A Dragon Hike to the Great Wall of China

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Still sleepy and feeling a little bit of dizzy from waking up very early while seating on a bus bound to Huai Rou, the bus speeds off from Dongzhimen Station on a cold winter morning. Enjoying the sights of the city of Beijing that laid on my eyes, I try to stay awake and open my eyes. Though, I’m going on a slumber mode on and off, but inside my heart,  my excitement cannot be contain as I know today I will see one of the wonders of the world – The Great Wall of China!

The Great Wall of China - one of the wonders of the world!
Ticket to the wall. 45 RMB per person during my 2012 visit. 
Cable car going up to the wall platform. The other option going up is doing a stair hike.
Excited to see the Great Wall of China from the Cable car ride.
Today, I am doing a commute way of visiting the Great Wall to its Mutianyu section with my travel mates.  We decided not to join tours here because aside from pricey rates, do-it-yourself tour to the Great Wall is easily doable. You just need accurate instructions and knowing the right public vehicle to Mutianyu. The other famed section of Great Wall is Badaling section but we choose Mutianyu section because it is less crowded with visitors and more stunning and scenic sight of Great Wall yet only a little bit far from Beijing compare to Badaling section. Travel time via bus to Huai Rou is one and a half hours. We alighted to Huai Rou Qui Che Zhan, the last stop and terminal of the bus in Huai Rou.

At the terminal, there are many cab drivers waiting and willing to drive you privately to the Great Wall. There were many drivers to choose from but we choose the one we feel trusted. But honestly, most of them can be trusted since most of the driver’s rely on the Great Wall visitors for income. Travel time is thirty minutes. When we reached the grounds of the Great Wall, the driver volunteer to wait for us for the return trip which delighted us because it seemed hard to find a cab for a return trip to the Huai Rou Terminal at the Great Wall.

National toursist attraction of Mutianyu Great Wall from the platform.
First glimpse of the Great Wall of China!
At the ground of the Great Wall, you won’t see the wall yet. The ground is at the base of the mountain and the wall is resting on the top of its ranges. It is either you go up via trek or via Cable Car. We choose to go up via Cable Car and then go down via trek since it is harder to go up than going down via trek. After we paid the necessary fees, we ride the Cable Car going up to the wall where we are treated with mountain winter sceneries of China as the car goes up. At the base of the top platform, there is a space area like a park with seats where I can already see the Great Wall snaking on the top of the mountain ranges. I exclaimed, “That’s it!” My heart jump and beat faster, the moment I got a glimpse of The Wall from the space area.

Let the "Dragon Hike" start!
One of the 8 watchtowers I explored in the hike.
Hundred more steps. Maybe a thousand more steps...
 There’s a small stairs going up that you have to pass through before you fully step on the wall itself. Once you pass through, you’ll be greeted with the beautiful sight of the Great Wall of China of Mutianyu section. The strong and historic wall of Mutianyu is 1.4 miles through the mountains and high ridges, which many of its section is made of granite. The Great Wall of China as per history is made to strengthen its defense from northern enemies and various nomadic groups and guard the e capital. There are 22 watch towers distributed at close intervals along the wall. I explore 7 of those watchtowers during my hike to the wall.  The Great Wall is estimated to have been built as early as 7th century BC. Today, it is one of the most recognizable landmark of China because of its historic importance, breathtaking scenery and amazing architectural wonder.

To enjoy the various scenic views of Great Wall, you to have hike the long brick wall from a starting point and explore its watchtowers. Since the wall is a long stretch of fortress, it requires a “Dragon Hike”, an energetic and aggressive kind of hike that also motivates you to be strong and withstand tiredness. Nah, I just coined that name of hike which I find it suitable when hiking the wall. But just like the dragon, you really need to be energetic and aggressive like having a power to withstand the tiring hike to the steep stairs, curving steps and rocky platforms of the wall fortress. You’ll also have to be cautious on steps and stairs as some are so high and some are sudden downward curve that it can lead for danger and accident. I say for experience hikers, this will be easy but for couch potato, they will have difficulty.

