Starting at the Kempinski Hotel the day after the Concours D’Elegance, this rally is a fun couple of days whereby the teams are not stressed to the limited but have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery as well. With a very clear road book with pictures and the well know pictograms, the stints of 70 to 150km are over good roads and can be followed also by those who are less familiar with these kinds of regularity rallies. With staff around that speaks English, any question can be answered and since there are a lot of volunteers as well, I’m sure the organization can even find you an on-board translator/guide if you would like to have one.
The first day brought us to the Mutianyu Great Wall – To the northeast of Beijing in the Huairou district. Mutianyu Great Wall measures 2,250 meters in length, with an elevation of 535 meters. Studded all along the wall are 22 turreted-fortresses, and the Mutianyu section is accessible by cable cars from below. On the southeast side, there is one general gateway platform connecting three towers together, which is quite rare in the whole Great Wall, and on this platform, a reception was given for the participants, press, and others. The organizers of the Rally also provided a cheque to the chief restoration architect of this section of the Great Wall in order to support the restoration.
The area of Mutianyu has some interesting villages and the organization managed to secure a number of villa’s that are off-site hotel-rooms of a local hotel that was to small and could no accommodate the many participants. Bus transport for both dinner and breakfast was organized, so one is not left out in the wilderness and a direct telephone line between the villa’s en the main hotel provided extra comfort.
Sleeping in one of these converted farmhouses is a nice experience and they show a good mix of traditional style and modern comfort with WiFi, coffee machine and comfortable and large bathrooms. Compliments again to the organizers!
The next day brought us to Gubei Water Town. Gubei Water Town surrounds the beautiful Mandarin Duck Lake Reservoir and leans against the Simatai Great Wall, the most dangerous and majestic section of the entire Great Wall. Gubei Water Town boasts a combination of mountains, water, and ancient villages. The town is characterized by the northern architectural style and the history and culture of the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and the Republic of China (1912-1949) historic period. Although looking old, the whole village is a reconstruction and a combination of several examples of water towns that can be found around China. If you are in for a short stay in China, visiting Gubei gives you a good impression of such towns without having to travel too much.
The day was closed off with a roof-top dinner serving a typical Chinese dish called ‘hot-pot; a dish whereby you cook your own, thin-sliced, meat and vegetables in a soup and eat this with a sauce you can make to your own taste with spices and oils. While the night was setting in, a spectacular view on the lit part of the Simatai Great Wall made this a fairytale setting, topped with a marvelous display of multiple drones equipped with LED’s flying in different formations.
The next day was a day off, so all participant could spend time visiting the town and looking at the different culture- and craft shows that are given. For those who rather refresh themselves (we found out that many of the female co-drivers used this opportunity), a full spa is available in the hotel and complimentary tickets where provided by the organizers! Unfortunately, around noon that day, yours truly had to leave for other business in China but the rally continued for two more days, no doubt all in good spirit and with the same level of comfort as during the earlier part of both events.
Despite the challenge of having to miss you vehicle for a considerable time if you ship this to China and back, I can wholly recommend participating in both events. They have a playful character, things are not taken too seriously and creature comfort is taken in high regard considering the hotel accommodations booked. Foreigners should not be scared by the language either, most road signs around the Beijing area have English as well and many lunches and dinners are buffet style, so you can pick those dishes you feel comfortable with but do try this other dishes too, you might be in for a very positive surprise!
There is plenty of staff that speaks English and should you run into a technical issue with your vehicle, there are mechanics available too and for the more serious cases flat-bed trucks too! Having witnessed the great comradery between all participants and the factory teams from Jaguar-Landrover, Audi and Skoda, who occasionally also helped other participants, the YanQi Island Concours D’Elegnance and Great Wall Classic Rally can be nothing than a long-lasting and very positive memory for all who participated!
Thanks again to the organizing team, Auto Bild China, the many individuals, the volunteers, and other staff!
See the pictures here