Late February 2015, I got an invite from a friend to visit him in China for the Chinese New Year. As I already was planning to go to India for couple of weeks to attend a cousin’s wedding, I decided to split my vacation. 5 days in China and 10 days in India. I was able to squeeze Shanghai, Hangzhou and Beijing in those five days. On the last day of the trip, we decided to visit the Great Wall. I mean, why would anyone go to Beijing without visiting the Great wall, right?
We stayed overnight at Holiday Inn. Decent place, cheap and located close to the metro. On the day, we checked out by 7 am. There were many options available for visiting various sections of the Great Wall. Due to limited time, we decided to visit the touristic section – Badaling Great Wall. Here is a good overview of all sections.
We decided to take the S trains as it was the most convenient, cheap and quickest mode of transport. We reached Beijing north railway station at about 0745, but missed the 0758 train. We had to then wait outside (there are clear signs to reach the queue for the Great Wall) till the counters opened for the 0902. Once we bought the tickets (6 CNY) we were allowed inside the station waiting hall.
We were in the waiting hall when someone saw the return train arrive at the platform. That’s when everyone crowds near the platform gates. Once the gates open, its pandemonium. The train is about 250m from the entrance of the platform. So everyone – aunts, kids and grandmas – go for a sprint. Imagine a crowd of 500 going for a spontaneous run. Being in the mid 20’s, we were able to run quicker than the rest and were able to find seats in the train.
Once inside, the journey is a couple of hours. After about an hour, the train officials start selling the tickets. It is safe to buy it from them (CNY 35). While we were buying, we caught the first glimpses of the great wall. Everyone in the train moves to one side to see one of the greatest wonders of the world.
As we arrived at the Badaling station, we quickly moved towards the entrance – about a 1 km walk from the station. The weather was perfect – sunny and cloudless. However, we were visiting by end of February and it was chilly. We ended up buying a face mask and cap at the entrance for about 20 CNY. It was worth the money spent! There was already a sizeable crowd when we reached the entrance.
We walked on the wall for about 2 hours. Though there were some very steep sections, it was a relatively easy walk. At one point, we reached a certain checkpoint at which, the path diverged into a different route. Due to lack of time, we had to turn back.
On the way back, we took the mini car rail to get to the entrance of the wall. On the journey back to Beijing, we couldn’t get seats and had to travel sitting on the floor near the doors.
If not for the time constraint (my return flight was in few hours), I would have preferred to spend few more hours wandering along the wall. History and nature excite me the most. To imagine workers laying the stones hundreds of years ago, it truly was an amazing experience. I wish I could visit it again and explore the more naturalistic sections of the wall.
- During winter and autumn, wear warm clothes, face masks and caps.
- Train is the convenient mode of transport to the wall, be at the station early.
- Have enough water, energy drinks, fruits etc. There are restaurants and toilets along the wall