During the month of March, I had the opportunity to go to Beijing for a very fast but fun adventure to the capital city of Beijing, China! Now, I know what you are thinking – was it smoggy? And they answer to that question is a resounding “NO!” The sky was a bright blue and there was not a trace of smog the whole time we were there. This is in alignment with my theory that China is a very beautiful place when the factories and industry here are not polluting the heck out of it! Another theory we had was that the government was holding off on smogging up the place because Michelle Obama was going to to be visiting just a few days after Donna and I were there. Thanks Michelle! We don’t know if that’s exactly true or not, but it benefited us nonetheless.
On day 2 of this awesome mini-vacation, we booked a tour to the Great Wall through our hostel, Sanlitun Youth Hostel for 180 rmb. Its a two hour bus ride to the Wall, with 3 hours of hiking on the wall, lunch and a ride back. The bus leaves at 8:00 am (Yikes! early if you stay out late the night before) and comes back by 4 pm. Free breakfast in the hostel starting at 7 am (which was very good, by the way).
So the area of the wall we hiked was called Mutianyu. A brief history on this section of the wall is included below.
Mutianyu (Chinese: 慕田峪; pinyin: Mùtiányù) is a section of the Great Wall of China located in Huairou County, 70 km northeast of central Beijing. The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is connected with Jiankou in the west and Lianhuachi in the east. As one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall, the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs.
First built in the mid-6th century during the Northern Qi, Mutianyu Great Wall is older than the Badaling section of the Great Wall. In the Ming dynasty, under the supervision of General Xu Da, construction of the present wall began on the foundation of the wall of Northern Qi. In 1404, a pass was built in the wall. In 1569, the Mutianyu Great Wall was rebuilt and till today most parts of it are well preserved. The Mutianyu Great Wall has the largest construction scale and best quality among all sections of Great Wall. (information taken from our friends at Wikipedia on April 8th, 2014).
We took a ski-lift gondola up the mountain and hiked for 3 hours. The views were amazing! The actual steepness of this section of the wall is hard to describe in words and the pictures don’t do it justice. We also got to hike past the well-preserved tourist areas of the wall and walk along the un-maintained areas. This was very cool. I saw a pheasant fly by and crumbling pieces of the wall. And that is where I sneakily wrote “I love G & D” on the Wall in chalk (which was actually the crumbling cement that was used to hold the stones together). There were watchtowers along the way where the guards lived when this wall was in its prime. It was beautiful. The amazing and industrious Chinese have once again astounded me with their tenacity. Had this wall been commissioned to be built today, it would have been a difficult task. Just imagine what it took to build this wall in the 1400’s? And the wall goes on and on…as far as the eyes can see…
Another really fun thing to do is to take a toboggan down the mountain. My friends from Colorado know all about this type of activity. We call it the Alpine Slide and its what we do on the mountains of Colorado during the summer when there’s no snow. I also enjoyed being harassed by the toboggan operator. He was coming at me carnival worker style and was a cheeky little brat who spoke pretty good English. He wouldn’t let me go down the mountain for like 10 minutes while he grilled me and took pictures. If you come to China, this is a must-see experience and one shouldn’t leave China without going there at least once. I liked it so much, I might go back. There are many other sections of the wall to see, not just Mutianyu. I only wish you were here with me. I’ve added a little video below of me all out of breath on Watch Tower 1.