How to Camp on The Great Wall of China

If I had to pick my top five experiences in China, this would be one of them. Seeing the pink sunset behind the Ming dynasty towers and watching the sunrise bring them back into focus, makes everything seem right with the world.

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The sunrise at Jinshanling

A couple of months ago I hiked from Jiankou to Mutianyu section of the wall which you can read about here.  This past weekend I hiked the Jinshanling section of The Great Wall which is 125 km Northeast of downtown Beijing in Luanping county. It connects with the Simatai section of the Great Wall in the West although at this time you are unable to hike from Jinshanling to Simatai due to renovations at Simatai. It is not clear when the Simatai section will re-open. To the East of Jinshanling is the Gubeikou section of The Great Wall.

So from East – West = Gubeikou- Jinshanling- Simatai

Jinshanling is a 10km wonderfully picturesque hike. It isn’t too difficult, with only a couple really steep parts when you get close to Simatai. There is a mixture of restored and unrestored section of the wall  but most of the hike is restored. Because it’s also farther from Beijing, it’s much less crowded than Mutianyu. Do not go to Badaling, it’s simply too commercialized.

So, below is my step by step how to get to and camp on Jinshanling.

1. Take Bus 980 from Dongzhimen long distance bus station. You can take the subway to Dongzhimen on line 2 and then you will see signs for the long distance bus station. This bus leaves at an interval of every twenty minutes from 6:30 a.m- 6:00 p.m.

2. Get off at a bus stop in Miyun County. You can show the bus driver these characters or you will simply know when you start seeing cab drivers boarding to bus and asking for people to go to Jinshanling.

3. Negotiate a price of no more than 200 RMB for a driver to take you and your group to Jinshanling. The drive from Miyun to Jinshanling takes about 1-1.5  hours.

4. You will be dropped off at the entrance to Jinshanling

5. Once you reach the beginning of your hike( there is only one entrance and it’s easy to follow) you will walk East. You will go through many beautiful restored towers and then when you get closer to Simatai you will start encountering a few unrestored sections.

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Towards the beginning of the hike!

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What a view!

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More unrestored sections on Jinshanling

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The second tower in the distance is the start of Simatai. This is around where we turned back.

6. Currently, you can hike all the way to the beginning of Simatai but the hikes don’t connect because of construction. However, you can hike sections of Simatai separately .

7. My recommendation would be to set up your tent in one of the towers closest to Simatai because your views of all the towers you hiked will be amazing at sunset and sunrise!

IMG_0703 Our tent on Jinshanling!

8. Crack open a beer or a bottle of wine and enjoy!

9.  Hike back to the entrance of Jinshanling where you can negotiate a cab back to Beijing.

Top Tips

* Check out: http://greatwallforum.com/ for the best and most detailed tips about hiking and camping on different sections of the wall. I think it’s the most informative resource out there!

* If you are looking to buy some camping gear, check out any of the Decathlon store in Beijing. Everything you need will be at that store and the prices are great! The tent you see pictured was only 150 RMB!

* Make sure you bring lots of water because it’s more expensive on the wall

* In the beginning of this post there is a link to my other information about another hike from Mutianyu to Jiankou. I hiked from Jiankou to Mutianyu and there are plenty of camping opportunities there as well. So if that hike looks more interesting,  head there if you want ! There are many possibilities when it comes to camping near or on The Great Wall!

* You can always book a camping experience with hostels or other companies, but this experience ensures that you get to travel on your own time and camp where you want!

Have any questions? Drop me a line! I’d love to help you with your hiking adventures!

Happy hiking my friends!

 

A Beijing Summer

As I feel the first pangs of an autumn wind in Beijing I thought it appropriate to reflect on a Beijing summer.

Summer in Beijing is quite different from its other seasons. For one thing, , dare I say this, it’s far more crowded. Tourists are flocking in from all corners of the globe to get their hands on some Peking duck and to have a go at The Great Wall. But, what I’m surprised about is the sheer number of Chinese tourists in Beijing. When I head home from work I see an armada of buses full of tourists unloading at the subway. As I crane my head upwards towards the massive buses I see tourists with little red hats and tour leaders frantically waving their yellow flags around to keep everyone in order.

Although it’s crowded, it adds a whole new energy to the city. Students from all over the world are flocking to different parts of the city. My favorite areas like Shichahai  near Houhai and The Drum & Bell Tower are filled with families and children enjoying the summer sun. For anyone that has read my blog consistently, you know that Beijing’s hutongs have a special place in my heart and they come to life in the spring and summer.

Take a stroll down any hutong and you will see groups of elderly men and women waving their bamboo fans trying to cool themselves off . As they fan themselves they also sip tea from their thermos and comment on the quality of the food they’ve bought today. Lots of older men and women are wearing traditional Chinese slippers with high white socks and sitting on small Chinese stools that look child size but can hold the biggest of men. Their grandchildren are running around the alleyways pantless and looking for things that interest them. Occasionally their grandparents will yell at them “Guo lai!“Which means ” Come here!” Beijing’s three-wheeled silver box cars and bikes are fighting for space in the narrow hutongs ,weaving around children and their grandparents ambling about.  Sometimes I feel like Beijing is a world of babies and elderly people.

As the day slowly turns into night, little restaurants  haphazardly put table and chairs on the street. Men walk up to the restaurants rolling up their shirts and passing around their cigarrttes.  They take a seat on their little stools and order a round of Yanjing or Snow beers which only come in big bottles in Beijing. A small Chinese woman brings out ten bottles of beer single handedly and as the night goes on, the beers accumulate on the table and are never cleared until the party has left. It’s not uncommon to see fifteen beer bottles on a tiny little table on the street. Dish after dish is brought out to the table, which might leave you wondering how so few people can consume so much food . Head over to Gui Jie (Ghost Street) in the summer  and you will experience one of the best summer eating atmospheres in Beijing. Spicy crawfish and seafood  is a speciality on this street and as people wait for a table , they chew sun slower seeds and throw the shells on the ground. It’s not uncommon to feel like you are walking on a floor made entirely of shells.

Step out of any subway at night and your senses will be overwhelmed at the amount of little food stalls you see. Fried pancakes and  are being served up alongside my favorite freshly squeezed pomegranite juice. Mountains of grapes and peaches are being sold on little carts. Men and women are asking you to take a ride in their three-wheeled cart and the smell of cumin is intoxicating as raw meat is being rolled in the cumin and then put on an open-flame.

So for those of you that are hesitant to come to Beijing in the summer, you really shouldn’t. It’s a magical time  and you too will enjoy the pantless babies, crowded hutongs, oversized beer bottles and wonderful chaos.