One of the most awe-inspiring sights you can ever experience in China is the Great Wall. Built over 2 millenniums ago, it has withstood countless assaults of wars, erosion, disrepair, pilfering. Today, many sections of the once connected way are gone; either they had crumbled and buried under the earth or reduced to piles of rubble. Yet, the remaining sections that are still standing, stand tall and grand. They snake through the contour of the countryside outside of Beijing like a giant slithering snake.
From Beijing, there are many sections of the Great Wall that can be easily reached. The über-popular and ultra touristy Badaling section is best avoided, even though it’s one of the most easily accessible and the best restored section. But the amount of tourists, especially the incessant busloads of Chinese tourists will spoil your experience there. And if you have more time and want to explore the least touristy sections, then you should go to the Jinshanling or Simatai.
I was traveling with a friend who didn’t have much time so we decided to go to Mutianyu. The Great Wall at Mutianyu winds 2.2 kilometres through lofty mountains and high ridges. There are a total of 22 watch towers, some look huge and imposing while others look like a rest area.
Seeing the Great Wall for the first time was a very personal experience. I grew up reading a lot of story books about Chinese history; the countless empires and popular characters still confused me. So seeing the Great Wall that had been featured in many of the stories and was such an integral part of the Chinese history, filled me with awe. In a way it’s like meeting your childhood idol.
The Great Wall at Mutianyu is quite well restored so it’s quite easy to get around. I even saw less disabled people exploring certain sections of the wall. There were tourists but not overwhelming. It’s not hard to find a quiet place and have it all to yourself.
I spent more than 3 hours walking and scrambling up and down, like a child on Christmas morning. It was early afternoon when I surrendered because I couldn’t feel my legs and my stomach was complaining. My friend had already surrendered hours before. So I dragged my jelly like feet in search of my friend.
During the time I was at the Great Wall, many thoughts came to me. I couldn’t believe I made it here; I still could see myself as a 10-year-old boy lying in bed and dreaming of seeing this great marvel. Touching some of the stones that had crumpled into piles, I could vividly imagine the tens of thousand of souls that perished in building the Great Wall, and the hundred thousands more that died in battles to defend/conquer it. This is a place with great history and I was overwhelmed by my experience here.
How to get there:
The most convenient way is taking Tourism Bus No. 867 at Dongzhimen (subway) directly to Mutianyu. But this bus only runs during peak season (April to Oct) and leaves between 7am and 8.30am only. And makes the return trip before 4pm.
The secondly option is to take Bus 916 or 916 express at Dongzhimen to Huarou. Then get a shared taxi from Huarou to Mutianyu.