It was my last day in Beijing and I had only one goal in mind - to visit the Great Wall of China. Afterall, that was the main reason that I went and I couldn't leave without seeing it. From Beijing there are 3 sections of the wall that you can travel to. The 2 closest and more popular are Badaling and Mutianyu and then further away was Jinshanling. The jinshanling section is more rugged and is better for the hiker and more adventurous sort and I heard that Mutianyu wasn't as scenic as Badaling, so my decision was made.
There are many companies offering tours to the wall, most of them were expensive and included stops at shopping districts and other attractions that didn't interest me. With the guidance of the people at my hostel I opted to find my own way there. Keep in my mind it was a 2 hour bus ride away but it seemed easy enough to find that bus.
I headed out early in the morning, hopped on the city bus over to the bus station where I was told to get on bus 902. Well, when I got there, there were about 30 buses in the parking lot all with the number 902. After asking a few people I finally found the 902 bus that I needed, got on and sat down. Slowly people started to get on but it wasn't too busy and I thought this will be a nice 2 hour bus ride. We stopped at the next staion and more people got on, and more people and more people until eventually the bus was so crowded that people were practically hanging out the windows. Many of them looked at me strangely as I was the only foreigner on the bus. All I could say was that I was thankful that I had a seat. Eventually we arrived and I disembarked with the other cattle and followed the crowds up to the front gates. I had to walk past all the tacky souvenir stands selling the t-shirts saying I climbed the Great Wall and I couldn't resist buying a memento.
I could see the wall off in the distance and it was exactly how I expected it to look, a crumbling stone wall meandering through the hills for miles into the distance. It was beautiful. I climbed the steps up to the wall (about 1000) until eventually I was standing on it. I couldn't believe that I was there. I started walking and at times it was very steep but I was motivated by all the old people running past me. I stopped often to take pictures, more to catch my breath than anything else. The place was very crowded but not so crowded that you couldn't appreciate where you were. The view were stunning and the weather was perfect. I climbed for about for 2 hours before deciding to head back down and try to find my bus home.
I knew where I had gotten off the bus but I wasn't sure if that was where I got back on. There were many people standing there and andit seemed that there was a continous stream of 902 buses coming but nobody was getting on them. Then I noticed on the side of the buses was a sign with the final destination on and I knew the name of the staion I wanted to go. Eventually a bus came with that station written so I took a breath, climbed on and hoped it was the right bus. I wasn't lucky this time to get a seat and had to stand in the aisle jammed in with half the chinese population. I start looking out the window desperate to see something familar so that I know that I am going in the right direction. Slowly people start getting off at various stops so after about 45 minutes I am able to get a seat. At this point I have seen signs indicating that I am headed back to Beijing so I figure evenn if I don't get to the rights station I will at least be in the city and can find my way home. I didn't need to worry as I arrived back to where I started exhausted but relieved. It had been a great trip to Beijing but I was ready to go back to Korea.