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.

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