Now onto my hands down favorite day of the trip- when we went to the Great Wall!!! We had debated a lot about how to get there and which section to visit. There are numerous tours but we decided against doing that since they were pretty expensive and all seemed to have a stop at some Jade Museum or other tourist trap. Since our Dominican Republic trip we've learned our lesson about that sort of crap. We were also concerned that some websites mentioned that many tours were scams. We settled on visiting the Badaling section of the wall, which is the most visited and photographed and also the closest to Beijing. Even though there was an entrance fee for this section (40 yuan or about $6.50) it is also the most dramatic with it's hills and we figured that it wouldn't be too crowded since we were going on a Tuesday. Plus the directions were really straight forward.
So off we went, on the look out for the mystical 919 bus that would take us to the Great Wall. We got off at the correct subway station (the subway is even easier to use than the one in Seoul now that they have made so many upgrades for the Olympics) and started looking for the 919 bus. Almost immediately we spotted it! So we excited scampered towards it, looking for the ticket vendor. The bus driver took one look at us and started emphatically shaking his head. "No Badaling!" we were told as he pointed further down the block. Okay then, a bit weird, but whatever. It was at this point we realized that 919 is the most popular bus number in Beijing. I'm not exaggerating when I say that we passed five 919 buses before we found the correct one. So strange! We stopped to ask some Olympic volunteers (seriously, Beijing was covered in booths of these guys) and then assured us that the bus did exist and we were on the right track.
We found the bus! When we were in the vicinity the ticket vendor started waving her hands at us so we knew we were in the right spot. We paid the fare for the 50 km trip (just under $2 each) and settled into the crowded bus. We were the only non-Chinese people on the bus other than a European couple that jumped on at the last minute. The trip went smoothly and before we knew it we were getting our first glimpses of the wall!!
It was such a gorgeous day and we had a great time hiking on the wall. I have to tell you, it is HUGE. I know that you're told how big it is but I really didn't understand until I was walking on it. And the Badaling section is so steep! Holy crap. I definitely think everyone should visit the Great Wall before they die and it's important to know that you should get there before you're using a walker because all those stairs and inclines are killer!
It was the best day ever. I loved staring at the bright blue sky eating our picnic lunch on the wall. And finding our way back to Beijing was just as easy and cheap as getting there. I really recommend that if you visit the wall you do it yourself instead of taking a tour. It's so simple, much cheaper and you can do it at your own pace (which is important when you're climbing four billion stone steps).
To see the rest of the pictures you can go here.