On the second day, we woke up early to catch a bus to The Great Wall of China. A modern wonder of the world, The Great Wall of China rested atop my list of things that I needed to see during my time in China. I was definitely most excited about this trip, so I arose at 5 in the morning with no problem.
Navigating our way to the correct bus was a little bit of pain, as none of me or my roommates speak Mandarin to an acceptable degree, but we eventually boarded and began our hour journey to Beidajie, which is the closest town to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall.
The Mutianyu Great Wall is one of the most popular sections of the 13000 mile wall, with Badaling being supposedly more popular with Chinese tourists, while Mutianyu is more popular with foreigners. Additionally, Mutianyu is the one of the most restored sections of the Great Wall, with many guard towers refurbished, fully paved walkways, and a bunch of modern things like cable cars, concrete stairs, and even a steel luge to help you get up and down the Wall in comfort.
The entrance to Mutianyu is almost reminiscent of a theme park, with stalls, modern restaurants like Burger King and Subway, and even a shuttle that takes you from ‘ground zero’ to where the steps up the mountain begin. Once you’re at the foot of the mountain, there’s more stalls, options to buy cable car/luge rides, a stone museum, and then finally, the stairs itself.
I took the stairs up because I wanted to feel like I ‘conquered’ the challenge of scaling up to the wall (and it was cheaper than the cable cars). The walk was pretty easy, with the whole way up the mountain being paved and with stairs, but it was longer than I anticipated. Still, the walk was nice, with the late morning sun shining through a lightly wooded area. Families took their time scaling the steps, stopping at small rest benches every 50 feet or so, while me and a gaggle of other tourists climbed straight up.
When climbing mountains, it’s pretty easy to forget the land below, as the foliage tends to blind your progress.
However, atop the Wall, nothing is hidden.
As I climbed the final staircase and ducked under a stone arch, my feet finally touched my goal.
There, as I gazed out onto flat plains on one side, and rolling hills and valleys on the other side I stood in awe.
Whenever I stare out into magnificent landscapes, my active mind seems to always still itself, and most often, the thought that pops first is ‘I’m glad I saw this.’
Such sights are pretty rare, and not every little hike is enough to evoke it, but every such sight is engraved into my mind.
Sunrise at Koko Head.
The still night view on the trail behind the Bluff.
A clear spring sunset on the practice field of UP.
Driving on the Overseas Highway to Key West.
Walking the Great Wall of China.
We walked the Wall for a couple of hours, visiting multiple guard towers, taking pictures, and trying to internalize the experience. The descent was like coming out of an altered state of mind. To sights that I’m familiar with, thoughts of itinerary, bus routes, and pangs of hunger filling my body. Even without fully knowing it’s long history, it’s not hard to imagine the importance and magnificence of the Great Wall and what it means to the country itself. I was mainly just glad to have been able to appreciate the grandeur and the views that it gave me.
After returning the Beijing, we visited a bustling street food market, where there were all kinds of food on sticks, in bowls, and in cups. This included scorpion, which I now get to say I tried! It was quite the mental hurdle to eat it, but they were so small that they didn’t have any particular flavor- they were just mainly crunchy, although I didn’t keep it on my tongue for long enough to find out otherwise. Other than that, there were delicious spicy chicken skewers, tripe stew, takoyaki, noodles, and more standard street food fare. It was a great way to cap off my Beijing trip, as I had been meaning to try street food in China, but had not thus far.
In the morning, we boarded the high speed train and sped off, southbound, tired and dehydrated, towards Shanghai.
And back to the grind.