The Great Wall and me: Journey of a potential nightmare.
January 15, 2012 § 10 Comments
It was October 2011, my company joined a fair in Beijing, which offered me the opportunity to visit Beijing for the first time. I stayed for 3 days after the fair was over. So I had this one full day dedicated to see the Great Wall. When I was growing up, I always had the impression that the Wall was right next to the Beijing city. Probably because every time when people talked about Beijing, they always mentioned the Great Wall all together. However it never occurred to me that I’ve never seen the Beijing city right behind the Great Wall in any photo……
I have a friend who traveled quite a bit around China, and he recommended me to visit JingShanLing, a section of the Wall which is further away from the city as it was less touristy. It made sense, if I was taking the trouble to go all the way out there, why would I want to see the cheesy thing that’s pretty much rebuilt for tourist? Since I was really busy to prepare for the fair before departure, I didn’t do much research about how to reach the Wall. Instead I asked my friend to email me the direction:
From Dongzhimen long-distance bus station, take a minibus (1¼ hours) or bus 980 to Mìyún , change to a minibus to Gǔběikǒu , and get off at Bākèshíyíng
Perfect…… I arrived at the bus station, only to realize everything is in Chinese, thankfully I can read them, and figured out which one is going to “Miyun”. The bus station was very hectic, everyone was rushed, yelling and trying to get on their bus. Once I got on, the bus driver asked me where in Miyun I’m going… Apparently Miyun is a county, and different stops within the county were charged differently (but I didn’t know why he asked as I had the full fare ticket anyway). I sorta ignore the driver, but right there, I began to question myself where in Miyun I should get off……
After over an hour, I noticed we’ve got into the Miyun county. I started to get worry and kept my eyes on all the road signs. Then when the bus turned left at one corner, I noticed a road sign pointing “Gubeikou” to the right. I panicked, so I jumped off the bus at the next stop. Immediately I realized it wasn’t the brightest idea. I was in the middle of a downtown area, didn’t know where would be that bus to Gubeikou, didn’t see anyone who would be helpful…. I walked around, and the thought of walking into some hotels and asked for directions crossed my mind a few times. Then I saw this mini bus station with a bunch of ladies inside, so I walked in, and asked if they know how to get to “Gubeikou”. No body knew. So I walked down the street and found this cell phone counter inside a little mall and asked. Strangely enough, no one in this town seems to know how to get to the Great Wall… Either, the locals never go there, or they just didn’t want to help a stranger. However, they did tell me to catch a bus nearby, and go to a “bus station” where I might be able to find a bus that would take me to my destination.
I walked up to that bus stop, and of course, non of the buses pass through a place called “bus station”. However I noticed one of the station has the word “car” in it. So I thought I’d give it a try… Turned out. it was a remote area with auto-repair shop. It was 2pm already, and I hadn’t even find the way to get to the Great Wall. I honestly didn’t know what to do. I had come this far, with only an hour drive away from the Wall, how could I turn around right here? So I walked into one of the repair shop, and asked if they know how I can get to the Great Wall by public bus.
All the guys from the shop came out to see what was this girl doing there. They all didn’t know how, and they thought *maybe* some public buses might come by, but it’s Sunday, so service was different… They were so nice to me. They gave me a bottle of water, some candies and even pulled out a chair for me to sit by the road while waiting for the bus. (Ok, this does sounds a little dangerous, but I could feel that these are some really nice and genuine folks.) We kept chatting while they looked out for the buses that came by. After waiting for close to an hour, they felt bad for me, and one of the guy drove out on a bike to help me. He came back and told me there’s a private van, not too far, which would take me to the Great Wall, and he asked if I wanted him to take me to that van. I asked how much. He replied “40 CYN”. I said “OK”… thinking he was going to charge me for a whopping 40 CYN to drive me a few blocks down! Turned out, 40CYN was for the private van, and he just offered to drop me off on his bike for free!
So I got into this “black van” with 6 other locals (thankfully, no chicken on board, haha), which was the exact situation my friend warned me not to get myself into… At around 4pm, I arrived at the gate! When I finally walked up and stood on the wall, honestly, I was *really* proud of myself for going through such a journey, with my broken Mandarin skills. The dramatic view was the best reward.
A little later, I noticed the sky was turning into a golden shade of yellow, it was getting dark…. and I started to fear for my trip to return, as I didn’t have a single clue on how!