Jinshanling – The Great Wall of China

Jinshanling is a section of the Great Wall located in the mountains in Ruanping county, which it about 120km northeast of Beijing. This meant leaving the hostel around 6am in order to avoid the traffic while exiting the city in order to get to the wall in reasonable time. This section of the wall is connected with the Simatai section, and it is usually possible to walk from Jinshanling to Simatai; however, at the moment Simatai is closed for reconstruction. That said, we were able to walk a fair distance towards Simatai, and as we did the wall deteriorates towards its natural state and becomes less reconstructed. The Jinshanling portion of the wall was built around 1570 during the Ming Dynasty, is 10.5 km long, and has 5 passes, 67 towers and 2 beacon towers. The group definitely got its day workout by trekking along the wall.

great wall 2

great wall 1

me on great wall

Beijing Qingfeng-Xisi Hutong Guest House

Located at No. 58 Xisi bei wu tiao Hutong (no.58 Xisi North 5th Alley) Xicheng District, this hostel has been an additive experience to my stay in Beijing. Although I arrived the first morning before 7am in the morning and clearly woke up the people who manage the hostel, they were still so nice and accommodating. Not only was their spoken English so welcome, but their demeanor and helpfulness made me feel so much better after having just arrived in this new place. I should probably place such a review on yelp or tripadvisor, but for now, it will remain as a memory to me of how wonderful the staff was.

The front door of the hostel:

Front door

Although the inexpensiveness of a hostel is appealing enough to make me want to stay at one, the atmosphere and the camaraderie shared at most hostels was also a strong pull being a solo traveler. In the morning before I even settled in, I met Mike from Montreal who was consulting in the Chinese space program. As a gift from them, he received a model Chinese space rocket, which was very impressive. He told me where a couple good food spots were and how to get around. After meeting Mike, I had the confidence to go check out some of the sites that Beijing had to offer.

Later that day in the evening, the guest house taught us how to make dumplings. Not only was this a valuable cooking lesson, it was also the perfect opportunity to meet the other residents.

Making dumplings

Me and dumplings

While having my hands messy forming dumplings, I met the residents and staff members. There was a mixture of English and Chinese spoken by all, except for a few of the residents like myself who only could contribute in English. One of the residents has been staying here for about 6 months and is in an intensive Mandarin language course. He was our default translator in both directions whenever communication blocks arose. I met one pair, Laura and Alex, who traveled here from the UK by train. It sounded like quite the experience when they recapped a couple of their highlights from destinations like Berlin, St. Petersburg and Mongolia.

Hostel Scene

By the end of the evening, after playing a couple games of chess with Mike, I was able to convince Laura and Alex to join me the following day on my adventure to the Great Wall.