Great Wall, Beijing
17 days away
40 km / 25 miles since last post
14,357 km / 8,921 miles total
Despite not being the cleanest in the world, the shower in our hotel room is actually pretty good and did well to wake us up this morning.
We headed down to breakfast at 7:30am, which was a Chinese buffet breakfast. There were lots of options available - some interesting looking stir fried dishes of meat chicken, beef and vegetables. They also had mince meat steamed dumplings and steamed sweet bean buns. There was also croissants and toast available as well as tea and coffee. It wasn't included in the cost of our room, but it only worked out as £3.60 each, good value.
We met up with the rest of our tour group for the first time this morning, and they seem to be a really nice bunch of people. Our guide is Ricky, who is really friendly and very informative. In our group we have two Canadians - Teagan and Tyson; and the rest are Brits - Nick, Louise, Greg and Jo. It seems that I am the oldest person in the group, but most people are in their mid to late twenties so no great difference. It also turns out that Jo is originally from Whitchurch, Bristol! It is a very small world!
At 8am we got into our minibus that was to take us to the Great Wall, the journey would be about ninety minutes. The driving in Beijing is pretty crazy, with everyone cutting each other up and beeping, our minibus driver was no exception. He was doing some overtaking of other vehicles which you were probably better off not looking at. Our guide advised us that we had nothing to worry about, and that our driver was very competent at driving.
Our guide advised us that we would be going to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, as this tended to be the least busy area. He advised us that there was a section of the wall closer to us but that this is where all the Chinese tourists go. The area we were heading to would be quieter.
When we arrived at Mutianyu Great Wall, we walked up to the cable car which would take us to the 14th tower of the wall. From here we would head over to the 20th tower. Our guide, Ricky, advised us this would take around an hour.
Walking along the wall would mean climbing up and down steps and slopes. The hardest section is between towers 19 and 20, where we would cover over 300 very steep steps. It did look daunting from a distance. It was pretty tough going and we had to make a few stops as we walked up. Thankfully the weather here is pretty cold - I wouldn't want to do this in the Summer. Talking of weather, we have also been very fortunate today as the weather is cold but the sun is shining and it is really clear. Ricky advised us that many times he has been here it is foggy, so we have been very lucky today.
When we finally made it to the 20th tower there was a sign before the next stage which warned of danger ahead. Essentially, the wall from here can be broken in certain sections so it's not advisable to go on, but Ricky said we could if we wanted. Stu and I were both happy to stay at tower 20, as were Ricky, Teegan and Tayson. But the the others decided to go on to the next tower. Rather them than us as it looked incredibly steep.
After a while we started to head back the way we had come. But we walked past tower 14, where we had joined the wall, and continued to tower 6. This section had some steep parts going up and down, but we had certainly done the worst bit of it.
At tower 6 there is a toboggan ride you can take down to the bottom again. You sit on the plastic toboggan and just have a stick in the middle to push forward to go faster and pull back to go slower. This was great fun and lasted for about 10 minutes. The only problem was that there were a lot of people going very slow further down so you couldn't go very fast nearer the bottom. Tayson filmed the whole of his ride on his iPhone, so I look forward to seeing that on Facebook at some point!
A woman was selling freshly made pancakes at the bottom of the wall, which looked too good to resist so Stu and I both got a chocolate pancake each. Then we grabbed some lunch, before getting back into the minibus to take us back to the hotel.
It was an amazing day walking the Great Wall, but we did feel tired on the journey back. Some of the group had a bit of a snooze along the way.
We arrived back at the hotel around 3pm and had a couple of hours break.
This evening we met in the lobby at 5:20pm and headed to the bus stop. Here we caught the bus to a restaurant which Ricky knows. (The bus cost just 1 yuan which is about 10p to go seven stops!)
The restaurant did not look anything special, but Ricky ordered us eight dishes and some rice. We had spicy beef, sweet and sour pork, spicy chicken with peppers, a lamb dish, some stir fried green beans, aubergines (which were delicious), sweetcorn, brocolli, rice and some tea. It was really tasty. The plan was to split the meal between us all but pay for your own drinks. Stu and I each had a large bottle of beer with our meal and it cost us just £3.80 each - the large bottle of beer was just 80p! I am loving these prices!
After dinner we headed to a theatre to watch The Legend Of Kung Fu, a performance by Shaolin Monks telling the story of a young monk studying Kung Fu. Some of the stunts were incredible; back flips landing on their heads and balancing their whole bodyweight on spears - very entertaining.
After the show we headed back to the hotel on the bus, and then wished the others goodnight as we headed off to bed.
It has been a fantastic first day out in Beijing. We start at 9am tomorrow when we head to the Forbidden City.