The Great Wall of China is obviously a must see whilst in Beijing and our journey there turned out to be a little more exciting than anticipated.
We had planned to go to a section of the Wall called Mutianyu however, part way through our journey our driver decided not to take us to the part of the Wall which we had wanted to go to, but the section which she thought we would like best. She was very insistent, and this caused us to grow suspicious that perhaps we were the intended victims of her latest scam. However, as at that point it was a choice between continuing with our driver or giving up on seeing the wall altogether that day we agreed to let her take us to Simatai. Besides our guidebook highly recommended it, even if it was a bit longer a drive.
When we arrived at the Wall it was amazing (although I think we didn’t even end up at Simatai, but Jinshanling!) The scenery was absolutely stunning. Our driver may have gained some extra money by taking us on a longer journey, and we definitely saw some money change hands between her and the workers at the cable car ticket desk, but she was completely right about it being a better part of the wall for us to see. At the end of the day, it was even worth all our fretting about being scammed or dumped in the middle of nowhere (the horror stories we were told all about in our illicit political economy module didn’t help). Even without the Wall the view would’ve been worth seeing and, unlike the crowded touristy section we were going to visit, there were hardly any other people in sight. It was just so tranquil, the perfect atmosphere in which to take in our awe inspiring surroundings (apologies if I’m getting carried away with all the superlatives). I’m sure in the future this section of the wall will become more touristy but while we were there the builders were still putting the final touches on the cable car. Which we decided to brave regardless of course.
When we came back our driver offered to drop us at a subway station on the edge of Beijing, from where we could take the subway back to our hostel. However, with my guide book being two years out of date (this wasn’t the only time this ended up causing us problems) the station didn’t exist on my map. It turns out that the Chinese can build an awful lot of subway lines in two years. The speed of construction in China is well know, but this was just ridiculous. Anyway, this led to us again nervous about where we would all end up. As you’ve guessed it turned out okay. Our driver may have not been entirely truthful with us the whole day, but we saved a load of money compared to an organised tour and no harm was done. Perhaps the language barrier and being in unfamiliar territory makes you more suspicious. Sadly it can be so hard to tell the difference between someone going out of their way to be genuinely helpful, and someone who is trying to lull you into a false sense of security and pull a fast one. By the end of the day we were exhausted but we had stood upon the Great Wall of China and it was a learning curve for us all.