Badaling was quite different from our first Wall experience. Loads of people, really built up with lots of shops, food vendors, souvenir stalls, starbucks, etc. From the bus stop, you actually have to walk through the shops to get to the ticket gate. The local bus cost about $1.5 AUS to get there, and the tickets for the Wall was 25RMB ($4) for me as a student and 45RMB ($8) for adults…so really cheap! The Badaling section of the wall was much wider and geared towards more tourist (i.e. it had toilets on the wall for one, it also had a slid on tracks/borderline rollercoaster for people not wanting to walk back down from a higher section…yikes!)…with that said, it had some really beautiful views. However, it was also possible to see telephone towers, a large town with factories and smoke stacks, and a very large highway. So a downside to being on this part of the wall, on top of the large amount of people trekking on a day where the temperature was probably -5, not including the windchill, and windy as hell, was the obvious indicators that you were not in the middle of nowhere.
Although still very pretty and worthwhile, we were really grateful that we had visited the other part of the wall, and felt spoiled by it. Since moving on from Beijing we've met other people who only visited Badaling, and felt let down
. I can certainly understand that, I mean all the photos I recall seeing where of an empty wall laid across beautiful mountains and forests….not factories and highways. In the summer I’m sure its likely unavoidable, as I understand that the amount of tourists is insane, but I would suggest to anyone coming out to the wall to try different sections, and pay the extra to take a tour to a remote section… it really is quite a different experience when you can sit there and take in the views with not a soul insight.
We trekked for only about 2.5 hours, and then had to make sure we caught the last public bus. When we got back to the Beijing bus station, we could not find the local bus going back the way we came from the hostel, so we decided to walk the couple of kilometers. We went back through the Hutong, where we saw some, ah, interesting sights….we came across a couple of homes next to each other with the blinds over the front window drawn back, and girls in pjs, lingerie, fake saloons, etc….we’d later have it confirmed that this was a small red light district.
With that said, there were a few times that we walked through dark alleys, that we wouldn’t dare do in Melbourne…but we felt completely safe doing it here
. China has felt much safer than Canada or Australia, and is not just us getting more and more comfortable in our surroundings… I’m sure you could go on and on about why that is that case, and there certainly is a lot of things not right in China, but on the other hand I have to give it to China on one thing in particular….ok, well two…I have not heard, nor seen anything relating to Lady Gaga nor Adele (nothing against her per se, her songs were just way overplayed back in Aus before we left) the whole time we’ve been here….sure the attack on my senses has know shifted to black snot coming out of my nose when I sneeze due to the pollution…but I think it’s a fair trade. My ears are much happier than they have been in quite sometime. I’m sure Laura will ask me to delete this or give me the classic 'really?!" look I’ve come to know and love…but that’s ok, she knew what she was getting into when we got married ;o)
Our second trip to the wall was done DIY, and to what is known as the Disneyland version of the Wall, a section known as Badaling, with an American girl, Tameron, we had met at the hostel from Boston (Go Red Sox!). For this, we had to catch a local bus to a bus depot, to catch another local bus out to the Wall (about a 1 hour trip). Seemed simple enough, but at the station, there was sparse information, and we lined up at the stop for the bus that was suppose to take us there…only to have a random local tell we were in the wrong line and that we had to wait elsewhere…we got out of the line, and he said to wait at a spot that had no sign, no line, nothing to indicate that it was a bus stop….we started harassing him with questions, and he said the local bus took 3 hours to get to the wall, and that the bus that would pick us up would take 1 hour (but also cost 10 times the price)…figuring it was a scam, we did end up finding the right bus stop thanks to a more helpful & honest local, and no thanks to the scammer nor lonely planet, which had the wrong bus number altogether