What to do when your faced with a long layover to your destination?
That’s the question we faced on an 8-hour layover in Beijing flying Air China to the Philippines. The solution… contact Ricky at Wild Great Wall tours. After extensive research it appeared that Ricky had great reviews, so I contacted him with our flight times and what we would like to see. Ricky replied very swiftly stating we could visit the Great Wall Of China.
The plan was to meet our driver at 1 pm, but due to heavy traffic we headed off an hour behind schedule.
Great Wall of China
The section of Wall that we visited is called Mutianyu which was very quiet. Having heard that some parts can be very overcrowded this was a bonus. Our driver gave us our entry tickets and we set off for the cable car where my knees proceeded to knock.
When you step out of the cable car and onto the Wall it takes your breath away, as you see the magnitude. Even then you can only see a few miles ahead. The one downside, there is a lot of pollution in the air creating a yellow mist that lay over everything.
For those romantics out there, on one part of the wall they have put up some canvas for the public to write on, so you can leave your legacy. Not quite padlocks in Paris but a romantic reminder none the less.
Being tight for time we gave ourselves an hour to walk. Fortunately, this took us to the stretch of wall where there is a toboggan to get you back down. You have your own seat and can control the speed that you accelerate round the bends on your way down. I would highly recommend taking this route down (there is an additional charge).
On arrival back down, we decided to sample Chinese food - Be weary of the restaurants here as they see tourists and see extra money. Before our food came, we were given some plates that were shrink wrapped. Believing they were for our food we unwrapped them and discussed how hygienic this was. However this was not the case and we were charged for opening them!!
After waiting for a long time for the bill, and a heated discussion regarding the plates we were late back to our car. The driver seemed calm so we fell asleep. Just before 6pm I woke to find we were in stand still traffic. Panic started to hit me with only two hours and no idea how far the airport was I tried to communicate with the driver. By 6.30pm and no movement the stress really kicked in. The driver put me onto Ricky who explained that we would be fine and to stay calm. He maybe should have told our driver that also as suddenly he veered off the road and decided the pavements were the way forward only to realise he was going in the wrong direction and had to turn back into worse traffic.
This is where the fun really began! Our driver pulled into a random warehouse and the next minute the 3 of us were charging through the crazy streets of Beijing carrying our hand luggage with no idea if we were running in the right direction. We then got to a quiet stretch of road and our driver spotted what looked like a taxi and told us to jump in, the owner of the car started rowing with our driver and we were back out on our ear pounding the pavements. By this point we had 40 minutes until take off.
Next stop in are planes trains and automobiles escapade- a tuk tuk that manged to weave between some of the busier spots, but there was only so far he could take us and for the 3rd time we were running!
I count myself as a strong runner having completed 2 marathons, but I really thought I was on the verge of having a heart attack at this point. Then like a mirage in the desert we could see the airport in sight, and a clear road, as a taxi came hurtling by. In we jumped and hot foot it to the departure area. Check in informed us they could not hold the gate open, but we could make a run through security and take our chances. We bid farewell to our driver without looking back and ran like our lives depended on it, and of course there was a queue at security just to add to the tension! At this point we had 20 minutes until take off and we had to get to the furthest gate (isn’t that always the way)!!
Once through security an angel appeared in the form of a man driving a golf buggy. We loaded up and told him to floor it to gate 52. Seeing as we were tourists he tried his luck charging us, but he’d already driven us, so didn’t really have much of a bargaining chip as he watched us run down the stairs to find that the gates were closing.
I’ve never felt luckier in my life then when we boarded that plane and just started laughing like crazy. The relief and absurdity of it all suddenly sank in. I do wonder what happened to our driver and if he remembered where he left his car. The poor guy paid for our taxi too. I did contact Ricky on arrival to ask him to thank the driver for going above and beyond to get us there, and asked to transfer a tip along with the money we owed but all they asked for was a good review.
So here it is if you feel adventurous and have a strong heart then do it. Hopefully you’ll have a clear day with traffic. I can happily say I’m so glad we spent our layover in this manner. Had we missed the flight however……