We were recommended a township called Gubeikou as somewhere to see, and climb the original un-restored Great Wall. We decided just to go for it. After a little research we found bus 980 from Beijing (Dongzhimen) takes you to Miyun, a minibus will then take you to Gubeikou, more specifically Hexi Village which is where you can find a place to stay.
We’re not a fan of Miyun. After an hour and a half on an ‘express’ bus we arrived somewhere in the city and were immediately swamped by taxi drivers shouting ‘HELLO!’ to catch our attention wanting to take us to Gubeikou for 150 yuan, that’s only about 7 times more expensive than normal… also very unhelpful locals!
After a lot of wandering around and turning down a grotty overpriced room in a hotel-ish type place and attempting to speak to the locals we found a lady who, after speaking to her English speaking friend on her mobile, offered us a place to stay. It was some sort of guest house, but she lived there with her husband. There are absolutely no other tourists in the area. When looking around we came across quite a few guest/tourism houses – converted/expanded farm houses. It’s almost as if a ton of money was pumped into the village at some point, but the project was abandoned or not maintained.
With a base established we decided to visit the Great Wall. Our host lead us to the start of the path that takes you up Yanshan mountain to a huge section of the wall that’s completely unspoilt, unmaintained and free of tourists and restrictions – right up our street. After about 2.5 hours of uphill climbing we hit the highest point of the wall in that area. Incredible views of snow capped mountains in the distance, Gubeikou and Hexi Village below, farmland and housing in the valleys and the outskirts of Mongolia.
Gubeikou was a nice break from the big city and it was nice to see the sun in a blue sky. The sun often struggles to shine through the smog in Beijing, it really is that bad. It’s especially noticeably when you look into the distance down one of the longer streets and when you travel close to the traffic (e.g. bicycle).