We deliberately planned to be in Beijing, on specifically the 30th to be able to celebrate Brian's birthday on the Great Wall. Overall, it was a fantastic day.
There are two major sections of the wall (best restored) that most people visit: Badaling and Mutianyu. We opted for Mutianyu because we read it was the most beautiful during fall. It was.
This post is about how we got to Mutinayu. [The rest of the day can be found here.] It's worth an entire blog post, I promise. Unless you want to read a novel about the Great Wall - the travel to Mutianyu is an adventure in itself.
Brian and I tend to stay away from tour groups, both being in them and around them. We prefer to be able to choose how much time we have to visit a place and be able to do it with fewer people than if we were stuck in a group. That being said, you know we went to Mutianyu by ourselves.
We took a local bus 867 for RMB5.20 each. The bus station was in walking distance (5-10 minutes) of the Dongzhimen metro station. We were kind of taking a shot in the dark with this (read about this way to travel on this blog that is a couple years old). However, when we found a loading station for the correct bus with a big sign for Mutianyu behind it, we felt a little more assured...that is until some guy came around saying "No bus! No bus!" He was literally just some guy with no identifying paraphernalia, so we hopped on the bus anyway.
Bus no. 867
We rode for about an hour and then the bus pulled over next to a van on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. They said this was the stop for Mutianyu. (What!?) There was one other group of chinese people headed to Mutianyu and they got off when the bus driver explained something in mandarin to them. You'd think we'd take this cue and get off. We didn't.
We had read that some buses might try to make you get off sooner than your stop so you have to take a second mode of transportation (car or van) and a second person can benefit from your tourist wallet. So, we weren't buying it. We got yelled at to get off the bus. By the bus driver. By a couple other people. They stood outside our window and yelled at us to get off. Came on the bus and yelled at us to get off. We stayed put. (psh, stupid foreigners)
In our defense, all the blogs we read said that bus 867 went straight to Mutianyu Great Wall during the high season, which ends November 15. So we trusted the blogs and stayed on the bus. Well apparently the high season ended early this year because it did not go there. It continued for about 5 more minutes and kicked everyone off in the middle of nowhere. Right when we got off the bus, we got asked if we wanted a ride to Mutianyu - at the cost of about 10x what it should have been. To shake the guy, we went to the bathroom. When we came out and he was on us again. So we walked the direction everybody was headed and landed ourselves at the entrance to a temple. He backed off. But we eventually had to leave and started walking in the direction of the Great Wall. He kept insisting that we couldn't walk (we knew we couldn't...or at least that it would take hours) and that we needed him to get us to the Wall. We continued walking for another 10 minutes, he was following us by car at this point. To continue talking to us, he drove on the wrong side of the road. We'd say we were going to walk, he'd laugh at us and offer us a ride for x amount. After another 5 minutes though, we got him to lower his price to a much more reasonable price (based on what we read online) of RMB40 (about $7). We finally got in the van. 15 minutes later, we were at the Great Wall.
Below is the summarized version of how to get to Mutianyu like a local! (or a very crafty foreigner, willing to brave local chinese transportation)
1. Go past the Dongzhimen transportation hub, to the next large parking lot, which is really a bus hub (it's on Dongzhimen Outer Byway)
2. Take the green & white bus no. 867
2. Get off when they tell you to! (Or take it when it's actually high season and get off at the Great Wall)
3. Pick up one of the vans. Do not pay more than RMB50 for the entire car (or 20pp). Use your bargaining skills.
[Click here for the rest of the day and how to get from Mutianyu back to Beijing a different way.]