July 31, 2017

Great Wall of China - Mutianyu

Long overdue post as I visited this UNESCO World Heritage Site back in March 2016. Some things may have changed... but I'm writing this to preserve my aging memory so yeahh.. here it is!

When in Beijing, a visit to the Great Wall of China is a must. There are several sections where you can visit the wall - Badaling, Mutianyu, Jinshanling, Jiankou etc. The most visited section is Badaling due to its close proximity to Beijing city. Most tour groups will visit this section so be prepared for the crowd.

Easiest way is of course to follow tour groups but you are given only about 2-3 hours to walk around.
I need more time to explore the wonderful heritage site so I decided to go there on my own.

After some readings, blogwalking, googling here and there, I chose to visit the Mutianyu section due to several reasons.

#1 This part of the Great Wall is the longest and best fully-restored section open to visitors.
#2 Less crowded and has better architecture compared to Badaling, with more watch towers.
#3 There are cable cars up and down, making it very easy to visit.
#4 Surrounded by beautiful mountains, the scenery there is fascinating year round.

Mutianyu is about 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours drive from central Beijing. There is no direct transportation to the area so if you don't want to go through all the hassles, go visit Badaling la.

First thing first, if you're taking the subway from anywhere in Beijing, get off at Dongzhimen station. Take Exit B and walk about 10 minutes following the signboards to Dongzhimen Bus Station (or officially called Bus Transfer Hall). Here, walk to the North Platform and take bus 916 快 (this is express bus, 916 without 快 is not an express) to Huairou town. There are signs overhead to guide you in the direction to the 916 Express Bus Stop so don't worry. Fee was RMB 12 and paid on board the bus.

916 Express Bus operating hours: 
05:50 ~ 19:50 - Dongzhimen Transport Hub to Huairou
04:50 ~ 18:50 - Huairou to Dongzhimen Transport Hub

I don't speak Chinese and trust me, most of the people on the bus don't speak English. I was the only foreigner on the bus that morning. A group of oldies sat near me, I felt safe cos I saw them holding what looked like trekking poles. In my mind, perhaps they were going to hike the Great Wall too. Cun la ada gang haha. Unfortunately, we were like chicken and duck talking.

One by one, they got off till there were only a few people left on the bus. I didn't hear the bus stop names clearly and when I looked at the bus route, I lost count. There was this one stop where I saw a lot of taxis waiting and a driver even jumped on the bus looking for foreigners to offer rides. The driver didn't see me and I was scared to get off as I was alone. Scared I would be ripped off.

In the end, I stopped at the last station. I bargained with a taxi driver to take me to Mutianyu. The ride was about 20 minutes and cost me RMB 45.

If you were alone like me, just be aware on where to stop. The bus will announce the name of the bus stops but in case you didn't hear it, just remember to count till the 15th stop from Dongzhimen. It takes a little more than an hour from Dongzhimen to Huairou so after an hour into the journey, just get ready to get off the bus. Oh.. the stop that I saw many taxi drivers waiting was actually the right stop, Huairou Bei Da Jie.

Huairou Bei Da Jie is the 15th stop from Dongzhimen 

The driver dropped me off at the Tourist Service Building, where the ticketing offices are located. Here, you can buy the entrance, cable car, chairlift and toboggan tickets.

The cable car will bring you to Watch Tower 14, while the chairlift will take you to the lower area, Watch Tower 6. Both the cable car and chairlift are operated by different companies so you have to choose either one. Of course you can ride both, but it cost more as you need to buy the single ticket.

Entrance fee:
Adults RMB 45, Children RMB 25
Cable car RMB 100 (one way), RMB 120 (return)
Chairlift RMB 100 (one way), RMB 120 (return), or you can choose to go down by toboggan
Ferry shuttle bus RMB 15

 Opening hours: 
April to October 08:00 ~ 17:00
November to March 08:30 ~ 16:30

From the Tourist Service Building, we need to take the shuttle bus to get to the chairlift or cable car stations.

There are 23 Watch Towers on the Mutianyu Great Wall. As much as I wanted to hike from the start, I knew I wouldn't have enough time to do so. So I went up by chairlift to Watch Tower 6.

chairlift to Watch Tower 6

The watch towers are numbered from right (east) to left (west). From Watch Tower 6, I climbed the steps to Watch Tower 14. Took me about an hour or so, with numerous pit stops for photos. :D

Then I walked and climbed all the way to the highest point of the Mutianyu Great Wall, and the last section opened to visitors, Watch Tower 23!

yup... I climbed the Great Wall in cheongsam :D

cherry trees starting to bloom

The mountain of this section is covered with green forests in the summer and colorful autumn foliage in the fall. I went between winter and spring so most of the trees were bare. At some areas, the cherry trees were starting to bloom.

The view would've been gorgeous if the sky were blue. But it's OK, I'd love to repeat the trip during summer one day. Saw photos of the Great Wall surrounded by the green forest and it was sooo beautiful!!

Watch Tower 23

After few hours walking and climbing the steps, I made it to Watch Tower 23.
Think I'd climbed over 4000+ steps overall. *flex muscles*

Then I saw this.

Work was in progress to close the wall at this Watch Tower, preventing hiking beyond this point. Watch Tower 23 is the last point in Mutianyu where visitor can access. Beyond this area, the walls are unrestored so it is not advisable to explore. 

But I saw a couple of guys and a girl climbed over at the side past the wall so of course la I joined them. 

We continued hiking till the very end of the wall.

So sad looking at this! Grrrrr... 

bought the cheongsam in Shanghai and I didn't have iron so excuse the wrinkles hahaha

The end of the Mutianyu Great Wall. After this point, it will be a 4 hour hiking to Jiankou side of the Great Wall.

Done taking photos and admiring the view from the top, I walked all the way down back to Watch Tower 6. 
Tried the toboggan and it was really fun!

Going back to Beijing, it was the same but luckily I had company. A lot of taxi drivers were waiting at the shuttle bus area and a girl asked me whether I wanted to take taxi to Huairou together as she's also heading back to Beijing. Of course I agreed! We stopped at Huairou Bei Da Jie and took 916 Express Bus together back to Dongzhimen.

Overall, I was happy and satisfied cos I managed to get to Mutianyu all by myself. I got to spend longer time at the Great Wall, taking my own sweet time admiring the nature and of course cheaper than following the guided tours. It was rather daunting at first but heyyy..I made it!


HasnulYakin Mohammed said...

China..Dalam wish list ni

rara said...

@HasnulYakin Mohammed : Yeah.. you should go! :)

Zhen Lei said...

The pictures are so attractive, the Great Wall gives a great fun. Construction of the great wall is an achievement of historical significance. The Great Wall tour in China is the most famous and most visited place all over the world. Badaling, Mutianyu, Jinshanling, Jiankou are the most visited section due to the Beijing city. This tour is totally unique and can be only experienced here. Delicious food and comfortable hotels make it more pleasant.

Celemín said...

Congratulations!! It's a great post. I would like to know if you walk more far than 23 tower and how much time it took it to you. I would like to visit the Jiankou Great Wall but I think it's easier if I visit Mutianyu. Thanks!!

rara said...

@Celemin: Thank you! After Tower 23, I walked/climbed almost 500 meter maybe? Mutianyu is a good choice too because it's not crowded.

Emilia Zoe said...

You have added very nice and valuable information through this blog. Your images are so nice and attractive. The Great Wall of China is very attractive and wonderful to see. The Great Wall of China is considered to be one of the largest construction projects that have been completed till now. Recently I had to China with my college friend. We travelled there by help Beijing Transfer Tour. We stayed 4days in China.