The title probably says enough. The Great Wall, the greatest wall of them all. The wall that people travel far and wide to marvel at. Me included. Planning the trip to China, it went without saying that I would, with no doubt at all, be paying the wall a visit. I decided to stay a good few days in Beijing, allowing time to do just this, alongside all the other sights the city had in store. So, after wandering around Tienanmen Square whilst getting stopped multiple times for a photo, and a long day spent at the Forbidden City, it was time to check out the old wall. With just 2 days left in Beijing, now was the perfect time. However, due to unforeseen illness suffered by my travel buddy, I spent the day in the hostel which meant tomorrow, the last day in Beijing, had to be the day to take to the wall.
Morning came, and the decision was made, like the proper travellers we are, not to go on a tour, but instead take a local bus to a section of the wall less frequented by the hordes of Chinese tourists we seemed to have encountered everywhere else so far. After a long walk in the humid weather to the big bus station, I was confident we were in line for the correct bus, and looking over to the hundred strong line of people queueing to be taken to a touristy section, couldn’t help but get excited at the thought of a bit of this wall, to ourselves! The bus started rolling and we got comfortable for the hour or so journey to the wall. After a while, we started to see it, and it was getting closer and closer. We passed what looked like a very commercial and busy section, where all those in the line next door to us were heading no doubt. We continued on, and the wall seemed to get a little further away. “Just the way the roads go” I thought to myself, and continued to remain comfy and sure we would arrive soon.
Well, as I am sure you guessed from the title, we did not make it to the wall. Instead we made it to a town in the middle of nowhere, deep in the Beijing suburbs. We should have taken note of the bizarre look given to us from the ticket attendant upon boarding the bus, but we mistook that for her thinking “these crazy tourists, doing it by themselves!”. Well, that was not the time to be thinking about that. We wandered around this little town whose name escapes me now, trying to find a local bus station that would drop us off at the wall. After a couple of miles of walking, we realised the find-a-bus-station mission had failed, so we resigned and sulked into one of the many bakeries on offer and carefully avoided the fluffy pork buns. Feeling deflated, we headed back to the drop off point from our initial bus. A few Chinese folk hassled us a bit, trying to offer us lifts for an extortionate amount. But, we understood, we were probably a very bizarre site in their little town. Eventually the bus arrived, and back to Beijing we went, both sat silently and a little grumpy. Our last day in Beijing came to a gloomy end and we went to bed ready to head to Xian, knowing we would absolutely, definitely be booking a tour to see the Terracotta Warriors.
Moral of the story: if on a time limit, go to the wall first when in Beijing, and join the long queue at the bus station.