Postcards from Mutianyu

20140725-183426-66866052.jpg The village of Mutianyu (慕田峪) is located about 80 kilometers northeast of Beijing. It sits at the foot of a restored section of the Great Wall and is a popular destination for international tourists and Beijingers seeking some fresh air.

20140725-184055-67255537.jpg Mutianyu is no longer just a sleepy village of farmers. The boom in tourism has brought lots of new development to the area. These buildings, located in a welcome area for visitors to the Great Wall, didn’t even exist when I visited a couple of years ago.

20140725-185327-68007756.jpg An old basketball goal outside a home in Mutianyu. Basketball is one of the most popular sports in China, and NBA stars like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant visit the country every year.

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Walk on the wild side

If you ever visit the Great Wall, go wild. As in wild, unrestored sections of the wall.

They’re a lot less likely to be crowded and reaching them can be an adventure in itself. Last May, a friend and I hired a driver to take us from downtown Beijing to Jiankou, a section of the wall on the outskirts of Beijing built in the 1300s.

Our driver didn’t speak much English, and my Chinese was pretty bad at the time. I knew we were going to be in for an adventure when our driver, who was already talking on one cell phone, took a call on a second and used his knees to steer the taxi through heavy traffic. Continue reading