Visiting The Less Traveled Great Wall of China

In the previous post, I wrote about how a group of me and my friends traveled to Beijing by a train. Now that we’re in Beijing, it’s a must for us to visit the Great Wall of China. It’s not in Beijing. It’s just north of it and it’s close enough to make a day trip out of it.

There are many great wall sections we can visit. The most popular and the most accessible is the Badaling. Given that we’re traveling during the national holiday, the number of  people walking around at Tian’anmen Square and the massive line up to the forbidden city, we know it will be same at Badaling. We want to see the Great Wall of China and not the great wall of people.

Yikes! Crowd at Badaling during the national holiday week. Good thing we didn’t go here. It’s not my image.

Thanks to Alex, he led us to another section of the great wall near a small town called Gubeikou (translated to: ancient north mouth). This town has a train station but the schedule makes it hard to do a day trip. We decided to take the bus.

There’s a bus that leaves at the Dongzhimen bus station. It’s next to the Dongzhimen line 2 subway station. We got on bus 980 to Miyun (runs frequently) costing us 15 yuan each. A lady at the station helped us to get on the right bus (more on her later) and she gave us her business card.

When we got to Miyun( Tai Yang Jia Yuan stop) , we were greeted by many drivers for hire (not taxi drivers) specifically to take people to the great wall (and I assume other places as well). We asked if there’s a mini-bus that will take us to Gubeikou. They say yes, but it’s not frequent, it makes many stops, it takes a long time and so forth.  It’s late in the morning when we got to Miyun, we didn’t want to waste our time. We asked a driver how much will it cost to take us to Gubeikou’s great wall section and allow us about 3 hours to hike. He initially asked for 320 yuan (80 yuan per person). It was too much. Alex barter hard. We got it down to 200 yuan (50 yuan per person). Alex explained to me that he knew we can get a good price because, we’re the only travellers and there were 10 drivers looking for passengers. It’s a buyer’s market. Excellent observation.

The car we rode to Gubeikou was a private car. I got curious. I had Anne and Hyeonji to translate my conversation with the driver. I asked if he, the driver, is working for himself or not? He told us that he’s working for a company. He gets paid monthly and not by number of rides he takes. I assume that the company he works for sets the price point and if he can get a tourist to pay more then it’s a nice bonus (tip) for him. I wonder if he’s getting a bonus from us. Hmmm. In a market economy, we were happy with the price point given our context. It may not be the best but it’s good enough.

I asked the driver for his business card. To our surprise, it was the same company business card that the helpful lady at the bus station gave us. Now it’s becoming more clear. There are people at the bus stations (and I assume at other transport hubs too) that funnel tourists like us to various places that this company operates. Pretty slick.

In one way, I felt like a sheep but in another way, there’s a sense that there’s a well run organization that can take me to the great wall. The driver was good. He delivered what he promised. He stopped at the washroom and the variety store when we asked him.

Was it worth it? Yes! There were at most a dozen people at this section of the wall. It’s rugged, we climbed to the highest point (2,181 feet) of the wall at Gubeikou. It gave us a spectacular view of the area. The weather was perfect. A high point of our trip ( no pun intended :) ).

Enjoy the photos!

Important points when going to Gubeikou section of the great wall.


An arial view of our trek path.

The driver’s business card. The same as the one the lady at the bus station gave us. Travel instructions on the card.

Showing of the flag behind Hyeonji. Taking a breath before we scale the steep stairs (wall more like it) behind us. It’s not a cake walk but I love it. Photo by Alex or Anne. I can’t remember.

Standing on top of a turret and looking onward. Two more turrets to go before reaching the highest point of our trek. No one but us.

Our driver. This picture was taken after we finished our trek. We were tired and elated with our time at the Great Wall. (L-R) Hyeonji, He Qiang, Alex and Anne.