Feb 3: The Great Wall of China!

So as I said in my last post, Elyse of iheartbeijing was kind enough to negotiate a taxi to take us to the Great Wall on a Monday for 500 RMB. He was to show up at 7:00am at our hotel and take us around for the day…but as it turned out, we just really weren’t up for getting up that early, slept in, and flaked on the driver. Also, it was more expensive than we’d anticipated – and locals told us that it really should have only cost 200-250 RMB for the day, so we were being ripped off!

rolling hills

Instead we went to the Forbidden City on Monday and then went to the Great Wall on Tuesday. Our chosen method of transportation? City bus! We took a quick taxi trip to the bus stand (which is crazy, by the way – so disorganized) and then took the 919 bus to Badaling, the most-visited tourist section. Be careful if you try to do this – there are quite a number of 919 buses with varying amounts of stops and trip length! The right one is a coach-type bus, not a city bus.


The trip cost a whopping 12 RMB each (about $2, each way) and was quite comfortable for the price. Fast, too – we got there in about 90 minutes or so. It’s also quite convenient since the buses do come up pretty often and you can catch a bus back to the city whenever (up to 4pm).

obligatory tourist photo

At Badaling there are two options of route, one to the right and one to the left. The one on the right is very busy with lots of tourists! We took that one first since we were there early – it definitely did get a lot busier as the day went on. It was extremely steep in some sections and the stairs weren’t in great condition, but we did manage to make it all the way to the end!

the end of one side

It ends with a pretty extremely steep staircase to nowhere (it’s just walled in). And then you have to go back all the way that you came to get back to the entrance area. After a bit of a break and some Starbucks sandwiches with a side of irony, we headed up the left side – much, much quieter.

And steeper too.


There were lovely views from both sides, but I didn’t quite make it all the way to the end of the second side and just took a break instead! It was quite a hazy day, as many days in and around Beijing are, but it did make for some interesting photos.

rolling hills

GingkoKnits asked about the smog situation in the comments on my last post – it was definitely something we discussed while in China! Overall I’d say that the pollution in Shanghai was worse than Beijing. There was pretty heavy, gross smog over the city most of the days we were there, and it didn’t make for particularly energetic excursions! There were times I wished I’d picked up a face mask in Japan (they were all over the place there). There’s quite a lot of cigarette smoke too.

Beijing was cleaned up a lot for the Olympics, and the effects are still noticeable, I think – overall the city seemed quite a bit cleaner than Shanghai, including the air. But it’s still not particularly clean either, there’s a reason why there’s even a term for the “Beijing cough”! The pollution did used to be worse, and I think it’s getting worse again as time goes on following the cleanup.

I didn’t have too much trouble in the week or so that we were in China, but Elyse (who is from the States and has lived in Beijing for seven years) did tell us that the air takes a toll and she basically has a perma-cough. She even ordered us a tea that’s supposed to be good for the lungs! So, I’d say that if you are quite sensitive, it might not be the best idea to visit Beijing or Shanghai – but it’s really more of a longer-term exposure that could wreak havoc on your throat and lungs.

The experience is pretty worth it though!

188.365 - dudes, it's the Great Wall!






7 responses to “Feb 3: The Great Wall of China!”

  1. Maryse Avatar

    Wow! I really enjoy following your trip! I’m working very had these days to complete Thermal… that’s a wonderful pattern, but I’ll have learned a lot making it. Interesting (good and bad)! Enjoy the rest of your trip, this must be very impressive. Have fun!

  2. susi Avatar

    I went to the Badaling part of the Great Wall in december too! I took a roller coaster-type ride up, and came down (and up and down some more times again) by foot. Very steep indeed, but the sights were amazing as I left around sunset. Did you see the black bears they kept at the entrance?? It was so sad, they were kept in a pit full of their own poo.. i saw one of them poking at it, looking pretty hungry.. :(

    Can’t wait to hear about India!

  3. GinkgoKnits Avatar

    Thanks for answering my question about pollution in China. I’d have to think of smog survival strategies if I ever go to visit given how the air affects even those with good lungs. It seems like going there in the cold would be a lot better than the hot and humid summer but it makes me sad to think that pollution could hamper one’s ability to take in some of the world’s marvels. Also, as a Californian, I’m sometimes shocked when reminded of how many people still smoke.

    Hope you are having happy and safe travels!

  4. Heather @ Domestic Extraordinaire Avatar

    what awesome photos! Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. Carol Avatar

    Just amazing photographs! What a wonderful trip.

  6. little_lj Avatar

    Wow! I bet that was amazing!

  7. Mary Lee Avatar

    The two times that I went, I always just went up the right side, and never made it to the end… you didn’t talk about the amount of wall vendors trying to get you to buy their wares and charge you a ludicrous amount of money for a foto, so I can only guess that maybe they weren’t there. So brave of you to take the bus system.

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