Today I took a tour to the Ming Tombs and the Mutianyu Great Wall outside of Beijing. This part of the great wall is less traveled than other sections, and also has gorgeous scenery. It might have been because January is the off-season, and it was cold today, but there were hardly any people there. If you’re looking for a more tranquil way to see this famous site without lots of people showing up in your pictures, I recommend this section over others. The downside today was that the cable cars and toboggan slides to go up and down the wall were closed for the season. I guess this means I will have to go back when it’s warmer, so I can take the slide down!
The Ming tombs were also fascinating. The first part was a long walk to the tombs which were guarded by statues. The tradition was to place animals to guard the tombs, and they were in sets of four (two to stand on guard, and two to rest at all times). Some of the animals were mythical creatures, including the animals representing justice and benevolence. The elephants are often in photos because they represent luck, and there was even a 1954-photograph of Chairman Mao with the elephant statue.
Although I don’t usually like tours for the sake of taking tours, I thought this was a really good one. Our group was only four people, and all the sites today were quiet. We met up with the tour guides at their office nearby, toured the tombs, enjoyed a traditional lunch of some of the best Chinese food I’ve ever had, and then hiked along the Great Wall in the afternoon.
No winter tour would be complete without some defrosting afterwards, so once we got back we headed down lucky street until we found a delicious French bistro. Enjoying their homemade hot chocolate was the perfect end to a nice day of seeing the sites and picking up on some of the history nearby. I hope I go on more tours later that are as fascinating as this one was!