Visiting the Great Wall of China is popular bucket list item. So when we realized our cheapest flight home from Japan to Christchurch included 12 hours in Beijing, we were all too keen to check that item off our list!
I (Evan) dutifully researched tours that would pick us up from the airport. We selected and booked one that visited the Great Wall, and then spent a few night hours in Beijing.
Upon arrival, we made it through customs in excellent time. Our tour guide wasn’t waiting for us as expected, so initially, we figured we were early, or they were late. Five minutes, Ten minutes, Twenty minutes passed, and I was getting grumpy. I wanted to see the Great Wall, dangit!
We had no working phone, but an Information booth allowed us to call the tour company. They apologized and said they would figure out the problem. When we called back 15 minutes later, she said, “sir, your booking is for tomorrow on July 17.”
I looked down at my watch, and as I suspected, it said July 17. Now I was getting angry. I responded, “It is July 17!”
“No sir, it is July 16.”
I looked at Morgan for support, but when she looked at her watch, it read July 16. My eyes doubled in size, the Psycho theme began playing in my head, and my heart sank. Somehow, my watch was incorrect and the whole operation was blown!
Fortunately, after some scrambling, the tour company was able to get us a tour guide on a moment’s notice. We simply had to wait 60 minutes for them to navigate Beijing traffic. We consoled ourselves by purchasing Chinese McFlurries.
When the tour guide finally arrived, we had a 2 hour drive to the Great Wall. Time was getting precious because everything closed at 5 pm. We arrived with just over an hour to spare, and a rather large section of the Great Wall to explore.
Naturally, Morgan wanted to explore as much of the wall as possible. This meant that we ran. A lot. But, we managed to enjoy ourselves and take several amazing pictures. In all honesty, the Great Wall was one of the highlights of our travel career.
I love ruins and I love mountains-especially jagged and unruly peaks. The Great Wall had them both! It was a stunning area to visit, and we’re so thankful we had the chance.
After the Great Wall, we made our way back into Beijing for what we hoped would be another great tour.
We were wrong.
Rush hour never seemed to end in Beijing. Our night allotted us epic views of Chinese tail lights. We were starving and excited to try street food at a local market, but then told it wasn’t safe to eat, so we didn’t even stop. We longingly watched Tianneman Square pass through a windshield. We did stop at Hoan Kiem Lake but only managed to snap one photo before begin rushed back into our van.
It was your classic example of trying to fit 23 hours of activities into 2 hours. Granted, we were behind schedule because “someone” booked the tour incorrectly, but there was still way too much on the itinerary. Due to hunger, fatigue and traffic, we actually cut the tour short and asked to go back to the airport.
Needless to say, we loved seeing the Great Wall of China, but didn’t get a great taste of Beijing. However, we learned some important lessons:
1) Things will go wrong when you travel, but keep your head attached to your body and you can find a solution!
2) Don’t try to fit a bazillion hours of activities into 2 hours! You may fear missing out on something, but instead we just missed out on (almost) everything.
3) China firewall blocks Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other websites we’re all addicted to.
Next time, we’ll have to check our booking twice, and give Beijing a proper chance to impress us more!