After a hearty breakfast, Angela (owner of Cheng Tao Xiao Zhu Folk Inn, see entry on Miyun) arms us with bags of fried rice, water and fruit and we head for the Wall. Her home is a comfortable walk around the corner from the park entrance. This part of the Wall is very reasonably priced – just 25RMB per adult and half price for children. It is surprisingly lacking of any commercialism. Apart from 1 small one-stop-shop (drink kiosk, restaurant and even modest rooms for the night at 240RMB per room – see card below), there is absolutely nothing else to purchase here. Not even ice creams!
This Great Wall site has a large wooden playground at the foot of the mountain and is of itself worth the value of the entry fee. Our kids find hours of entertainment in that one playground alone.
Of course, the Wall itself is even more exciting that the wooden playground! We climb up the left fork towards the Jiang Jun Tower (将军楼), an impressive tower with a commanding view. Up the top, a Great Wall enthusiast points out to us the few original bricks remaining in the tower walls (most other bricks have been replaced during restoration over the years) – the dates on them indicate that they were made in the 1500’s.
We eat our fried rice in the Jiang Jun Tower before making our way east towards the Hao Wang Tower (郝望楼). This is one of the most harrowing experiences I have ever had as a mother! Not only does the path drop away on either side at points, so that we need to walk narrow ridges of ancient Wall without any ropes or support, but the ridges are also covered in loose dust and pebbles, and our footholds occasionally slip. Any significant slip can result in a child and/or parent tumbling off the edge of the Wall into wild terrain. At times we crouch down and slide along crab-style to ensure we do not lose our foothold. At one point a sign warns us in scribbled Chinese characters 危险 ‘dangerous’. We are amazed that the Chinese walk these tracks with seemingly little fear, allowing their children to climb and even run alone.
What a relief to plant my feet on ‘solid ground’ at the Hao Wang Tower. Again we spot several original bricks scrawled with ancient script, indicating that they were made in the 1500’s. Another Great Wall enthusiast points out an inscription written by the Japanese when they entered China in 1933. Clearly, by the 1900’s, the Great Wall was insufficient to keep out the invading enemy!
We make the call at the Hao Wang Tower to NOT continue east along even more rugged Wall to the Number 24 Tower (aptly named for the 6 windows on every face, spectacularly built on the highest point of the mountain range).
Descending to solid ground I feel at ease to allow the kids to tumble and jump again in the children’s playground. Unfortunately our 9 year old tumbles a few too many times, getting knocked to the ground by the swinging logs. But better here than up on the Wall, I say!
10 minutes’ walk from the guest house is a dammed lake made all the more beautiful by the grandeur of Number 24 Tower that looms in the background. Fishermen and women sit peacefully by the lake. But no fish to eat tonight. It is clear that the water level of the lake has dropped a meter or more in recent years. I am reminded of the many dry river beds and creeks that I have walked/driven past in the last day. This area of Beijing/Hebei has become much drier in recent years 🙁
How NOT to get there: You could catch the 980 bus (1 hour +) then the hourly 25 bus from Miyun (1 1/2 hours +), but that is painstakingly slow. My recommendation is to catch the 2 hour private bus from Dongzhimen to the Gubei Water town (see entry on Gubei Water Town), then catch a taxi/didi or private car (from 25-100 RMB, depending upon your bargaining power) from there to Gubeikou car park.
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