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An occasionally belligerent mother of five and an autism parent / advocate who believes that traveling, good food and good company are vital to keep one sane. I've worked as a news writer/newscaster, a quality systems auditor, a ISO9001 consultant, an FM radio DJ, a Filipino tutor, TOEFL reviewer and have gone into the food industry both as an entrepreneur and as a mommy chef, giving a sponsored demo on healthy cooking in a mall and on local TV. My favorite job however, is being a mom and a wife.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

See You Mutianyu! (Our Kid Friendly Great Wall Experience)

Best to wear REAL comfy shoes ESPECIALLY when you have a toddler in tow!

70 kilometers northeast of Beijing lies the less crowded, "child-friendly" (I use this loosely) area of the Great Wall of China. Mutianyu is a bit more rugged and slightly less crowded than the more famous Badaling. There are abundant natural springs which feed a great variety of plants and trees. Over 96% of Mutianyu is covered by trees and orchards, keeping the air fragrant with chestnut blossoms in the spring and fresh all year long.

Mid October brings you the various shades of fall.
BTW, the metal half pipes below allows you to toboggan

downhill instead of riding the cable cars.

Built in the 6th century BC, The Great Wall of China (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials, generally built along an east-to-west line across the historical northern borders of China in part to protect the Chinese Empire and its states against intrusions by various nomadic groups and other forces.

We're heeeere!!!

The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is connected with Jiankou in the west and Lianhuachi in the east. As one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall, the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs. It was built and restored in the early Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), on the remnants of a Wall originally built in the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-577).

Matching its military importance, the Mutianyu Great Wall has 22 watchtowers built at almost 100 meter intervals. This number of towers is much more than would be expected along the Wall, and is also highlighted by the particular form and structure unique to this section.

Getting there:
by car: Google maps shows us this: (click link here).
by tour group bus:  booking at the front desk of our hotel (which turned out to be 20 RMB/person cheaper than the tours available at the airport), we spent around 160 RMB/adult (MAX got in for free).

Inside the tour bus
The cost for a non-stop, private car + driver tour was 6 times more, so we opted for the getting the 160 RMB. The downside to the cheaper tour was that we had to visit a Jade factory/showroom, a pearl showroom and Dr. Tea (a pricey tea house with pricey cookies)

with the other peeps from 2 other hotels and our tour guide Sheryl

At Dr. Tea (we had free tea and cookies that evening)
The tour cost though, wasn't limited to just going to Mutianyu. It included a stop by the Ming Tombs, an authentic Chinese lunch in a quaint little restaurant, 15 minutes from the wall as well as the entrance fees to both tourist spots and the cable car fees at the Great Wall.

food as quite good here...

The road trip to Mutianyu was quite scenic once we got into the countryside. The beautiful traditional Chinese houses we passed by along the way, the various shades of reds and orange as the leaves were starting to turn into the shades of fall as well the ponies and orchards we passed by was just picture perfect. Too bad, I fell asleep at some points as our assembly time at the hotel lobby was 7 AM that day.

flavorful chicken, pork and veggies dishes that were actually good

Once you're there:
A lot of the locals have cashed in on the tourism industry in the area. As expected, haggling (start off at 10% of the price) will be required of you should you want to buy anything. Goods can be quite pricey. BTW, if you're not a fan of the local cuisine, there's a Subway (the sandwich place) 5 minutes from the ticket counter.

lots of shops and street vendors dot the area as well as Subway's Mutianyu branch

Before you get on the cable cars in the way up (trust me, walking up's just Craaaaazy!), here are things you ought to know (just in case you didn't avail of any tour package):

Mutianyu Great Wall Rates:

Open 365 Days a Year
April to October: 7:00 - 18:00
November to March: 7:30 - 17:30

Park Entrance

General Admission: RMB 45
Children 12 & Under: RMB 25


Cable Car One Way: RMB 60
Children 12 & Under: RMB 30
Cable Car Two Way: RMB 80
Children 12 & Under: RMB 40
Cableway-Toboggan: RMB 60
Children 12 & Under: RMB 50
Toboggan Return: RMB 80

holding on for dear life  (taken by Vera a Panamanian in our English speaking tour group) :p

I've talked about my vertigo issues time and time again, so for those who have the same problem, I'll have to warn you that aside from the fact that you have to ride a cable car up, let me mention that it's also open (like those ski lifts).

a slow ride up

I think the Macau Tower experience we had last week helped me deal with this (kinda). It also helped to think that I was NOT going anywhere near the top without riding the blasted thing.

getting a good look of the place

At the top:
Mutianyu Great Wall winds 1.4 miles through lofty mountains and high ridges, many sections of which are made of granite.

great restoration brick work was done in the area
The unique structure makes the wall almost indestructible. It measures 23 to 26 feet high and four to five yards wide.

the whole doesn't just stretch on into one flat, winding path. Expect steep, somewhat uneven paths and stairs
Both of the wall's inner and outer sides have parapets to defend against enemies coming from the two sides. Some parapets are saw- tooth shaped instead of the regular rectangular form. Below the parapets, there are square embrasures the top of which are designed in an arc structure, different from the traditional round embrasures.

a visual on the previous paragraph

at the view deck. Worry not, there's a big covered/shaded area here

You might feel a bot winded after walking a good stretch of the wall. There is a nice view deck where you could sit and stay away from the sun's glare. It's near the cable car entrance at the top.

to the downhill cable car entrance
 I have to say though, the guys assisting you to get in and out of the constantly moving cable cars have got their business down. Fast in, fast out..safely. Gotta give props to those guys.

high above the treetops, and below, the toboggan track

If you're ready to go down, don't forget about your other option, a sled named 'Speed'. This will give you an opportunity to experience thrills by taking you swoop down from the high mountains via the toboggan ride.

Speed's entrance
Going down was uneventful. While waiting for the other folks in our tour group, I did get to pick up a couple of souvenirs, and MAX and Phil got to roam around a garden of sorts.

haggle and even have the gall to walk away after getting 50% off...the vendors live for those small joys :p

my lil gardener
Our visit to the Great Wall was culturally stimulating. Seeing the world's biggest graveyard, a part of history was mind blowing. Standing on something that was around thousands of years ago, made me feel in awe of how great the ancient builders were.

 From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours!

CIVILIZED SIGHTSEEING!: can't get a higher seal of approval than that!

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