Travel Stories

A travel blog for a long-term expat, backpacker, traveler, ESL teacher, and photographer. 

The Great Wall of China


I decided to head home for Christmas because I found a very cheap flight – 800 USD return to New York City from Busan via Air China. Although Air China isn’t a really fabulous airline (mostly their comfort and food is lacking), they do allow two bags per person (which undoubtedly is a result of the Chinese traveling heavy with a million boxes) and offer layovers in China (with a free hotel if it is over night). Now, Chinese visas for Americans is very costly and not worth a few days trip (130USD). However, they recently allowed Americans and numerous other countries to visit if they plan to go to a third country and intend to stay less than 72 hours. Because Stephan and I had a 13 hour layover in Beijing on Christmas Day, we were able to leave the airport and go on a little adventure. We hired a company, Wild Great Wall (, to pick us up from the airport and drive us to Mutianyu – a less touristy area of the wall. In total, it cost 60 bucks which really isn’t that bad considering the guy did about 3 hours of driving. We arrived to the wall around 3:30 PM/4 PM on Christmas and took the cable car up to the top just in time for sunset. We were overwhelmed with the quiet, peaceful atmosphere with a vivid sunset. One could see the wall for miles in each direction and due to the time of day, it was quite desolate so we were able to enjoy the wall in solitude. As we took the last cable car up, we were stranded and we had to walk down the great wall to get back to our taxi. It was well worth it! However, there are no lights at the top and the path down was also not lit so we walked down in the pitch black using the moon as our guide. Anyways, in conclusion, it was totally doable and recommendable to go to an empty part of the great wall, walk down it, especially during a layover! ^^