Leaving from Sacramento, USA to India, this trip decided to fly Air China and hence our layover for Beijing which was for 2 hours, we decided to extend our stay for a few days and enjoy Beijing and be a tourist in a new country.
When we landed ( later in the afternoon) at the Beijing Capital International airport (BCIA) and were prepared with the required documentation, the 144-Hour Visa-Free , the transit visa was an easy process ( Check for the latest updates online) Gotten the visa, we went onto getting Chinese Yuan currency and finding information for stowing our luggage. The airport has a paid facility for stowing ( if you show your tickets and they verify you are in transit, you are entitled to a few free pieces for baggage stowing), but for currency exchange I would recommend to shop around on the airport and not rush. The most important things gotten out of the way we had lost the day we decided to take it easy and have a good dinner and wind down for the day ahead. Would totally suggest to plan your hotel based on how and what you plan to visit. Our hotel location was more towards the city central so it took us some time to reach the wall.
Next day was planned to visit the ‘Great Wall of China’. We had done our online research, called a few tours in Beijing and had booked a personal tour guide with a car for the next 8 hours starting at 8:00 am Beijing time. The tour guide arrived at 8 am sharp at our hotel and walked us over the rest of the day. The guide, Lily was a very friendly guide and was realistic and asked us about our trekking capacity on the great wall, timings, food habits so she can guide us accordingly. She was open to anything as long as it is within the 8 hours, after which we had to pay extra . We thought we will see more than great wall and some Beijing sightseeing, but mind you, you will lose the day in Beijing and since it was December the days were even shorter.
There are 10 best sections to visit the wall from Beijing and open to the public like Mutianyu, Badaling, Jiankou, Simatai etc. As per Lily’s recommendation we chose Mutianyu since it was closer and also the best-restored. You will be expected to pay a entrance fee and lines are long so plan accordingly. The guide also mentioned that it is a comparatively easy trek and have to agree with her she was right. We started on time and once we were on the wall it was just beautiful. We can take the stairs or the cable car. Guide suggested we take the cable car as stairs had a lot of snow. On the ride uphill we could see a part of the wall spread out and it was an exhilarating first sight to see one of the seven new wonders of the world. On the wall we walked for around 3 hours, took photos and just took in the experience. It had snowed the previous week so there was a snow where the sun had not hit the wall and it looked pretty in white. The wall was an easy climb and it was windy and cold so be prepared ahead based on the season. The wall was pretty restored and were able to walk comfortably. The hike was pretty easy and saw lots of families and school kids It was an amazing experience and glad we were able to celebrate my husband’s birthday on the wall. There were light crowds and therefore made it even more fun. Took lots of pictures for memories.
While heading down we had two options, toboggan or the cable car. I preferred the cable car with my camera and other bags but my daughter chose the toboggan for a extra charge. She tells me it was fun and recommends it. Once down at the base we realized we were very hungry , the guide suggested us a vegetarian and a non-veg restaurant. We chose the veg one and the food was amazing. The freshest hottest food ever. Since it was my hubby’s birthday the guide was nice person and got him some fresh warm roasted chestnuts and need I say they were tasty. By the time we had our late lunch we drove back and when we reached the hotel it was almost 8:00pm. That was one of my memorable trip and would totally recommend visiting the old country.
Day two we spend at Forbidden City in Beijing which is in the next section of the blog.