Now I have had a few laughs at the expense of the Lonely Planet “recommended hostel” and traditional Hutong, but now it is time to give this lovely little guest house some credit for probably the most amazing trip of my life.
Built over two thousand years ago, the Great Wall of China is vast and stretches from Shanhaiguan in the east, to Lop Lake in the west and along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia. A comprehensive archaeological survey, using advanced technologies, has concluded that the Ming walls measure 8,850 km (5,500 mi). While some portions north of Beijing are near tourist centers and have been preserved and even extensively renovated, in many locations the Wall is in disrepair. We were offered three different tours and we chose the one to Mutianyu, a part of the wall which is less touristy and more fun than Badaling but not as far away as Jinshanling.
Mutianyu is called the Garden Great Wall and is 98 km away from downtown Beijing. We bundled into a little white truck and set off away from the busy city and into the countryside. The trip itself was quite fun. However, like everything so far in China it was also slightly scary. I was sat in a beaten up old van without a safety belt on a recently added half person chair.
We travelled at a mighty speed. Little mopeds ladened with sticks and produce whizzed past us in all directions. Some even carried not just two, but three passengers. Oxen ploughed the fields and everything around this area seemed very lush.
It was really hot, so we did well bringing my newly-bought parasol, some water and hiking boots/trainers.We were really lucky, just a few days before a woman who was in my dorm told me how she had gone to the Wall on a rainy day and had failed to see the mountains due to the fog.🙊 So I would recommend looking at the weather forecast and trying to go on a sunny day as this is the one place where the views do matter!Novices… I don’t know…
Our tour, which was actually really good value, included a cable car up to the wall. It would have been possible to hike up onto the wall, but this would have taken an extra 45 minutes through trees without a view. We travelled up the mountain side in the same pod used by President Clinton on his trip to China in 1998. Did I lick the seat I hear you ask? This, unfortunately you will never get to know. 😉
The cable cars took us high enough up the Wall to get the most incredible scenic views. We were on top of the mountain range and could see other peaks in the distance. It snaked up behind us and then down, down, presumably towards the sea. The verges were green, the sky very blue. Absolutely incredible.
The wall was steep. I forced Shirwa onwards passed our nearest watch tower. We had to walk a little bit, otherwise how could we justify buying the “I Climbed the Great Wall” t-shirts at the end. We snaked downwards and got some amazing shots through the open fortifications. This experience was truly magnificent. It was so quite and peaceful, there were very few tourists. The man made fortifications hugged the hills. We were embraced by nature, the turrets flanked on either side by steep drops, standing precarious but strong at the same time. It felt like all was woven into the fabric of the earth, the dangerous elegance of man’s contribution to the world.
A great thing about Mutuanyu is the fun slide ride back down to the bottom. I went quite slowly and hoped not to get kicked in the back by some nutter- like all those years ago in the playground back at school. The thought of falling off the metal and just rolling endlessly down the mountain side… Shudder…
Once off the wall, we walked through the throng of traders who gathered at the bottom to sell their memorabilia to us, the tourists. A green hat with a red star, strange fruits, bags. We walked through, browsing. The further away from the Wall we went, the lower the prices and the louder the cries from above and behind us. I ended up buying my lovely t-shirt for around 5Y, which was a steel compared to the 20Y charged at the top, but a real tip off compared to the 1Y which I could have got right, right at the bottom. So for another lesson, NEVER EVER buy your souvenirs from the first stop, shop or trader that you meet. Wait until the end, when you think your last chance has gone, when you almost at the car park, it is there where you will get incredible offers. I sound like I am being razz, perhaps I am, but there is nothing worse knowing that what you bought 5 minutes ago for 50Y you could have for 1Y and for better quality.
Before leaving, we had a really lovely buffet meal, which came included in the tour price. The food was incredible and it was great being surprised with different plates of food without having to battle through an alien menu. We got to meet some Chinese tourists and we all had a really relaxing time after our arduous walk on the most spectacular Wonder of the World!
So, after all, thank you Hutong Hostel and thank you Lonely Plant for the recommendation 😉