World Wonder #4: Great Wall of China, Beijing during a 7 hour layover and how it is doable

I sat on a plane on my way to Beijing, China. My body was in and out of sleep. My heart was excited for the next adventure to come. In only 2 hours I was scheduled to arrive in Beijing where I had my next trip waiting for me.

I remember waking up once the plane landed in Beijing. We taxied on the runway for a while until I was able to get off the plane. It was 4:40 am. The darkness of the night was still in the air. I was awake with a mission in my mind. I grabbed my few belongings, walked off the plane and straight through the first part of customs. The airport was empty. I believe that my plane was the first to land on that beautiful morning.

I stood in line for my visa, not certain if I would actually get approved or not. I read online that I was eligible for a 72 hour transit visa. My heart pounding for excitement. I was next in line. The officer asked me with her broken English where I was heading. I answered: the Great Wall of China. She responded that I wouldn’t have enough time. My heart said different. She contemplated. I was anxiously waiting for her to stamp my passport and let me go. Instead, she kept asking me questions. I had a mission in mind. I was ready for it. I heard the stamp. Boom! Here I was: officially in Beijing, China.

I headed down the escalators to find the exit. I still had 45 minutes before my driver arrived. I stood still. Listened to the sound of my breath. I watched the people around me moving quickly. I radiated stillness for the time being.

I checked the time: 5:55 am when I saw a young guy with a huge welcoming smile walking my way. I knew it was my driver. He pulled out his phone and showed me a picture. He welcomed me with a warm: “Welcome to China”. That’s about all the English he knew. He took my luggage and walked me to his car. Through body language and intuitive communication we communicated with each other. My mission turned into our mission: the Great Wall of China.

We left the airport. Chinese music playing on the radio in the car. My eyes heavy from the flight but too excited to miss out on all the beauty I was seeing around me. It was an hour drive to Mutianyu Great Wall of China. The drive was beautiful: through small little Chinese villages, Spring was in full tact, flowers blossoming, the smell of green leaves and flowers all around. Mother Nature in full effect. We crossed many bridges with beautiful long riverbeds beneath them. Finally we pulled into a dirt lot and parked. We arrived. I arrived. Surrounded by high mountains and morning fog still in the air I saw mountains all around us. We walked to a lady sitting on the bench across the street. She pointed us the way. I bought my tickets and off I was.

I took a bus about 10 minutes up the mountain. Climbed several sets of stairs. I was out of breath but finally made it to the part of the mountain where I jumped into a cable car. Far in the distance I saw what I have been waiting for all this time. A steep ride up the mountain laid ahead of me. The fear of heights kicked in. I breathed. I stayed calm. I had a mission in mind.



The cable car was moving. My heart pounding faster. I finally made it over the mountain top and here it was: the breathtaking view of the Great Wall of China. Endless and so full of beauty as it sets on top of the mountain. I climbed a few more stairs before I made it all the way to the top. Time running against me.

I made it. Mission accomplished!

I stood still. I opened my eyes and heart and took it in with full consciousness. Breathtaking and so surreal. My heart full of gratitude. I was standing on the Great Wall of China. It is majestic. Thinking that the Great Wall spreads over 13,171 miles across China is unbelievably powerful. My heart full of joy. I was the first to arrive at that part of the wall on the morning of April 25, 2016. A long dream come true.



It wouldn’t be a good story to tell if there wasn’t an adventure. I left the top of the Great Wall to head back to the driver who was waiting for me at the bottom of the mountain. I was counting on the bus waiting at the bottom of the cable car to take me back to the village. As I got off the cable car I found myself standing at the bus stop with no bus in sight. Time was running quickly and I had to be back by 9 am to make it on time to the airport. Dressed in flip flops, yoga pants and a shirt, accompanied by a backpack I made my way down the hill. I decided to run. I can still see the older Chinese man looking at me like I was a maniac. Flip….Flop….Flip….Flop….down the hill, through villages of old traditional Chinese culture. I kept running, asking myself if this was the right way to go. In the distance I heard a moped coming my way. It was behind me. As it approached me closer, I stopped it and asked the old sweet Chinese man if this was the right way to the village. I am almost sure that he didn’t understand a word I said and who would blame him. He lives a beautiful live in the mountains of the Great Wall, away from the metropolitan chaos and constant movement. I looked towards the way ahead and nothing but trees where in sight. I asked him with the use of body language if I can get a ride. He was riding on his moped with a wagon full of chicken behind him. Chicken are definitely not my favorite animals but I quickly learned how to appreciate them as I got a quick ride from the old man who spoke no English. We came to an intersection and I was unsure which was I should be going. He turned right but I was almost sure I had to turn left. I asked him to stop and jumped off the chicken cart, thanked the older man and made my way down the road from the intersection. I was hot. Time was running by so quickly. The clock said 9:12am. It was already 12 minutes passed the time I was supposed to be back. I kept running. laughing loudly as this is definitely something I would do: getting lost in the midst of the forest in China.

Finally: I made it back! My driver waiting anxiously at the entrance of the village. I jumped into the car. An hour drive through the fields of the outskirts of Beijing, and before I knew it,  I was back at the airport.

My driver showing off his accomplishments with a huge smile. My heart racing from the excitement of the morning. My legs tired from the run down the hill. I am running on adrenaline through Beijing airport, making my way to Gate 32.

I was the last one to board.

I sat in my seat: H39

I reflect. I look back. I made it!

A visit to the Great Wall of China during a 7 hour layover. And I would do it all over again.

The one who travels learns, grows, explores and finds a way to do it. And makes new friends along the way.

china w cindy



Please leave a comment

  1. Salena Says:

    Wow amazing story! Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. Linx Says:

    For the love of God, keep writing these aritcles.

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