One thing that is on many people’s bucket list, including mine, is to walk the Great Wall of China. The entire wall with all of its sections spans a colossal 16,000km so walking the entire wall would be no easy feat. While I was in Beijing I booked a day trip to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China which enabled me to tick the Great Wall of China off my bucket list.
The Great Wall of China
I booked my trip to the Great Wall of China on Expedia at a cost of £45pp. The total duration of the trip was eight hours, and as well as the visit to the Great Wall of China the trip included a visit to a jade factory, a traditional Chinese tea tasting experience, minibus transfers to and from the wall, a tour guide and lunch at a local restaurant near the wall. The only thing that wasn’t included in the trip was the return cable car ticket to get you to the wall. When it’s time to leave you have the choice to either descend from the wall by cable car or a toboggan.
After you have booked you will receive an email from Expedia detailing what you need to do next, this will include sending the tour operator of the trip an email with passenger details for everyone in the booking. The evening before the trip the tour guide will either contact you, or your hotel, to arrange a time for collection the following morning. I was called and emailed directly by the tour guide the day before to let me know that we would be collected at 6:40am for our trip to the Great Wall of China.
The following morning we went to the hotel reception to find our driver already there waiting for us with a name plaque. He introduced himself and we headed out to his people carrier and headed off. We made another stop within Beijing to pick up one additional passenger and then proceeded to head out of the city towards the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China.
Our first stop on the way to the wall was the jade factory. My first thoughts about this were a little daunting as we pulled into a large walled compound which was home to an old industrial looking building. We parked by the front door and entered the building through the main doors that led to a reception area where our tour guide handed us over to one of the factories guides. From the reception we could see through a huge set of windows into a huge grand looking jade showroom. We first passed by a room where some of the factory workers were hand-crafting objects from the jade, and then made our way to a lecture-style room where we were given a presentation on the art of crafting jade and given the chance to examine some samples. After the presentation we were led into the showroom and given some time to look around at our leisure, and purchase some jade items if we wished. All in all we had about half an hour at the factory and the experience was quite interesting even though their main aim was to get us to spend money in the showroom. After we left the jade factory it was onwards to the Great Wall of China.
The Great Wall of China
Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
Upon arrival at the Great Wall of China you will need to purchase your cable car (or cable car and toboggan) tickets otherwise it is quite a trek to reach the Wall by foot. The cost of the ticket is 120CNY (approximately £13), which is the same whether you return by cable car or toboggan. The cable car is 723m in length and takes three and a half minutes to reach the wall. When we purchased the tickets for the wall our tour guide informed us that we had around two hours on the wall to explore. This was plenty of time to have a good look around as well as capture many jaw-dropping photographs of the wall and the surrounding countryside.
During my trip to the Great Wall we managed to reach five of the look-out towers before it was time to start heading back. The look-out towers are all individually designed, some large and some small, some even have stairs to higher viewing platforms, all very intriguing and worth exploring. The wall itself ranges from nice flat easy walking surfaces to steep inclines and in some places even steps. Once we had returned to the viewing platform where we started we had to make our decision, cable car or toboggan – needless to say we all choose the toboggan. Unlike toboggans I had been on in the past this was not a simple toboggan where you push off and have no control over speed, on this one you have a control stick in the toboggan where you push down to increase speed and pull up to brake, so the toboggan was suitable for all with simple instructions for use.
After the thrilling toboggan ride down from the wall our tour guide met us and showed us into a restaurant opposite the entrance to the cable car. We all sat down at a large table and were told that lunch was a set meal and a few moments later a range of dishes were bought to our table for all of us on the tour to share. Now here is the interesting part… none of us were told what any of them were so lunch was an interesting game of food roulette where we spent the following half an hour sampling all the dishes trying to guess what each one was. It wasn’t exactly Michelin star dining, but all of the dishes were tasty and probably not what we would have picked if we had a menu, so all in all a good insight into more rustic Chinese cuisine.
After leaving the Great Wall of China we headed back towards Beijing, the journey time was around 90 minutes. Upon arrival in Beijing we made our final stop for our traditional Chinese tea tastings. Upon arrival we were shown to a table in the main tasting room where we were given an introduction into the main types of Chinese tea followed by five tastings each. Included in the tastings were oolong tea, lychee tea as well as a delicious fruit tea made from purely dried fruit crystals. We were also shown this small clay figure of a person from which you pour the water for your tea over, and then if by magic, if the water is hot enough to make your tea, the clay figure absorbs some of the water end ejects it as if it were going to the toilet. The lady hosting the tastings said “no pee, no tea” – we were all quite amused. After the tastings we had a few minutes to make any purchases which we wanted from the shop before heading back to the car to return to our hotel.
Considering the whole eight hour trip only cost £45pp I though this was fantastic value for money given the amount we saw and did in one day, I would have happily paid more than this for a trip just to the wall. Visiting the Great Wall of China was a truly fantastic experience, and one that I will always remember. I’m extremely happy I’ve now ticked this off my bucket list and can’t recommend this tour enough to anyone considering a visit to China.