The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu, The Emperors Summer Palace, and The Forbidden City, Beijing

Mutianyu Village - The Great Wall of China

When planning our trip to the Great Wall, I decided to be a little more budget friendly on the Mutianyu leg of the trip, and booked 2 nights at a homestay, Mutianyu GreatWall Wangshanyuan Homestay, Huairou. I would provide a link here at this point, but they don’t have a website, but they are here on trip advisor. It turned out to be a great decision! We were right at the base of the mountain, and could see the Great Wall from where the house was. Our hosts helped us with getting our tickets to ride up to the Wall on the cable cars, picked us up from the airport, and even dropped us at our next destination in Beijing (for a small fee). His wife and mother cooked all our meals for us that were very affordable, and we had delicious, authentic Chinese food, and she even taught me how to make Chinese Pancakes (which are bomb by the way).

The sweetest family lived next door, who had a son who was around Ian’s age. The Grandfather kept coming out to play with Ian in the dirt, and each time we went out, he had brought more toys out for him to play with. They did not speak any English, but they (Ian, the grandfather and the grandson), had such a great time digging in the dirt with the little bulldozer.

The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu

The morning we hiked the wall, we left bright and early, which I can’t stress enough if you ever make the trip yourself. We saw only a handful of people the whole way out, and as we walked back through the tour bus loads of tourists, we were so glad we started early and only saw them for a bit on the way back!

The day we went, unfortunately between the fog an the pollution, the visibility was really poor. The only up side of this, was that the day was nice and cool. I can’t imagine taking that trek 18 weeks pregnant in the heat! Ian walked for about 5 minutes, and then up into the Ergo he went on Billy’s back, so Billy was grateful for a cooler day as well.

We decided to take us on the path that was a little longer, and away from the toboggans (which we decided against, due to the whole 18 weeks pregnant thing). Round trip it was about 4 miles, and A LOT of stairs. The very end was steep steps. We stopped for a good 10 minutes at the bottom, deciding if we wanted to do it with a baby in the belly and a baby on a back. Ultimately, we just couldn’t not finish what we started, and took our time heading straight up the mountain. I will say I was questioning my life choices during the last 20 steps that went straight up, like a ladder, but we were glad we did!!!

When we got back down to the bottom, after spending too much on mass produced souvenirs, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant near the cable cars. I checked my phone, and it said we had gone about 5 miles, 12,000 steps, and 73 floors.

We dragged our butts the 15 minute walk down the hill to our homestay, and relaxed and enjoyed our last night at Mutianyu. Our feet were sore!

Emperors Summer Palace - Beijing

The next morning, after another round of Chinese Pancakes, our host took us in to Beijing to our next hotel. Sadly, it was pouring rain, and not yet time to check in. So we checked our bags with the concierge, and due to some miscommunication they set us up immediately for a ride to go see the Emperors Summer Palace. Our idea of re-grouping and having a snack to wait and see if the rain let up didn’t happen, and off we went. I wish I could report more here. It was PACKED. And then to add to the tour group chaos, it was pouring. Honestly I was miserable and so I was Ian, so bless Billy for being a patient man. We walked around a bit, and you could tell that on a sunny day it would be a BEAUTIFUL place to visit. But not today.

Forbidden City - Beijing

We had much better weather the next day when we went to see the Forbidden City. We had a flight later that afternoon, so we went for a straight shot through the city, and skipped out of exploring all the side buildings. We rented headsets so we could hear a bit of the history of the city, but again, it was PACKED with tourists and tour groups, so it was a challenge to get up close enough to see inside most of the great halls. There was plenty to look at on the buildings themselves, so thats where we focused our lenses. It was crazy to imagine that this was where someone lived. I would have wanted to clean all those floors.

After coming through on the other side, we said goodbye to Beijing. Ian was such a trooper, coming along on what for him, was pretty boring, knowing that Disneyland was awaiting him! Overall it was an amazing trip, that I know I will probably never have the chance to take again. Even though the weather and pollution were not on our side, we got to see some pretty amazing things.

Julie McGregor