One of the privileges of traveling around the globe is the opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds, trek on pristine landscapes, visit historic sites, enjoy breathtaking views, and even sample exotic cuisines. I recently during a China Great Wall tour, visited Mutianyu. For me to say the experience was sensational, would be an understatement.
When is the best time for a Great Wall of China Tour?
It had always been my desire to visit China and explore the famed wall. So when the opportunity finally came, I did not hesitate. I purposed to make it both pleasurable and memorable. Even though you can visit the wall any time of the year, I felt making the trip in spring, during the Easter holiday, would be ideal. For starters, the weather is warm, sunny and favorable for outdoor excursions. Secondly, in that period, most tour firms have off-peak season rate offers.
Since the wall covers more than 13000 miles, I had to decide which section to visit. Some of the fascinating areas of the wall include the Badaling, Jiankou, Gubeikou, Huanghuacheng, and Jinshanling. I settled for Mutianyu for obvious reasons. It is arguably the most beautiful, quietest and less crowded section, of the wall. Secretly, I gather it was the prospect of riding the Toboggan that influenced my choice.
Getting to the Wall from Downtown Beijing
Bearing in mind that I only had one day for the Great Wall tour, I rose up early. The distance from Downtown Beijing to the wall attractions is approximately 75 kilometers. That meant walking was out of the question. I needed a convenient transportation solution.
My first instinct was to hire a private car. But the Beijing cab drivers I spoke to were reluctant to take me unless I opted for an around way trip. That meant paying double. Upon discerning my apprehension, one of the drivers was kind enough to suggest that I if I wanted a less pricey alternative I should either take the bus or train. But to avoid delays, he opined that I should be wary of which bus I took. Not all the coaches make direct trips to the Great Wall. Since I was traveling on a budget and didn’t want to get late for my trip, I saw the train ride as the most suitable alternative.
I headed to the Beijing North Railway Station, booked a ticket, took my seat and soon we were on our way. The trip was full of “are we there yet?” moments. I guess the anticipation was getting the best of me, so much to the extent that when the train pulled into the Beizhai Railway station, I thought we had reached. Only to learn that I still had to take a minibus to my desired destination. I boarded a nice looking minibus, and the vehicle’s engine roared to life. This time I was slightly patient, and in no time we got to there. Patience pays, right.
Upon alighting, I noticed the place was abuzz with activities. People were either taking photos, queuing at the ticket booths, chatting with tour guides, or buying quick meals from the restaurants. I then noticed that all of them rushed to the washrooms to relieve themselves. At the time, I didn’t understand why. Later on, it hit me it is was because the wall had very few restrooms.
The Great Wall of China
The wall was a breathtaking sight to behold. It is a 2.2 kilometer stretch of restored construction that starts from the first to the twentieth tower, in an environment blooming with beautiful lush green cover. The air also had a unique, pleasant aroma. The lovely smell emanated from the sweet-scented apricot trees and delightful exotic Chinese delicacies from the nearby cafes and restaurants. If you wish to grab a quick meal, the XinShuangQuan, Xiaolongpu, Fish Chef, and the Subway restaurant, have enough treats to tantalize your taste buds.
Ascending the wall
Primarily, there are three ways of climbing up the fortification. You can walk up the trails, ride the Chairlift, or take the Cable car. Considering that I had come to have fun, I joined the other revelers who preferred to walk uphill. We entered the wall through the Dream Stone City and started the uphill trek. Occasionally we would stop to rest, take pictures, or just enjoy the scenery. Even though the trails were in excellent conditions, and easy to track, ascending the wall was hard-hitting. Those who were not physically fit found walking between the first to sixth towers tiring, while those of us who acted tough got a nice beating between the steep nineteenth and twentieth sections.
In fact, by the time I reached the highest section, all I could think of was taking a few selfie shots, and going back to the entrance.
Descending the wall
If you want to descend, you can walk back, or ride the toboggan, the chairlift or the Cable car. However, after the tiring uphill trek, most people prefer riding any of the three options to walking. It wasn’t hard for me to decide which among these would be my way back. After all, riding the sled was one of the many Mutianyu attractions that lured me to this section of the wall.
The Chairlift Ride
You can use the Chairlift to move from tower six to the parking lot and vice versa. The ride takes about ten minutes and resembles an open sky-lift. It is comfortable enough to fit two passengers seated next to each other. Revelers with two-way chairlift tickets can choose to either ride the chairlift or the toboggan.
The Cable car ride
The cable cars can comfortably accommodate six people. Hence if you are in a group, this might be ideal. You can use it to ascend to and descend from the fourteenth tower of the wall.
The Toboggan ride
Taking the ride was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the trip. It was an enjoyable, fast, safe, and convenient way of descending the wall. The rides are located between the fifth and sixth towers and exist either as single or double carriages. If you are alone, the sole cart is an excellent choice, but if you are with a partner or with a child, you should go for the double.
I boarded my cart and dove into the enthralling descent. The carriage utilizes gravity and follows a sequence of zigzag turns. It easy to manage, thanks to the convenient handle for controlling acceleration, and braking. It felt like high-speed driving or low-latitude flying. I would compare the experience to riding a roller-coaster, but without the nerve wrecking experience.
Once I got to the bottom, there were shuttle buses, and taxi cabs ready to ferry the tourists back to their destinations. I purchased my bus ticket and took a seat for a ride back to downtown Beijing. Even though I was exhausted by the time I got to my hotel room, my decision to take part in the China Great Wall tour was worth it. It felt both refreshing and satisfying.