Well, it seemed like a reasonable idea. Due to time constraints, we would take our group of 60+ new teachers to the Great Wall at Badaling instead of Mutyianyu in the afternoon. Since it is closer, we could get up, climb a bit, then make it back into town before the dreaded Friday evening rush hour descends. Our collective memory of Badaling is that the wall was easier to get on (no hiking up 1000 steps or having to ride a cable car), and for those who didn’t feel like hiking, there was always Starbucks, KFC, and a bit of shopping.
What we didn’t count on, however, was the fact that vehicles are no longer allowed within about 1km of the entrance to the wall. Our driver dropped us at a parking lot I had never seen before that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere and told us to continue walking up the highway. So there I was, being followed by 60+ laowai (foreigners) trudging up the highway looking for the entrance to the Great Wall. I kept looking up the mountains towering around us and saw nothing of the wall.
“Where’s the Wall,” they asked.
“Beats me!” I replied.
This did not instill them with confidence.
But we kept walking.
We finally staggered into another parking lot (why the driver hadn’t taken us there, I don’t know), which had a sign over a doorway that said “this way to the great wall.”
Huh? They moved the wall inside?
Half the group went on in, while I stayed back with the dozen or so who had been lured into the toilets. We too entered the “this is the way to the great wall” door, climbed the stairs past the trinket-peddlers, and then emerged once again onto the road, where we still had to walk for another 200 meters to get to the wall. We finally arrived at the actual entrance about 45 minutes after we had gotten off the bus, and following a 1 km walk UPHILL!
The poor folks only had about 30-45 minutes to actually be on the wall before we had to begin making the trek back down the valley to the bus.
Those who weren’t climbing got shut out as well since the KFC was another 500 yards up the highway from the entrance and the Starbucks is no longer.
When we returned to the parking lot, the driver was waiting to give me a thorough scolding for bringing the group here and not to the Juyongguan Great Wall, down at the entrance to the valley. He said in all his years of hauling foreign tour groups around he’d never taken one to Badaling.
I hung my head in shame and said “Yes, we are stupid foreigners. We should have listened to you. I promise we will next time.”
That made his day!
(Image Source: Beijing Holiday)