Took a guided tout to Mutianyu section of the Great Wall today. We didn’t have time to do more sections of the wall but this location was satisfying. The hike up the hill and the wall itself has some very steep sections, so be prepared for some tough hiking. The good news is, you can take a tram up the hardest section. There is also a “ride” that would be best described as a form of road luge, but we didn’t try it because it was overpriced, and we decided to spend out time on the Great Wall instead.
I would definitely suggest taking the tram. I didn’t do the hike to the top so I don’t know what you see along the way, but I would guess the tram saves you 2 hours or more each direction. Also, taking a tour is great, except most of the tours are rigged and they force you into a jewelry store and a tea shop for at least an hour each, which ruins the day and takes away from your time at the monuments. Pay a little extra for the tour without the shopping stops. I wouldn’t suggest a rental car unless you are very adventurous as there are toll roads and crazy drivers which would make it difficult.
Before the wall, out tour bus stopped at the “Underground Palace, otherwise known as Dingling Mausoleum of Emperor Zhu Yijun. This place is pretty impressive, however only to find out later it was completely faked. The whole place is a recreation. Honestly I don’t know how much of it was actually historical versus recreation. I was so disappointed when we found that out.
Once we were back in Beijing, we went looking for some food. We had seen a few places near where we were staying and so we went walking down one of the nearby commercial streets and went to a hot pot place we had seen before. None of the staff there spoke English, but they clearly were trying to warn us that it was way too spicy for our taste. They did have one waitress that was a first year English student and was trying her best to help us. We ended up using our smart phones to translate what we could and walked around with the waitress and pointed to items on other people’s tables to let her know what we wanted with our hot pot. It was actually pretty hilarious.
As it turns out, we got some meat and veggies and dipped everything into the boiling hotpot full of hot peppers, and ended up being one of the most memorable meals – not to mention the hottest thing I ever ate! If I’m ever in Beijing again I’m making a beeline for this place.