The Great Wall at Mutianyu is a bit further out from Beijing which means fewer tourists. With our time in China so short, we hired a driver and English-speaking guide to take us to Mutianyu so we could see this man-made wonder for ourselves.
Linda was our guide for the day, chosen by our driver Konglin. She met us at our hotel and was an excellent fit for our family! By directly engaging the girls, she rapidly gained their trust as she pointed out sights along the road and answered our many questions.
Linda talks the girls through the different coin denominations.
The drive took us an hour and a half in a northerly direction out of Beijing. We passed through the airport complex, huge export/customs facilities, small villages and farmlands. It was a fascinating drive, and Linda and Konglin could tell us a lot about what we were seeing.
When we reached the village of Mutianyu, it was raining very slightly. Linda explained the procedure. If she purchased tickets for us as a licensed tour-guide, we would receive a free shuttle-bus ride from the visitors centre to and from the base of the cable-car ride. To descend from the wall, there’s also the option a long toboggan ride, but Linda advised me that the girls were too young for that.
The new visitors centre at Mutianyu has a copper ceiling, complete with footprints that fascinate the girls as they speculate how the prints were made!
Although not to scale, a large map on the wall shows the village of Mutianyu and its relationship to the restored section of the Great Wall that we'll visit.
Before we tackle anything strenous, we browse through the local shops for an energy-rich snack. Each of the girls finds something appealing among the selection of dried fruits on offer.
The visitors centre complex is clean and tidy, lined with shops selling souvenirs and with signs in English clearly advertising where to go. We're visiting at an off-peak time, and I'm thankful we're avoiding the crowds.
After an initial shuttle-bus ride, we're higher up the slope, and an intense amount of construction is underway.
We climb into a cable car for the short, scenic ride up the mountain.
The girls scream in delight as the cable-car speeds up once it's cleared the depot. I seriously underestimated how much pleasure the cable-car ride would bring to our family! This is a definite highlight of our trip to Mutianyu.
From the car, I can see the footpath that also leads to the wall. Linda says that it takes about forty minutes to walk up — she's done it once as a paid guide but doesn't care to make the trek again!
As we climb higher, the iconic lookout towers and wall are visible along the ridge.
The day is overcast, with smog limiting the view. A pair of clever Russian tourists are taking pictures of postcards — a sure way to guarantee awesome photos to show the folks at home!
We climb a section of *very* steep stairs to reach the top. This section of the wall was restored in the 1980s.
From 1404, this watchtower served as a barracks for the soldiers who were assigned here.
It's a classic view, an amazing place to visit in person, and also *a lot* of steps. Three girls are eager to explore the next watchtower, so Linda accompanies them while I wait with Brioni.
I love the shape of the arrow-slit holes in the wall-sides.
At the base of the cable-car depot, I stop to admire the classic Chinese architecture on display.
Aisha finds a straw broom that is used to sweep the flagstones clean. In a couple months, this area will be fully paved.
While local Mutianyu villagers have traditionally been able to supplement their farming income by selling souvenirs to tourists, big money has moved in relatively recently — funding the extensive development.
On the quick shuttle-bus ride down the mountain, Lana revels at the feeling of the wind on her face. Again, I underestimated how much a simple pleasure like this can impress a child. Lana's window on the bus has a permanent screen, so she's never experienced this kind of sensation before.
Our trip to Mutianyu exceeded my expectations — especially in the company of Linda! The girls remained enthusiastic about the historic elements, we didn’t have to wade through crowds of tourists, and our impression of the Great Wall is that it is an awesome monument that we’re glad to have seen for ourselves!