The Great Wall


Really lucky to meet this nice man, Tan with his grandson…

After a long 14h ride on the train from Xi’an, I finally arrived in Beijing West.  Of course you can also take the high speed train but the first one leaves around 7am so I chose the night train to have 3 full days in Beijing (aka Peking).
I would stay with Lee, a 26y old guy from Beijing and therefor I had to find my way to his office to meet him.  I couldn’t be luckier to meet Tan when asking directions. Tan was a Chinese/French translater for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing from 1964 to 1995 and had visited for that purpose many French speaking countries such as France, Belgium, Switzerland, Congo, … He was walking with his 2yr old grandson & happened to live right next to the office where my host Lee worked, so we walked and had a great conversation on the way.

What had to happen...

What had to happen…

In the afternoon I decided to visit the Forbidden city and took bus 120 to Tianaman East. Again the driver was ‘slaloming’ through the traffic and what I expected to happen one day, happened… The bus crashed into the rear of a taxi. Fortunately it was a minor crash although several people fell down but nobody got injured. We all got out of the bus and I decided to take the subway. When I arrived at Tianaman East, I was looking at the signs to find the right exit when 2 helpful women helped me find my way and we started talking about our travels. They came from the north of China and visited Beijing for 3 days. They had just visited The Temple of Heaven and wanted to take a rest before entering The Forbidden City so they invited me for some tea.

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City was closing in a couple of hours but I accepted to have one cup of tea before exploring The Forbidden City. The women took some glasses of wine and offered me some too but I said I was off to start my visit. They would join me and asked for the bill… 1368CNY (170€!). I couldn’t believe this scam! I met so many nice people along the way so far who spontaneously talked to me but this I had never expected! Anyway, I stood up and just walked away! They followed me & screamed I had to pay the bill but I just ingnored them and dissapeared into the crowd. I felt lucky that I hadn’t told them too much like where I was staying, etc. I was shocked! Anyway, I started my visit.
The Forbidden City was built between 1406 & 1420 and is located right in the middle of Beijing and was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty.  It consist over 980 buildings and served as the home of emperors and their households, as well as the ceremonial & political center of Chinese government.  The Chinese name Zijin Cheng has significations on many levels… Zi or ‘purple’ refers to the North star who was the abode of the Celestial Emperor.  Jin or ‘forbidden’ refers to the fact that no one could enter or leave the palace without the emperor’s permission.  And Cheng means a walled city.

Mutianyu Great Wall

Mutianyu Great Wall

Beijing is the capital of the most populous country in the world, the People’s Republic Of China and is also the second biggest city after Shanghai.  Before the formation of a republic in 1911, Peking was also the seat of the Ming & Qing dynasty emperors.  The city is the political, educational & cultural centre of the country and therefor rich in historical sites & institutions.  The one historical site you can’t miss is of course the Great Wall with several sections to visit. The closest one and easiest to get to is Bandalung. That means it’s also the busiest & most touristic one! I preferred a some quieter part and chose for Mutianyu Great Wall. From Beijing I took bus 916 ‘express’ from the Dongzhimen transport hub (1h-12¥) I was supposed to get off at Huairou. It was the terminal station but after a one hour drive, a man came towards me in the bus, while I was sitting all the way in the back corner, and asked me if I went to Mutianyu. I confirmed and he said this was the stop.

Mutianyu Great Wall

Mutianyu Great Wall

Confused I got off the bus but immediately realized I got scammed again!  He told me the follow him to the van that would bring me to the Wall but I asked him the price first and of course he threw me a ridicously high price of 80¥. I had seen many drivers approaching me but never someone who literally hopped on the bus to take people out on the wrong bus stop! They know you don’t know where you are and the signs being in Chinese all around are not really helping. I was upset to be scammed twice in a row and hopped on the next 916  bus. Once arrived at the right stop, nothing much changed as they were many drivers trying to take you in their van. One lady got even a copy of the Lonely Planet with the common price of 35¥ for the ride. I happened to have the exact same page in my phone but with the common price of 25¥ for the ride. Not a big difference but it shows how far they go to cheat the foreign tourists.

With Steve @ Mutianyu Great Wall

With Steve @ Mutianyu Great Wall

Steve Ilhan, a guy from UK who was waiting and bargaining for half an hour with the drivers was happy to see a fellow ‘foreigner’ and asked me if i wanted to share the ride. After bargaining and showing my copy of the Lonely Planet with the ‘real’ price, they agreed for 25¥. Off we were, finally! On our way back, we used our bargaining skills again and got the ride for 15¥ !  We strolled around for hours on the Mutianyu Wall (45¥), famous for its Ming-era guard towers & wonderful views.

Lee cooked Phil & me a delicious meal at his place

Lee cooked Phil & me a delicious meal at his place

In the evening, my host Lee would cook a delicious meal and he also hosted another CS’er tonight, Phil from North Carolina. Lee was a very busy guy with 2 jobs but it was nice to finally talk over dinner and get to know him somehow. Later that night I was invited by Ning, a local girl who lived in the States but visited her roots. She wanted to show me the bursting nightlife in Beijing. Steve was eager to join and we met Ning in Gt Banana, a huge club in one of the fancy districts.

With Steve & Nora @ GT Banana's

With Steve & Nora @ GT Banana’s

Later Ning brought us to ‘The Village’, an area full of clubs, bars & we went to ‘Megas’, a rooftop club with magnificent views of the city by night.
Two things were still on my list before leaving Beijing. ‘The Temple of Heaven’ & tasting real Peking Duck! So the next day, Ning showed Phil & me around in The Temple Of Heaven. Its the greenest place in Beijing popular with local residents practicing tai chi, dancing, playing games, etc and home to a few temples, historical sights & peaceful woods & gardens.
Before leaving China later that evening, I treated myself on a real, delicious Peking Duck in ‘Private Kitchen’ restaurant, one of the three famous ‘Peking Duck’ restaurants in Beijing.

4 Responses to “The Great Wall”
  1. The Rider says:

    What a dream of a journey!

  2. puzso23 says:

    It must have been a great journey! Beautiful pictures.

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