A perfect way to stretch those leg and feet muscles - Dragon Hike!
History information at the some section of the wall.
Admiring one of the world wonders of mankind...
With my “dragon hike” style, I hike the Great Wall of China to explore it. The cold winter weather coupled with a very cold wind blow made my hike more difficult. I’m starting to have colds after minutes of hiking. But it didn’t stop me from exploring this architectural wonder of China. I continue my hike and savor the beautiful sight of the wall everytime it laid upon my eyes by looking at it in all angles possible. The scenic Great Wall of China looks like a dragon resting on the mountain ranges and ridges. The winter season which made the area had bare trees with only stems left and some dried leaves left made the wall standout in the mountain ranges. Actually, I find it the wall scenic amidst wintertime. But they say, whatever the season is, the Mutyaniu section of the wall is all stunningly beautiful all the time.   

There are small patches of melting snow in some sections of the wall as I walk through. I explore the watchtowers, where visitors can read historical information about the function of the wall and the watchtower. In the watchtower too, one can see a greater view of the wall snaking through the mountain ridges as it is located on higher elevation than the wall platforms. From one of the windows of the watchtower, I saw how long, stretching and wonderful the Great Wall of China that seems endlessly snaking through the mountain ridges. The view that I saw from the window made me appreciated this man-made world wonder that is really an opportunity of a lifetime to set my foot on.

Winter scene at Mutianyu section of Great Wall.
More to hike but breathtaking view from one of the watchtowers.
 I did not regret to visit the Mutyaniu section of the wall. It is less crowded that sometimes the wall is just by ourselves and I find it scenic than the other wall sections of the Great Wall. I still stunned on how ancient Chinese people made it manually and how strong it is surviving until now. This is truly an architectural wonder!  In every angle I look at it, I’m marveling to its beauty and greatness. I can’t help but admire its every scenic angle in the mountain ranges. For me, it symbolizes China’s advancement in intelligence and glorious history of the country. The Great Wall of China is a pride of China and Chinese people – a wonder in history, architecture and culture. I’m glad I’ve set my foot on one of the wonders of the world.   

Souvenir shops at the foot of the wall. 
Dried fruits sold at the souvenir stands at the foot of the wall. Dried cherry is recommended for an afternoon snack.
 After an hour and a half exploration and hiking of the wall, we reached the stairs going down. It was quite a difficult hike to the numerous stairs going down from the wall but we survive it. At the foot of the wall are numerous souvenir shops and China memorabilia for pasalubong. There are also shops of dried fruits and nuts which we tried. We found our driver after and he brought us back to the terminal station to a bus going back to Beijing. It was a very tiring day at the Great Wall of China but I feel content to the experience I had. I’ve just seen and walked through one of the world wonders of mankind and it is a momentous experience of lifetime that I will never forget!   


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Commute Guide to Great Wall - Mutianyu section: Visiting the Great Wall via do-it-yourself trip is easy! Before I thought it will be hard especially for first timers and language barrier like me but with accurate and good guide, you can do it like we did as this is a cheaper option to experience the Great Wall of China. So here's the guide. Go to Dongzhimen Bus Station via subway or taxi. Take Bus No.916 to Huai Rou. Get off at the last stop of the bus - Huai Rou Qui Che Zhan - the terminal of Huai Rou. Look at the bus route map posted on its walls for guide. At the station, there are many taxi drivers and vans waiting and willing to fetch going to the Great Wall. Choose the one willing to wait for you for a return trip as well. Taxi going back is hard to find at Mutianyu Great Wall. On return trip is the same. Taxi to the bus station then hop the bus going to Beijing and drop at Dongzhimen Station again.

A Dragon Hike to the Great Wall of China is part of my Beguiling Beijing.Captivating China series where I share my adventures, travel stories and first-time experiences in Beijing, China last March 20-24, 2012. You might also like the other parts of the series:   
+ Beijing - A Beguiling City
+ Winter Sonata in China
+ Roaming through Beijing
+ One Spring Day in Beijing
+ Forbidden City: Forbidden No More
+ A Dragon Hike to the Great Wall of China
+ Beijing's Architectural Wonders
+ Peking Duck: An Authentic Chinese Cuisine
+ Wangfujing's Lively Street Life
+ The Imperial Gardens of Beijing
+ Airport Review: Beijing Capital International Airport


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