My roommate discovered “Great Wall Fresh” the other week and highly recommended it so I decided that I had to fit it in to my stay here in Beijing. Here is a picture of the Chen family with their two sons. The Chen Family has a family farm right near the Great Wall and they opened “Great Wall Fresh”, a small business, that allows people to stay at their home and do a guided hike of the great wall.
I had previously gone to the Great Wall with the Holland Fellows group but it was such a touristy experience that I felt unsatisfied. So, I invited my friend Jesse (a Holland Fellow who is interning in Shenyang) to come down to Beijing for the weekend and experience “Great Wall Fresh” with me.
I felt like I was really prepared for the “getting there” part but it turned out to be more challenging than I thought. Turns out we took the wrong 919 bus and instead of getting dropped off near the Chen’s we wound up at Badaling (about 30 minutes away). The 919 bus experience was miserable, Jesse and I had standing tickets and the road was bumpy and curved. I have never gotten car sick before but I was definitely feeling nauseous.
So we arrived 30 minutes away from our destination and although a really nice Chinese man with minimal English tried to help us, there was no bus to where we wanted to go. At this point I called my Chinese friend and he arranged for Mr. Chen to pick us up. (The Chens don’t speak any English so that is why I had to call my friend to communicate with them)
After we arrived at the Chen’s it was smooth sailing. We were greeted by Mr. Chen and his wife, who always had the biggest smile on her face. Immediately we were served a delicious lunch that was way too much for two people. The meal included quail eggs, a green onion omelet, almonds, potato and green bean dish, cucumbers, and lettuce. All the veggies were from the Chen’s garden and they were delicious. I especially loved the lettuce, it didn’t need any sauce it was just perfect.
After lunch we took a little rest and then got ready to hike the great wall. Mr. Chen gave Jesse and I two bottles of water each and tried to get us to wear hats but we just didn’t want to (I hope we didn’t offend him).
We could decide between the easy or hard hike and we opted for “easy” because our morning had been so strenuous and I was still feeling a bit queasy from the bus ride. I am so glad we chose “easy” because I thought it was pretty hard.
The hike up to the Great Wall took about 45 minutes and some parts were straight uphill climbs. I was pouring with sweat by the time we actually got to the wall. We hiked for another 3 hours on the actual wall and the views were extraordinary and I was amazed by how quiet it was. Living in Beijing where it is always noisy, I had forgotten how nice silence was. Here are some of my pictures of the wall:
After an amazing hike we enjoyed a meal and fell asleep after such a long but great day. We got to sleep in a kang style bed which you can see below, kang beds have a space below them where you can light a fire in the winter to keep warm. The bed was so comfortable and both Jesse and I fell asleep almost instantaneously. Here are some pictures or our living quarters:
Finally, here is the Chen’s dog. His name in Chinese can be translated as “Iron Egg”. He was so spoiled because all the guest’s leftovers were his to eat.
The experience at Great Wall Fresh was amazing and I would recommend it to anyone traveling to Beijing, you can read more about it here: http://greatwallfresh.com/
The Chen’s are the nicest people in the world and even though you won’t be able to communicate with them you can still pick up on how much they value their business and making sure their guests are happy with every aspect of their stay!