We are standing at a bus station in Beijing and we have no idea where to go. There are hundreds if not thousands of people queuing for buses. We ask a passerby for directions for the bus to Badaling which is the gateway to the Great Wall of China and he points to the longest queue of the lot. Not wanting to share our first experience at this wonder of the world with loads of other people we quickly decide to visit another part of the Great Wall.
After reading our guidebook we decided to give Huanghuacheng a go. There was no direct bus to Huanghuacheng so we had to get off and find a minibus. As soon as we got off the normal bus we were pounced on by tour operators. We literally had to push ourselves off the bus to get on to the pavement. The tour operators were determined to take us to a different place so we ignored them and looked for a taxi.
We soon managed to find a driver who would take us there but as we set off he went in the wrong direction and tried to pick up two other travellers. They refused to get in the taxi which wasn’t a good sign but Karen made sure he understood that if he took us to a different location we wouldn’t pay him!
We are now standing on The Great Wall Of China and we are alone. That’s right, alone. Seeing this UNESCO World Heritage site for the first time will no doubt live with us forever. I can see the wall snake off over the hills into the far distance. We are at a part of the wall that has no amenities which suits us fine. Apparently, some parts of the wall have vendors, fairground rides and other forms of “entertainment”.
This is much more our style. Hiking the great wall alone for a few hours is a perfect respite from the chaos back in Beijing. It is a national holiday in China and 330 million people were travelling on trains the day we arrived from Mongolia. To say it was a culture shock is an understatement, especially after the emptiness of Mongolia.
It was so worth avoiding the crowds of Badaling to come to Huanghuacheng. It only takes 1.5 hours from Beijing but it is a different world entirely to the madness of Badaling. When we arrived at Huanghuacheng we got slightly confused because next to the welcome sign there was another sign saying that the wall was closed. Luckily it was referring to a section further down. We asked some locals just to make sure and they pointed us in the right direction. We found an old man at the entrance and paid our 20p to climb the ladder. 20p to visit one of the New 7 wonders of the world. What a bargain. We didn’t have the wall to ourselves all day, we met around 10 people in the 3 hours we walked on it. 10 people versus the thousands at other sections, what would you rather have?
We are now back in Beijing eating in a hutong. There is organised chaos all around us and we are slowly adjusting to the crowds that are everywhere. I still can’t believe that for a few hours we had The Great Wall Of China to ourselves. Now that is a wonder!
If you are visiting The Great Wall Of China and you want a more serene experience on it we really recommend you visit Huanghuacheng.
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