在中国长城 The Great Wall
Being a Tourist
Today was an extremely cold morning, colder than the last couple days in Beijing, and I was still feeling a little sick. But, today was my last day in Beijing and thus my last opportunity to take a bus to The Great Wall of China (中国长城 Zhonguo Changcheng, Middle Country [China] Long Castle) in 八达岭 Badaling, in northern, rural Beijing.
I read to catch a bus from 德胜门 Deshengmen. So I took the subway there and took the exit out to the bus station. The bus numbers at the station itself were too small (I was looking for 919). There were several 919 buses along the road waiting for passangers, but none of them were going to 八达岭 Badaling. I walked from the subway station to the big interection a few times and there were no signs of the bus! I tried to ask one bus driver, but the only Chinese word I know is "Badaling" and my little travel book wasn't much help (need some proper translation software on an iPhone). The guy started talking to me and was asking me questions, all in Chinese, but, again, all I knew how to say was "Badaling".
Finally, I followed some other foreigners who were apparently looking for the same bus. We crossed the big intersection to get to 德胜门 Deshengmen itself. There is a semicircular road that runs behind the big gate structure and it is there that I easily found the 919 bus to Badaling...
The bus to Badaling is cheap (20 CNY, $3 USD, and I've read that you should refuse any bus that'll charge more). The bus ride included a tour guide relaying a lot of great information along the end of the ride, all of it in Chinese.
The ride through the mountains was great. You can see the Wall winding up and down and around all the mountains.
Our tour guide walked us all from the bus stop up to the visitor's center to buy our tickets. We were all given a ticket to their little show about the Wall (in one of those 360º theaters), but it was cheap and you get to see images from across China.
Then we were led up to the Wall itself. It was extremely cold and windy on the wall. Sadly, I was too sick and cold to do much of anything...
中国长城 The Great Wall of China. I find the addition of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics sign to cheapen the site...
I caught a bus back into Beijing and made my way to Beijing Railway Station. I didn't buy a train ticket before hand, so I got into one of the many ticket lines. The woman, though, didn't want to deal with a foreigner and she directed me to the foreigner line, inside the station at window 10. The guy there quickly got me a ticket to Nanjing for that night.
Like in Shenyang, there was a long line outside the front entrance to the Station in the freezing cold. Just inside the main doorway is a minimal security check. You put your bags through the x-ray and you get yourself quickly through the metal detector. I really get the feeling it's mostly a show (like one guard at the Olympic Green was talking instead of watching the x-ray screen).
Once in the station, you have to get up to your assigned waiting room and sit in the aisle for your train. Then the crowd walks together to the sitting train. It's good to be at the front to get yourself a good bed or chair. At one point along the ride, I was hoping to find a café car, and saw the car adjacent to my sleeper car (like the train I took from Shenyang), though, was full of people sitting in hard chairs. I couldn't imagine trying to sleep on an overnight train like that. Trying on a plane is bad enough.