Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Beijing, China: The Great Wall of China

We decided to visit China on our way back from Taiwan because in order to visit China you have to have a visa or if you have a layover in China you can stay there for less than 72 hours without a visa.  We thought this would be the perfect time to explore Beijing since we had a layover there.

On our last full day in Beijing we visited part of the Great Wall.  We booked a full day tour through our hotel.  The tour left at 7:20 am and came back at 4:00 pm.  It was supposed to take 2-3 hours to get to the wall and then we had 3 hours to walk around the wall before having lunch and heading back.  The tour also included an English speaking tour guide.

We woke up early, met our driver and headed to the van.  When we got to the van I started to get a little worried.  It didn't seem like our driver knew much English and the van was pretty run down and didn't have seat belts.  The tour we signed up for looked like it was a pretty legit tour but this didn't look like I thought it would.  We drove to another hotel to pick up 6 more people.  Then we started driving again.  After about 15 minutes we stopped on the side of the road.  Our driver said we were waiting there for a bigger bus.  Thankfully our ride that morning was just to get us to the bigger tour bus that was actually taking us to the wall.
Here is the van that picked us up.
We sat on the tour bus waiting for others to arrive before we headed to a couple more places to pick up people.  By the time we actually headed to the Great Wall it was about 8:45.  So the first hour and a half of our tour was picking up people.  That was frustrating but we were on our way and thankfully it was a very clear, sunny day.

We did have an English speaking tour guide.  On our way to the wall he gave us some history about the wall and told us where we would be going that day.  Jake slept a little on the way there but I had a hard time getting comfortable and didn't end up sleeping.
Here is a map of the part of the wall we went to.
We took a gondola lift up to the wall.  You can walk up but it takes about 40 minutes of walking up steps to get there.  The grey part of the wall on the map is the old part of the wall that hasn't been restored so it is not open to the public.  We did walk out on that part of the wall a little ways but it is very overgrown.  If you walked the whole section of the wall on this map it would be about 8 km to the last tower and back.  Our guide didn't recommend doing that.  I thought our guide would go with us to tell us about the wall while we were on it but he didn't.  He told us a few things while we were on the bus and he told us to be back at Mr. Yang's Restaurant at 1:30 and then just let us go.
Heading up to the top.

Henrik went with us on the tour but Tim stayed behind.  Tim lived in Beijing for about three years so he had been to the wall already and wasn't interested  in going with us.
We had an awesome view on the ride up to the Great Wall at Mutianyu.

 I have seen pictures of the wall before but in those pictures the wall didn't have steps.
There were a few sections that were really steep and we had to take a couple of breaks before we made it to the top.  After we realized how many stairs we had to walk on the wall I was really glad we didn't walk up to the wall.

This is a small section of the Great Wall.  In this picture you can see about 4 km of the total 6000 km.  The first wall here was built 1400 years ago, and was upgraded to its current form in 1568.  It was most recently restored as a tourist site in 1986.

This part of the wall was built in the 1500s and has not been restored in modern times.  It is just as wide and as tall as the other parts, but it's hard to tell because of the overgrowth.
It was a little bit windy but I was thankful that the sky was so clear unlike the day before.
A section of unrestored wall from the 1500s.
Inside one of the watchtowers.

Some more steep stairs but at least this time we were going down.

If you look closely you can see me in the middle of the picture.
We rode toboggans to get down.  It was awesome!
I wish they would have had a fast one and a slow one because we got stuck behind some people that were going pretty slow but it was still a lot of fun.
 We had lunch at Mr. Yang's Restaurant and then had about an hour and a half ride back before we started dropping off people.  Jake and I decided to head back to Tiananmen Square to see it on a clear day. Tiananmen Square is the third largest city square in the world and was the site of several important events in Chinese history.  It is right across from the Forbidden City which we saw the day before but it was so smoggy we couldn't see the square.  By the time we got to the square it was closed for the day and we couldn't enter it but we could still take some pictures.
National Museum of China

Trying out one of their outdoor workout areas.
On our last night we had Peking duck for dinner.  It was SO good!
This was probably one of our best meals we had during the trip.

Before we headed to the airport to fly back to Stockholm we grabbed some breakfast and headed up a hill that overlooked the city.   
We bought some fruit at this market.
They had fruits and vegetables on the first floor.
They had meat on the second floor of the market.
Walking through this market made me thankful that Stockholm has grocery stores that are very similar to where I'm used to doing my grocery shopping.   I feel like this trip really helped me realize how similar Stockholm is to the United States.
A fabric store.  Mom, I took this picture just for you!
Grabbing breakfast from a food cart.
This street has lots of shops selling food, clothes, home supplies, etc.  We bought food for breakfast at a couple of these stores.

 We ate some of our breakfast at the top of a hill in Jingshan Park looking over the city.  There is still some smog, but this was a very clear day compared to Saturday.
We had a great view of the city.

The Forbidden City

Writing with water on the pavement in Jingshan Park.
 This lady was writing different characters with each hand simultaneously.  On Monday morning the park was filled with elderly people, many of them were practicing Tai Chi for exercise.
Beijing Capitol Airport Terminal 3.  This is the sixth largest building in the world by area.  It was impressive and a great airport to be in for several hours if needed.
A quick lunch before heading home.  Can you figure out which meal was mine?
I had to get another salted caramel mocha since we don't have a Starbucks in Stockholm.  (We have one coming in the spring.)
Flying over China.

It was a short trip to Beijing but we were able to see lots of interesting things.  Here is one more post comparing public transportation and other things in Stockholm, Taipei and Beijing.  Here is the first post about Beijing.


  1. Thanks for the fabric picture. Can't wait to see the fabric. ha ha


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