The essential Beijing day trip (Beijing pt. 3)

It’s early in the morning. The sun seems to rise earlier than back home. I blame a huge country running on only one time zone. Anyway, outside my window someone is shovelling. Not dirt, it sounds like brick, clay or cement – you can tell by that grating scratching sound it makes on the shovel again and again.

This started around four and doesn’t quit until just before my scheduled wake-up time at six. Yaawn.

It’s ok. Today will be a good day.

Breakfast arrives at seven: eggs, bacon, sausage and stale bread. I eat it all except for the eggs because I’m going to need the energy.

Our driver arrives in an old, white Volkswagen blaring classical music. He asks if we want it off. No way.

The drive is less than two hours – fairly scenic with plenty of hills and trees. When we arrive at Mutianyu it’s 845. The parking lot is near empty save a couple tourist buses. A brief bathroom break, quick consideration of the cable car, then up the stairs we trudge.

By the time we reach the Great Wall, Sara and I are huffing and puffing as we’re greeted by two Mongolian women selling snacks at high prices. We buy Oreos at 20Y. They are worth every Chinese penny.

The Great Wall has sat on my bucket list for quite some time. We decided to go to the section at Mutianyu because we heard the typical tourist section at Badaling was always crawling with tour groups.

We were not disappointed with our choice. We walked the Great Wall nearly alone for a good hour. We kept pinching ourselves, trying to believe we were actually here looking at the beautiful green hills covered in mist as a jagged wall seemed to cut the cliffs in half.

The Great Wall at Mutianyu.

By 11 many more tourists had arrived, but we had nearly had our fill of the Wall. And so we took the long hike down, passing others huffing and puffing their way up (making us feel better about our level of fitness).

Oh the crazy tourist sellers. We had a flight of stairs left and we could see a man at the bottom holding out a t-shirt saying “I climbed the Great Wall” and through the gauntlet we went. Finally, we found a stairway in the shade and sat and waited for our driver who suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Attached to his keychain was a Canadian flag, which we hadn’t noticed earlier. He told us China and Canada were friends. Good to hear.

Off in the Volkswagen from the now packed parking lot. No more classical music, just Asian pop, which our driver sings the occasional note.

Dinner at Yang’s Restaurant about 20 minutes away. We gorge on chicken, peanuts, peppers and rice. Our hike made us extremely hungry and we eat every last morsel.

I sleep most of the car ride home, nap, then clean up and ready to go. We went to a Chnese acrobat show, something Sara has long wanted to see. It was pretty amazing, a good reminder of the talents I lack.

We then walked (in the wrong direction briefly) to a restaurant for stewed beef and tomatoes, translucent noodles and celery.

The waitress can’t speak English and she’s embarrassed. Her face goes red, she giggles and fans herself with the bill when she doesn’t understand what we’re saying, making me feel much worse about my non-existent Chinese. She writes a note in English on our bill, “I’m very, very sorry about my English,” and asks us to settle because her shift is coming to an end, followed by a second “I’m sorry.”

Oh China, so friendly.

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