On our backpacking trip through China in 1988 we also went to the Ming tombs and the Great Wall of China. At our hotel in Beijing, we were given a street crossing where buses to the attractions in the north were supposed to leave early in the morning and we immediately liked traveling to the north of Beijing with a local sightseeing tour instead of taking a taxi. Planned and done, there was a small shop at the intersection mentioned. in which we could buy tickets for the bus and then ... we were the exotic ones on the bus and immediately received many puzzled and astonished looks from the Chinese fellow travelers.
There were also only separate seats available on the bus and while Karin found space in the rear, I was sitting in the middle next to two Chinese people who completely failed my Chinese language skills - but my little vocabulary book aroused their curiosity and immediately there were a lot of smiles and laughter in my environment because they were amused by my "scrawled" Chinese characters.
The Chinese tour guide adopted us immediately and whenever there were separate tickets to be bought, e.g. for the Ming tombs, he made sure that we didn't miss out.
The friendly Chinese next to me on the bus finally helped Karin and me to always find a good place in the crowd for the individual exhibits in the museums visited and the guide had a look to my wallet during the lunch break in a cafeteria, took a few Renminbi and bought some tasty dishes at the counter that we could neither choose nor buy without help - everything was delicious.
The tour was very worth it - not just in terms of photography. We were very impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of the Chinese - we were greeted with a handshake by all around 40 participants in the tour.