The Great Wall Of China – Part 2 of 12 Hours in Beijing

My second day in Beijing, and I had a flight back to Malaysia scheduled for 4pm that afternoon.  I was hell bent on seeing the Great Wall (whichever part I could!) and after some question asking, plus the fact that I had an international flight later that day, I decided on booking a private car, through the hotel, the night before.

And I booked him for an early start – at 7am, we set off for the wall.   Apparently, there are three good viewing options from Beijing, and I was headed to a part nearest to me,  the ‘Mutianya’ section in Huairou district – north of Beijing, one hours drive away from me (at the airport hotel).

The Mutianya section of the wall was restored during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) with the original from the Qi Dynasty (built 550-557).

We arrived at 8am and there was a throng of stall holders setting up for a days selling.   One woman got me on the way past, waving an ugly t shirt in my face, which I declined, she promised me whe would remember me, and that Id buy said t shirt on my way out  (she did remember, but I didn’t buy).  My driver took me up to the booking office – and that this stage, Ive still not even grabbed sight of the wall.  I had two options for heading up from that particular part – to walk (around 2 hours) or take a chair lift (about 5 mins) – my driver was going to wait two hours for me so I paid for the chair lift.  Wow! It’s a 550m trip up, climbing the whole way over thick green forest.  It was peaceful, I was the only person on a chair.  And it wasn’t until we crested over that first big hill section that I finally saw my first glimpse of the wall.  There it was, ahead of me!  It was daylight, and I knew there was a sun somewhere above me, but it was barely penetrating the thick mist, fog, low cloud, greyness  and smog but what an amazing silhouette of the wall.  Talk about breathtaking!

I disembarked at the top, and set off. I didn’t even really look at the map Id been given with my ticket – where the chair lift ends is one of the middle towers, so my plan was to head left, and then double back and go right – believe it or not, there was not time! My two hours seemed to fly by.  This Mutianya section is said to be 2.5km long, it looks longer, but its amazing how slowly you seem to travel along it.

I entered into one of the ‘towers’ – the way to get onto the wall from the chair lift. It had two levels, and you go upstairs to get onto the wall.  The staircase was very steep more like a thickset ladder, and made from metal, it was black but left horrendous, sticky, brown stains on my hand after touching the hand railing.  The towers are not so big, but are completely barren, devoid of anything, but yourself and history.  I stepped out onto the wall and set off.  It was wonky, leaning downhill to the right, and it was hard to walk, but it did soon right itself.  I had a lightweight jacket on but not for long. I felt like I was really high, but was only around 530m.  But the air was dense, warm and heavy – you could almost feel the moisture in it, but infront of and behind me, the wall snaked its way away, disappearing into the heavy mist and hills.  Atmosphere!

Ive made my way along what I estimate to be about half of the section, through half a dozen or so smaller ‘towers’ (they’re situated about every 100m) and a couple of bigger ones, getting plenty of photos on the way, and taking in as much as I can.  The views from the wall are just amazing.  Green, rolling mountains, that heavy misty are, and a snaking wall across the tops of some of the climbs.

I get to a cable car, which Im going to have to take back down, cos when I look at the time I’d been almost two hours.  I had to buy a ticket for the return journey – my other options are to walk down or double back and take the chairlift or go on a luge – none of which I have time for.

Where the cable car ends, is the start of the souvenir stalls, and in China, the sellers are a lot more ruthless than any other country I’ve been to – I have to pry one woman’s fingers off my arm, so desperate is her sales plea. The walk down to the carpark is short, it takes about five minutes, and much like any markets the world over, all the stalls sell the same things and all the stall holders want a sale.

I find my driver and show him my unused portion of my ticket down – for the luge.  He insists, I go back to the ticket office and get my money back, I insist, he comes with me to do the talking, and I’m pleased, because the ticket girl pays me back, but it comes with reluctance and a choice exchange of words between her and my driver.

 

Whichever way you get up to the wall, if you have the time to see it all, you’re going to be doubling up on your steps, to get back down again.  Id have loved longer – and would recommend turning right when you start on the wall, and then doubling back, going left and taking the cable car down.

 

On the way back to my hotel, my driver tells me, we can stop at a local hand craft factory, not my usual thing, but I figure, what the hell.. sure! Actually, im pleased I did – what I got is a crash course in the ancient art of handmade Chinese porcelain and it was really interesting!  Its about a 6 stage process (and a dying art) to get the final products.  What a craft!  I bought some of the best souvenirs ever – hand crafted chopsticks!  What easier thing to carry than those!

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