Today is our first day in Beijing. The visibility and air quality seems to be great so we are tackling the Great Wall today. We are heading to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, it is the less direct route than the other section of the wall but we were told this was the place to visit. So we begin our journey this morning after chowing down a very early breakfast at 6:30am at the hotel.
We found this great site that goes into great detail about the best way to get to the wall. Plus some tips on how not to get scammed. For greater detail, visit here.
After a subway ride to the main bus terminal we are on a bus to another station where we will take a taxi to the wall.
We used the bathroom at the station... a waterfall wall for a urinal and only squat type toilets. I don't mind a squat toilet but the wall comes up about 4 feet so anyone can peak over.
The bus is a little smelly but overall comfortable. Maybe it was just me but a man coughed and laughed as I was taking a seat... I could be reading into it but I think he thought he was going to scare me away cause he was saving the seat. There is confusion because some locals are transporting their goods on dollys. Now to focus on not getting car sick. The ride is a bit.
The bus ride is complete and after about an hour we arrived to the city of Huairou. As we rode into the city and starting making stops some interesting things happened. The unofficial taxi drives or "black" taxi drivers could see us on the bus as we pulled up to the bus stops. Expecting that any white person on the bus is going to the wall, they knew that we would need a taxi ride. They would stare at us as we drove by and start yelling and waving for us to get off the bus. At the first stop, a driver actually got on and started yelling to us (or talking loudly) that he can give us a ride and to come with him. He wasn't offering any candy, so of course we didn't go. Luckily the bus also has a police or guard at the back door so he would tell them to leave us alone and get off the bus. This happened and the next three bus stops.
When we got to the final stop and got off the bus, drivers again started trying to get us to come with them. You can definitely see the official taxis as they are painted blue and white so we beelined it to them and hopped in. We thought we were good to go.
Well this taxi driver was a little shady too. He brought out a calculator and tried to get us to agree to 70 CNY. We insisted on the meter and he reluctantly agreed. The ride was only about 40 CNY ~ $7.80 CAD.
Once we got to the Wall Service area we again thought we were out of the clear. Well, the joke was on us. The taxi driver parked and we paid up. He got out and wanted us to use a particular exit. Of course, being the paranoid travellers that we are, we opted to start limping and saying we needed an elevator. Not really, but we told him we were going to use another exit. We were wondering if he was trying to set us up with a tour guide or bring us into a related gift store. Again, we outsmarted him.
There are a lot of stairs at the wall, and the number of tickets you end up with in your pocket do not help.
This part of the wall has three different ways that you can get up, unfortunately we didn't really look at a map, we just jumped at what sounded like the most fun. Well we did end up buying a ticket that we didn't need.
The three ways:
Getting down you can buy tickets for the chairlift or gondola or you can walk down. We opted to take the luge. Which was fun and a little different. You sit on a little roll thing and slide down a metal half tube. Ask me one day what happened on a luge in Vernon when I was a young teen...
So we ended up the following:
At the entrance we got a shuttle ticket (shuttle takes you to base of wall), a wall entrance ticket, a chairlift/ropelift ticket and a luge down ticket. We never ended up using the chairlift ticket and we purchased the gondola ticket after we got off the shuttle.
There is a separate booth for gondola and chairlift/luge so if you want to combo them you need to go to separate booths. Both booths will sell the shuttle and wall entrance.
Yes, they don't make it too easy, and again we were very happy to have done our homework.
So the service centre where you catch the shuttle to the wall is conveniently past a Burger King, and many many tourist trap stores. If you are looking for a panda hat with build in panda mittens, there is no shortage. They will call to you to sell their wares, but I don't need a magnet that is faded from sitting in the sun.
Getting a tax that wasn't "black" looked to be difficult. We wandered and even the visitor centre staff didn't know where we should go. Someone tried to sell us a mini-van trip but again, we declined in search for an official taxi. We wandered and then heading to the underground parking where some taxis were sitting empty and one by chance drove by empty. We hailed him and I think by luck we were able to get the rid back to the bus stop.
And then voila... homebound we were.