--- Photos and video to be posted soon! :-) ---
Having spent more than a month in Beijing now and just staying most of the time in the hotel room made us plan for this great adventure. Main goal: to go back to the Great Wall of China like other adventurers did - at a minimal cost. So I did my homework the night before, listed all the important notes and printed whatever that's needed to be printed - especially the ones with important Chinese characters.
We woke up at 7AM and I immediately finished my coffee after a quick shower. Left the hotel at 7:45AM in hopes of catching the 8AM bus to Mutianyu. But the Dongzhimen bus station was nowhere near the hotel so we had to sit in the taxi impatiently while watching the time go past 8AM. When we arrived Dongzhimen, the taxi stopped opposite the bus station so we had to find a subway or underpass to go to the other side. Then I started holding out my paper with the written 936 on it - that's the bus number that we had to look for on those bus signs. I tried to ask most of the newspaper shopkeepers where the 936 bus stop is. So we had to walk all the way to the farthest end of the street - say 10 minutes - until we got to the 936 bus stop. There already around 10 people waiting there already coz like us, they also missed the 8AM bus. The buses come in hourly.
So the 9AM Bus No. 936 finally arrived and we just started boarding it. The bus fee was only RMB 16 compared to RMB 200-300 per person on a private vehicle. We had to wait for more than 5 minutes till everyone is settled and we left few minutes earlier than scheduled. The joruney to Mutianyu was rather flawless except for several stops. But we didn't mind coz we just took quick naps every now and then. And I sometimes played with some iPhone games.
At last, after a long journey of 2 and a half hours, we arrived at Mutianyu at 11:30AM, right at the base of the Great Wall. Before leaving the station, I had to double check on how often the buses would be leaving from Mutianyu back to Beijing. Didn't want to miss especially the last trip.
On the way trekking up from the base of the mountain, you will see lots of shops with different souvenir items, beverages and food stalls. It's amazing how these mountain people can speak perfect English with an accent! I was tempted to buy a Red Bull but I saw an ice cream shop, so priorities first - ice cream!
During our trip there with our friends Wayne Kline and PH Tan last year, we rode on the cable car going up. But this time, we did the hard way - trekking up. It wasn't that hard and that long, it took us around 30-40 minutes going up to the wall. Of course, along the way, we had to stop so hubby could take some photos. No, not of me. He wanted to take scenery photos actually, that's why we planned this trip. But boy, was it tiring trekking up.
We spent two hours up on the wall, taking photos and videos at every opportunity. Because it was Sunday, there were few tourists we saw along the way. And because most of the tour group would go to Great Wall at Badaling, we were quite lucky to be one of the few ones there at Mutianyu. There were lots of guys selling overpriced cold beverages, snacks and souvenirs along the way. I feel for them. I know it's not easy to bring their goods by trekking up on foot and be basked under the sun every day there. I didn't care if they were selling Snickers bar at RMB15 and a Coke in can for RMB10. I bought them and in fact, they tasted better because I bought them with all my heart.
We went east from the Gate 6 and ended up at watchtower number 1. But after that, there is a restricted area and no tourists were supposed to go there. But we there's a pathway, so what do you do when you see a pathway? Yes we followed that pathway and we ended up in the unrestored area of the Great Wall, full of bushes and plants. I scratched my legs a few times from the plants and stems sprouting from the ground. Since it was the unrestored part, there wasn't any wall to protect us if we ever fell from its cliff. Kinda scary but it was fun. It felt like we're kids again and curious about something. I almost got lost at one point because there was a part there where the pathway split up, Marl took one way, I took the other and I ended up at the edge of a deep cliff. Kinda scary. Marl thought it wasn't safe for us to be there, and so we went back to the restored part of the wall and back to Gate 6 where we took the Toboggan Ride or Slide Way on the way back to the base of the mountain. Boy, it was fun!!!
The moment we went out of the Great Wall premises, we immediately looked for a toilet. While waiting for the Bus No. 936 to come, Marl bought some paintings. We were able to bargain the 2 paintings from RMB200 each to RMB120 for two. We had to wait for the bus for another hour, don't know why it took so long because the only thing I knew was I wanted to sleep on the way back to Beijing. Which I did. I woke up when we were already near the bus station and it started to rain. It took quite a while for us to get a cab and Marl was even got bumped by a motor bicycle - to my shock. But luckily, he's okay.
With just an hour sleep and no meal for the whole day, except for a chocolate ice cream and two Snicker bars plus Coke, we were quite amazed at how we were able to keep up with the energy. But yeah, I slept like 20 hours during the next 24 hours so I guess that explains the tiredness. LOL.
Anyway, here are some things that one can take note when going to the Great Wall in Mutianyu:
1. Take a bus from the Dongzhimen Station. You just ask around where the bus stop for bus number 936 is. Since the buses come hourly from 8AM, it's better to allot time for finding the station since it's situated at the end of the street. Some may offer to take you by private car or taxi. Tell them no, you want the bus and you want to only pay RMB16.
2. The entrance fee is RMB45 each and they will give a CD ticket which is then scanned at the entrance gate.
3. Aside from the entrance fee, you can either take a cable car going up - for another fee - or you can go trekking all the way up. There are two kinds of cable cars. The first one is an old-fashioned kinda-scary 2-seater Ferris Wheel gondola look-alike. And another one is an enclosed kind which I think is more safer and is more fun for a group of four. The cable car costs around RMB 50 for two way.
3. You should bring food and drinks if you don't want to spend more. And if you want to buy for souvenirs, be sure to bargain at 1/3 of its given price.
4. On the way down, you have 3 options: go down on foot, by cable car or by a more fun way - toboggan ride - which costs RMB40 for a ride. Don't force your friends to it especially if they have medical conditions. It gives an adrenalin rush, I tell you.
5. Be sure not to miss the last trip of the bus at 4:30PM. There would be lots of private cars offering you to take to Huairou, but you will have to take a bus from there, too. So better wait for the bus number 936.
--- Photos and video to be posted soon! :-) ---