Climbing the Great Wall yesterday was one of the most-awe-inspiring experiences of my life. There are four sections of the Wall in the Beijing area, Badaling and Mutianyu being the most popular with tourists. We chose to visit Mutianyu because it has a reputation for being less crowded, and it’s the only part of the Wall where you can ride down by toboggan!
Mutianyu is about 2 hours from downtown Beijing, which makes it a commitment to get to. But in my opinion, it’s well worth the trek because it gives you an opportunity to get out of the city and see what life is like for rural Chinese families. You’ll get to contrast the sprawling, bustling hutongs and high-rise apartments of Beijing with the mom and pop fruit stands and mountain homes of the Huairou District. Passing through scenes of rural China by bus for a couple of hours was beautiful and gave me a fuller picture of life here.
Once you’re at the Wall, there’s so much beauty to take in all around you. There are watchtowers, breath-taking vistas, and more greenery than you can imagine-about 90% of the Wall is surrounded by vibrant forest. I imagine it’s even more glorious in autumn with the change in foliage.
The watchtower’s arrow slots intrigued me most. The narrow windows allowed the emperor’s soldiers to shoot arrows at their enemies from a place of protection. As I walked through the watchtower, I couldn’t help but imagine what life must have been like for these soldiers.
Visiting the Great Wall was one of the highlights of my time in China and an experience I will always remember!