24 hours in Beijing - part 2

Travelled by Margo Rhys-Jones on 25 August 2011 | 4 Comments

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Margo Rhys-Jones

37 yrs old.absolute love of traveling - and photography, writing, health / nutrition, relaxation. ...Find out more!

24 hours in Beijing - part 2

My second day in Beijing, and I had a flight back to Malaysia scheduled for 4pm that afternoon. I was hell bent on seeing the Great Wall (whichever part I could!) and after some question asking, I decided on booking a private car, through the hotel, the night before. I booked an early start, so at 7am we set off for the wall. Apparently, there are three good viewing options from Beijing, and I was headed to the ‘Mutianya’ section in Huairou district – north of Beijing - one hour’s drive away from my airport hotel. The original Mutianya section of the wall was built from 550-557, during the Qi Dynasty. It was later restored between 1368 – 1644, during the Ming Dynasty.

We arrived at 8am to a throng of stall holders setting up for a day’s business. One woman got me on the way past, waving an ugly t-shirt in my face, which I declined. She promised she would remember me, and that I’d buy the said t-shirt on my way out (she did remember, but I didn’t buy). My driver took me up to the booking office and at this stage, I’d still not even grabbed sight of the wall. I had two options for heading up: to walk (around 2 hours) or take a chair lift (about 5 minutes). My driver was going to wait two hours for me so I paid for the chair lift. Wow! It’s a 550m trip up, climbing the whole way over thick green forest. I was the only person on the chair and it was so peaceful. It wasn’t until I crested over the first big hill section that I finally captured my first glimpse of the wall. There it was ahead of me!  I knew there was a sun somewhere above me, but it was barely penetrating the thick mist, fog, low cloud and smog. What an amazing silhouette of the wall though - talk about breathtaking!  

The chair lift ends in one of the middle towers, so my plan was to head left, and then double back and go right – believe it or not, there was no time! My two hours seemed to fly by. The Mutianya section is 2.5km long, but looks longer and it’s amazing how slowly you seem to travel along it. The tower had two levels with a steep staircase leading up to the wall. More like a thickset metal ladder, the staircase left horrendous, sticky, brown stains on my hand after touching the railing. The towers are not so big, but are completely barren, devoid of anything except yourself and history. The wall was wonky, leaning downhill to the right, and it was difficult to walk. However, it soon righted itself. I had a lightweight jacket on, but not for long. It felt like I was really high, but actually it was only around 530metres. The air was dense, warm and heavy – you could feel the moisture in it. In front and behind me, the wall snaked its way along, disappearing into the heavy mist and hills. Atmosphere!  

I had made my way along what I estimate to be about half of the section, through half a dozen or so smaller ‘towers’ (they’re situated about every 100 metres) and a couple of bigger ones, getting plenty of photos along the way, and taking in as much as I could. The views from the wall are just amazing. Green, rolling mountains, with heavy misty air and a snaking wall across the high points.

On reaching the cable car, I realise it's my only option to get back down as there is no time to walk down nor double back and take the chairlift or luge. Of course there are the inevitable souvenir stalls at the end of the cable car journey. In China, the sellers are a lot more ruthless than any other country I’ve been to – I had to pry one woman’s fingers off my arm, so desperate was her sales plea.  It is only a 5 minute walk back to the carpark and my driver. On showing him the unused return portion of my ticket (for the luge), he insists I go back to the ticket office and get my money back. So I insist he comes with me to do the talking. With obvious reluctance and a choice exchange of words between the ticket girl and my driver, I get my money back.  I would have loved longer to explore the Mutianya section of the wall and would recommend starting out to the right, then doubling back to the left and taking the cable car down.

On the way back to my hotel, my driver advises me that we can stop at a local hand craft factory which is not my usual thing, but I figure, what the hell... sure! Actually, I’m pleased I did. I got a crash course in the ancient art of handmade Chinese porcelain and it was really interesting!  It’s about a 6 stage process (and a dying art) to get the final products. I bought some of the best souvenirs ever – hand crafted chopsticks!  What’re easier to carry than those?

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