Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Great Wall - No goddamn rabbits gettin' past that thing!

The first time we tried to go to the Great Wall, we realised that the buses only ran until 10am, the second time we found out that the tour buses didn't go to the section of the wall that we wanted to go to and on the third time we slept in. Since we left Beijing on Monday, Sunday was really our last shot at going to this unmissable sight. Unfortunately when we got up and looked out the window it was rainy and overcast :-( On the plus side, we realised that this meant less tourists (score!). 

Since our Forbidden City experience, avoiding tonnes of tourists has been our major goal for all sight-seeing activities. This is why we choose to go to Juyong Pass, which is apparently one of the less popular destinations. We have no idea why, since it is closer to town (still took about 2hrs, but Michael figured out how to get us there and back for 14 yuan, which is just over $2 - double score!) and less dangerous than some of the other sections. Possibly because, according to the lonely planet, "all of the authenticity has been restored out". However, given my everyday lack of co-ordination on flat ground, a hike among 'authentic' crumbling ruins is top on my 'stupid things to do' list. Another reason is that the second closest destination, Badaling, is where almost every single tour bus goes. Walking around the central tour bus terminal you are constantly pestered by people saying "Badaling you want to go Badaling". After about half an hour of this Michael and I decided that if the entire wall was destroyed except for Badaling, we would still not go to Bada-frickin-ling. All the other destinations are either too far away or too dangerous.

In addition to choosing the less popular section of the wall, we choose to walk in the opposite direction to most of the other people. The popular route is up a winding hill where you get a spectacular view. However, given the lack of visibility due to the constant mist of rain we decided that no-one would be able to see much anyway, so we would go the way which didn't have such a good view but was less steep. It was a good call. At times we were completely by ourselves, only passing a handfull of other tourists. It gave us the time and space to be able to fully appreciate the amazing feat accomplished by building this enormous wall that stretches on as far as the eye can see, at times running along the top of a steep range of hills. 

The path that we took was supposed to be less steep than the other direction, however there were still sections of it that I literally had to crawl up on hands and knees, more like rock-climbing than stair-climing. However there were only a couple of these sections and we managed better than some of the other people. 

The view along the top was spectacular, and I thought that the swirling mist added to the atmosphere rather than detracting from it - the photos definitely do not do it justice. I still would have liked to be able to see what it would have looked like on a clear day, however it was not to be, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.

Great Wall tips:
1. Bring toilet paper as there isn't any in the toilets.
2. Wear gloves and bring hand sanitiser as you won't want to touch the handrails but you will need to at some point. 
3. Wear proper walking shoes, as some sections can be slippery if it is damp (we saw one girl in high heels, definitely a bad idea!).
4. Bring food with you as there isn't much to choose from and it is very expensive.
5. Don't go with a tour group because it is heaps more expensive and you will not be able to take your time as we did, also you will probably end up going to Badaling.

The Lonely Planet directions are a bit wrong, so if you ever want to go to Juyong Pass the directions are as follows: 

1. Get to Jishuitan subway station.
2. Take exit A (North West). Upon exiting, follow the road to the East. You will come across a set of bus stands (this is Deshengmen transport terminal). Look for bus 919 Deshengmen - Nankou. There are a lot of buses numbered 919, so just keep going along until you find the stand with 919 Deshengmen - Nankou written on it (It has it written in pinyin). 
3. Take the 919 bus no to Nankou Dongjie bus stop (it takes between 1 hour and 1 hour and 30 minutes depending on the traffic). It will cost 6 Yuan. Try to sit at the front of the bus near the TV screen as it flashes up in pinyin what the next stop is.
4. Once off the 919, go across to the bus stand on the other side of the road and catch the no. 68 bus that goes to Juyongguan pass (make sure that you cross to the other side of the road, because if you get on the no. 68 on the same side that you got off the 919, you will be going in the wrong direction!). It will cost you 1 yuan. The bus will pull right into the car park at Juyongguan pass and terminate there.

(It costs 45 yuan to get into Juyongguan pass to see the wall)

To get back to Beijing, go to the same carpark that the no. 68 dropped you off in and catch the no 68 back to Nankou Dongjie bus stop. I couldn't see an actual bus stop anywhere there, but there was a couple of no. 68s just waiting there in the car park when we made the journey. The no 68 doesn't actually say what stop is next so make sure you either keep and eye out for the bus stop or say to either the driver or the person selling tickets on the bus that you want to go to Nankou Dongjie and hopefully they will let you know when to get off as they did for us. Once at Nankou Dongjie, cross back to the other side of the road and take the no. 919 back to Deshengmen.


1 comment:

  1. Hi, I've been busy with golf, walking eating and drinking and missed your blog for a few days. Once again amazing story about the Great Wall visit and the Peking Duck-it's great to read about the food choices and costs of it all. Keep up the food details. Mark has built a pizza oven and we are having a cook up on Saturday night, so you can't pop in. love Margaret R