On the third day of my trip to China, we did some Great Wall hiking. You know, the Great Wall of China. Ya ever heard of it? I don’t want to be dramatic, but this was one of THE best days of my life. I’ll be honest with you. I cried. Just a little bit. But still, there were definite tears in my eyes when we finally reached the Wall and looked out across China.
Our Great Wall Hiking Adventure
Our guide, Jojo, picked us up at our hotel in Beijing in the morning. Our driver took us out to an unrestored section of The Great Wall in a rural village outside of Beijing. I was surprised by how close the Wall was to the city. I was also surprised by how much China looks like Ohio. I wish I would have taken a picture from the freeway, because the landscape truly looked EXACTLY like Columbus, Ohio in March.
Our driver dropped us off at the base of a mountain in a rural village. The rice paddies were brown and dormant. The elderly were gathered in the road (which was busy – weren’t they worried about being hit by cars?!), and chickens roamed about freely. “Hmmm…this seems nice,” said Shelby. I shrugged. Jojo beckoned us to put some water bottles in our backpacks and we started our hike.
Literally, I had no idea how difficult this hike would be. It was rated as “moderate” on the website. Now, I hike pretty frequently. Then again, I hike in Southern California, on trails where I rarely have to deal with mud, snow, or ice. It had recently rained, and the path was super slippery. I was having a complete meltdown, afraid that I would fall and break my tail bone (again). At one point, Shelby was pulling me up by the arms while Jojo was pushing me up by the butt. We weren’t prepared for ice and snow, we were just wearing running sneakers like IDIOTS.(See here to choose high-quality footwear for men and women to get the best experience out of hike journeys). I dropped my camera, Big Boy, into a mud puddle. I still haven’t cleaned him because I just like telling people that the mud is from the Great Wall of China. We also ran into a Father/Son duo from California, who were just wandering around the woods, lost because they didn’t have the foresight to hire a guide. Fools.
After a couple hours of that ORDEAL, we reached the top of the mountain. We had to climb a rickety old wooden ladder to get to the top of the guard tower, where we met two elderly Chinese men who were literally just having a cup of tea on the top of the world. We took a bunch of pictures with them and they gave us candy. They were truly a delight.
We hiked eight miles along the top of the Wall towards Mutianyu, a restored and more tourist-friendly section of the Wall. Jojo told us all about the history of the Great Wall. Did you know that it took 2000 years to build and is 8000 miles long? Like what in tarnation? It’s amazing.
At Mutianyu, we had the option to descend from the wall on cable cars or toboggans. OBVIOUSLY WE CHOSE TOBOGGANS. We paid $7, didn’t sign a waiver, and were give barely any instruction on how to operate these things. The toboggan course was surprisingly long, and also populated by goats! Shelby almost hit one.At the bottom of the mountain, Jojo ordered us lunch. It was one of the best meals I ever had. I was STARVING and it was wonderful to have our food ordered by someone who spoke Mandarin, since getting food was a real struggle for us the whole time we were in China.
Getting Lit at Beijing’s Houhai Bar District
When we got back to our hotel in Beijing, we were totally exhausted but we HAD to go out. It was our only opportunity to go out in Beijing. We followed Jojo’s recommendation, and took the metro to Houhai. Houhai is a manmade lake surrounded by bars with live music. Houhai is where young Chinese people go who want to make it as singers and musicians. It was crazy. Bar after bar of live pop music. We checked out a few bands and stopped into a Reggae-themed bar whose Wifi password was “Rastafarian420.” After a while though, we got bored. The cocktails at the music bars were so weak. We just needed beer. We were walking around and saw a small bar with craft beer in the window called The Beer Lab and we were like “YES. That is where we need to go.”The Beer Lab was basically a small room with a cooler of beer and chalkboard walls with lots of naughty things written in colorful chalk in many languages. We made friends with the 18 year old bartender/manager, Francisco, who loved American hip hop and had his cat, Lager, living at the bar. We got absolutely wasted with Francisco and his friend Lily. At one point, Francisco pulled out a ukulele and played “Hotel California” for us. Then Shelby sang the American National Anthem, and Francisco & Lily sang the Chinese National Anthem. They were amazing. They even ordered us food and then rode with us in our cab back to our hotel so we wouldn’t get ripped off. Most hilarious night ever.