sure. I was really happy and very content to reach this far! 🙂
There was a vendor there who sold a few souvenirs. A medal, figurines, magnets, and ribbons. And although I knew that I shouldn’t be paying for a wish, a good haggle for the ribbon was okay. Paid for half the price and tied my red ribbon in the tree.
My only wish is to find my heart’s content… to find peace and happiness, however and whatever it may be.
Visiting the Great Wall is something for the books, something that my heart will never forget. The experience is surreal and I couldn’t be grateful enough. And to share it with someone sooo annoying (sometimes), yet someone I truly love, ahem, my sister, makes it even more memorable.
Top 3 tips:
1. Bring and drink plenty of water! Hydration pushes your body further to your aim.
2. Wear comfortable clothes.
3. Take a pause and breathe. Savour the experience. Yes, you are here. It couldn’t get any better than that!
We stayed at the Dragon King Hostel, which is roughly about a 5-minute walk from the subway.
The hostel offers various tours such as the Beijing City tour, Acrobatic Show, and the Great Wall tour (you can choose among Mutianyu, Badaling, etc).
Mutianyu Great Wall tour
– 280 RMB / person (USD 45)
– Inclusive of breakfast, lunch, bus transfers, and entrance to the wall.
– Cable car ride to/from the wall is not included. Tickets to the cable car is 65 RMB for one way and 80 RM if with return. (If you have the strength, speed, and stamina, they an uphill climb through the stairs is an option for you 🙂 ).