A Spontaneous Trip to The Great Wall of China
by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | March 5th, 2016
After two amazing weeks traveling around Vietnam and Thailand, we just weren't ready to go home yet. As we sat in our Bangkok hotel room, we weighed our options of which country to travel to next. John found a great flight deal from Bangkok to Beijing that left early the next morning. It was February, and Beijing was experiencing unusually warm weather, about 68°F and sunny for the next three days. With that in mind, and the fact that Beijing is one of the eighteen cities in China that allows 72 hour visa free entry, we booked the airfare and packed for China.
After a quick four hour flight, we arrived at the very busy Beijing International Airport. Because we didn't have much time to research hotels, we trusted the ever handy TripAdvisor and booked a room at the Double Happiness Courtyard Hotel in Downtown Beijing. We could not have been more pleased with this hotel. Its traditional Chinese decor, affordable pricing (about $120/night), and extremely friendly staff were enough for us to recommend this hotel to all of our traveler friends.
After we unpacked, we asked the front desk staff about available private tours for the following day to the Great Wall. They had some availability and recommended we take the tour to the Mutianyu section. The Great Wall has two main sections for tourists - Mutianya and Badaling. Badaling is more crowded and less authentic than Mutianyu. So we booked a private driver to take us to Mutianyu the next morning. The cost? $78 USD including admission to the Wall.
Our driver arrived right at 8:00 in the morning, and off we went. The journey from Downtown Beijing to Mutianyu takes about ninety minutes, and along the way we realized that maybe Los Angeles doesn't have the worst traffic after all. Our driver helped pass the time by telling us about his family and life in Beijing, and also gave us some insightful information about the Great Wall. Before we knew it, we arrived!
Our admission was included in the tour price, so we bypassed the ticket counter and headed straight to the cable cars. A three minute cable car ride takes you right to the main section of the Great Wall.
We exited the car, turned the corner, and there it was....the Great Wall of China. We were in complete awe. As we began walking along the wall, excited and giddy inside, we turned to each other and just laughed. We couldn't believe that we were there. Maybe it was the unexpected and spontaneous decision to go there that made it so rousing. Whatever it was, something came alive in us that day, and it's a feeling I will never forget.
Beijing has four distinct seasons:
Summer (June - August) is hot and humid, has frequent showers, and temperatures peak around 80°F.
Fall (September - November) brings comfortable temperatures (50°F - 75°F), smaller crowds, and beautiful foliage. Fall is recommended as the best time to visit the Great Wall.
Winter (December - February) is cold and dry, with occasional snow. Temperatures vary throughout the winter but the average day time high is 30°F.
Spring (March - May) brings ever changing temperatures, blooming flowers, and sometimes sandstorms due to windy conditions. Temperatures can be difficult to predict, but averages sit between 45°F - 70°F
If you are going to Beijing for more than 72 hours, you need to obtain a visa. You can do so at your local Chinese Consulate General. Processing time takes an average of two weeks.