One negative side effect of constant travel is that after a while, you become more numb. Things don’t appear as glittery or exciting as when you first start out. White sands and turquoise waters aren’t exactly a novelty anymore, nor are ancient churches and dazzling skyscrapers.
Perhaps it sounds haughty of me to say that it’s hard to be truly surprised anymore. Believe me, I treasure every single place I visit, but it is true: there are few things that make my eyes widen in amazement, my jaws drop in awe, rendering me completely speechless.
But The Great Wall… it left me breathless and at a loss for words.
I know I tend to ramble on a lot in my posts. But this is one of those rare occasions when words completely fail me, so in a departure from my usual blogging style (and in accordance with my mom’s constant requests for more pictures), I will not wax poetic and will instead let the pictures do the talking!
There are a few sections of The Great Wall available to visitors, but Beijing locals would all say that the Simatai section is the most beautiful. It hasn’t been heavily restored, and is left more or less in its natural state. It’s famous for being one of the more steeper sections, which will thrill those looking for more adventure.
The Great Wall could be a bit of hassle for tourists to get to (it’s quite a journey involving the metro, bus transfers, taxis), so we were thankful that my aunt and uncle offered to take us!
At the base of this section is the newly restored Gubeikou (Old Water Town). It seemed pretty empty with only a few shops open here or there, but was nevertheless a very cute and pleasant little town to walk through.
From this town, we caught a shuttle van to the bottom of the mountain where the hiking trail begins.
But because all of us just wanted to see The Wall without exerting any actual energy, we rode up on the gondola lift. While many may say that this is the lazy way (and indeed we were the only group in the gondola line), I’m glad to have experienced this way as we got to see the hills from a different view. We decided that we would ride up and hike down.
The ride was all too short and before we knew it, we were stepping off onto the side of the mountain. From the end of the gondola lift, there was still a small section of the mountain to climb.
The climb took only about 15 minutes up the steep steps, but it was exhausting (really, it’s probably just because I’m out of shape)! Once we arrived at the top, we were rewarded with the most magnificent view.
At this section, there are 9 watch towers open to the public. The gondola lift takes you by Watchtower Number 8. From there, it’s still a bit of a climb up to Watchtower 10, the highest point. And then, you can walk along the wall back down to Watchtower Number 2, where the hiking trail connects for ascending/descending the mountain.
In front of Watertower 10! Now just need to climb a thousand more steps to make it there!
This is my I’m-tired-and-unfit face.
But after much huffing and puffing, I made it to the top!
I’m not sure if it’s natural fog or that infamous Beijing smog, but either way, the haze over the distant mountains provided a very atmospheric view.
Now, it was time to walk back down to Watchtower 2. The entire walk takes maybe an hour to complete, but of course at least twice as long if you must stop every 20 feet to take pictures, like me! But who can blame me? Around every corner presented us with a different view. Each one prettier than the last.
The Great Wall truly combines the best of natural and man created beauty. A magnificent stone dragon winding through rolling green hills.
Another amazing thing about the Simatai section? There’s hardly any people there! The Badaling section is the most popular section, and trust me, just google the images for it. You probably wouldn’t want to go there either.
As we headed down, the body of water we spotted in the distance became bigger and bigger. My aunt and uncle said that 20 years ago, there wasn’t a dam in place and they were able to row up the river and at the end, make the climb up the hill.
The walk down to the bottom was actually rather easy and leisurely, along a newly built path.
And with that, we were back at the bottom. After a quick ice cream reward, we made the long drive back into the city to my grandma’s for dinner, where a large meal awaited our rumbling tummies (coming up next post!).
- Getting there: Here are directions from China Travel Guide: “Take bus No.980 to Miyun County from Beijing Dongzhimen Long Distance Bus Station to Miyun West Bridge Station and interchange to Bus Line Mi 38 or 51 (or any local buses with sign “Miyun-Simatai”) to Simatai Village Station. Then walk to the entrance of Gubei Water Town to find the shuttle buses. Or upon reaching Miyun County, hire a local taxi to the water town.”
- Hours: 8 am – 7 pm from April to October; 8 am – 5 pm from November to March
- Cost: Entrance is 40 RMB (approx. US $6.50). Gondola lift is 90 RMB one way or 160 RMB round trip.
- Most important tip: Make sure you make a reservation. They only allow 1,200 people up a day. We were not aware of this and didn’t make a reservation, but luckily there were spots left that day. The last thing you want is to go all the way out there and be turned away! Reservations can be made here.
Have you been to the Great Wall? Is this on your bucketlist? Has constant travel made you more numb too?
This post is linked up to Travel Tuesday.