We often reflect on our short time spent in Beijing. It was a huge culture shock, an incredible story and it provided us with one of the most memorable experiences of both of our lives – visiting The Great Wall of China. For both of us, it was just one of those places we always thought about visiting at the back of our minds, but it never really seemed to be at the forefront of travel plans. That was until Macrae sat down with that Lonely Planet China travel guide and the rest, as they say, is history. It probably would have been a good idea to visit the Wall twice because the first time was so awe-inspiring that neither of us were able to fully comprehend where we were and what we were seeing.
The Mutianyu portion of the great wall lies several hours North of Beijing and is incredibly lush and forested. While there is a cable car to get you to the top, we chose to climb what seemed to be thousands of steep stairs to the top of a 1.4 mile stretch of The Great Wall. Looking at the sign, we saw that there are 22 watch towers along the wall. We managed to walk along and reach about 5 of the watch towers from number 10 to number 6 all still standing strong (although there were some renovations in the 80s). Standing there, taking in the scenery around us, we both looked at each other in disbelief and smiled. It was one experience neither of us would forget.
If you are planning to see The Great Wall we highly recommend you make Mutianyu one of your stops. It is significantly less crowded and tourist-filled than the more popular Badaling but is in good enough condition to make the stairs up to, and along, the wall a safer bet than some of the less restored areas. Just remember from our experience, if you are not going with a tour, get specific instructions and directions and stick to the route no matter what the bus drivers, taxi drivers and others try to tell you!