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!
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).
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!
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.
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!