It’s hard to find information when all the internetting results are in a language you don’t speak, so we didn’t really know until we got to Beijing that we needed a new plan. Simitai itself in another direction was an option, but it’s the less beautiful, more treacherous/wild of the two, so it didn’t call to me. There were a couple other wild sections we could have gone to, but we aren’t expert hikers enough to deal with dangerous segments, and the more wild sections are at least a 3 hour drive away, and we didn’t want to waste yet more of our time driving after Mongolia. And Badaling was never an option - it’s the closest, yes, and it’s beautiful, but it’s the most touristed. It’s like Forbidden City levels of people, but on the Wall, when it’s even more important to get unobstructed views. We decided on Mutianyu, a good mix of all positives - gorgeous scenery, mainly paved with only a bit that’s wild, not toooo far (like 2 hours), popular but not crowded. There’s also a cable car you can take up to save time from climbing the 1000 steps or whatever it is, and a toboggan slide you can take down. Yesss. We booked our bus with the asshat who has a table in the 161 Wanfujing Hotel, that I talked about in the Beijing city post, and it was pretty reasonable price for the two of us to get picked up at the hotel by bus (giant bus instead of minibus like the guy told us, ugh), get a giant lunch (was good too!), and have a guide explain stuff to us. Not having to deal with the public buses going there was worth it. AND the bus made a lot of toilet stops on the way out, so that was good.
My disappointment at the slideway closure vanished when we got off the cable car at the top and made our way onto the main part of the wall. Guys, it really is Great. More than great, it's one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen. Better than I could have expected just seeing pictures. It’s amazing, and even high expectations could not hold a candle to the real thing. Even just realizing that you're here, on the real Great Wall of China, is the coolest feeling.
Aside from that, it was the best experience. I could not get over how magnificent it all was and how special it was to be there. It was by far the biggest highlight of our summer so far.