On a recent mileage run (our first as a family) we took advantage of some $450 mistake fares in Business Class from Washington DC to Beijing, China. This mileage run was stretched out just slightly longer than a typical 1-2 day turn to a 3 night / 5 day run (Wed-Sun). With such little time on the ground, I wanted to select a few “must do” activities and incorporate them into our itinerary. The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and Dumplings all made our list.
We asked our butler at the Park Hyatt Beijing for options on travel to and from the Great Wall. She explained that we could take a taxi ($160 USD) or a private car ($420) to Badaling, both options seemed pricey to us. A friend of ours, Matthew of “Live and Let’s Fly”, advised that on his trip to The Great Wall he traveled by train. We opted for the train which cost just shy of $1. A quick encounter at the ticket office and we were on our way. (Further transportation details will be available over at The Trip Sherpa.)
A trip to the Great Wall can be as long or as short as you make it. Our timeline was approximately 70 minutes each way and we spent about 2 hours at the wall itself. With such a short time in Beijing, we wanted to fit as much quality sight seeing into our limited schedule.
Here is what I brought to the wall with me:
- 1 baby wrap
- 2 diapers
- 1 small wipes pack
- 2 disinfectant wipes packs
And 1 small cross body purse to hold it all.
In retrospect, I would have brought either a hat or sunscreen but we didn’t plan on being out for long. If you do, I highly recommend you consider adding these to your list.
I wanted to keep this as basic and stress free as possible. I did not want to be lugging a bunch of stuff and a push stroller. In the end, I had everything I needed and nothing I didn’t.
On the train
Once we got on the train and got seats (which are limited and not guaranteed) we were able to relax. During the ride, there are snacks, waters, and souvenirs available for purchase. We opted for some microwave kettle corn and lime flavored drinking water. The train departed at around 1:15pm which is near enough to Lucy’s nap time so she wanted to nurse and sleep which I was able to do privately thanks to my baby wrap.
Microwave Kettle Corn
From the Badaling train station it is a short walk (800km) to the cable cars which will take you up over the hills and on to the wall. We purchased round trip tickets on the cable cars plus our entrance tickets to the wall which cost us about $42 for both of adults with the child riding free. The cable cars allow for amazing views and though it is a short ride, it was well worth the fee.
Upon arrival we made our way to the wall and walked along, choosing the direction randomly we set out on a miniature exploration. The sights are just as breathtaking as you expect and the history below your feet is something that really takes a long time to fully grasp. After a bunch of pictures from us and strangers alike, we found ourselves further and further away from the cable cars and toward a ride whereby you “slide down the wall.” This was something we were curious about. We decided to throw away our cable car return ticket for a ticket to “slide.”
Because #YOLO, right?
The slide was essentially a backyard roller coaster, led by a smiling man in the front car who was burning the breaks from the top, where we embarked, to below where we were dropped off. The safety features included a metal rail on each side and an over head strap that was secured on one side with the click of a belt. My safety belt did was hesitant to click. Lucy was of course too small to ride alone so Kyle had to hold her out side of the restraint the whole trip down.
Would I do it again? I don’t think so.
My advice is to stick with your beautiful views and round trip cable car tickets.
A ride on the cable cars
When the joyride comes to an end you are spewed out into a bunch of souvenir shops and small food vendors. The prices are cheap and negotiable, it’s a good idea to pick some things up here if you feel inclined, they were the best prices we found for trinkets in China.
We also found a delicious frozen popsicle treat that was a creamy, coconut-banana flavor and just what we needed after a long stroll in the heat. From there we found our way back to Badaling station, back on to the train and back to Beijing in time for dinner at a recommended Sichuan spot.
People often joke that Lucy will never remember these trips, and they are probably right, but what if we never have these opportunities again? It is important to us to continue exploring the world and sharing it with her now. As she continues to grow we will show her pictures, tell her stories and hopefully inspire her to continue traveling the world to see as much as her heart desires.