Beijing Travel with us: We wrote this note to share with you our amazing experince of visiting Beijing. This city is huge and makes a huge impression. At that point we can already say that it’s just impossible to be bored in Beijing – there are many things to see and the Chinese culture is very specific and you can be easily surprised even when simply walking a street or taking a metro! Check out our story and find out more about Beijing, especially if you’re considering a trip there!
Beijing Travel – Getting To Beijing
Finally we got through all the notes about Russia and we can move on to writing about China. We took a plane to Beijing from Irkutsk and reached our destination at 4:40 a.m. While we were heading to the exit of the airport, two ladies in fancy costumes stopped us and asked, if we wanted a taxi. We had a reservation just for this night (or rather morning at a nearby hotel) and had to get there by taxi. The ladies asked us where we were going and told us the price. We don’t remember it at this point anymore but it was astronomically high. We refused to take it and went out of the airport where other people were already queuing for the taxi. The prices were normal there, so if you’re going to Beijing as well, be careful!
Beijing Travel – Let’s Take A Taxi
Already in the taxi we felt different. We’ve never been to far east before so everything looked different and Beijing seemed huge. The beginning of our travel wasn’t the best. We got to the hotel and they told us they don’t have a spare room for us and everything is taken. Nobody spoke English as well (it’s normal in China and it’s very hard to find somebody speaking English) so we were communicating via translator on the phone with the receptionist.
We were angry because we informed the hotel earlier that we won’t come in the evening, only very early in the morning. But what could we do? There was no other hotel around, there was actually nothing around (even a single shop as this was a hotel near the airport) so we headed to the nearest metro station. We were very tired and it was just the beginning of our day. We didn’t want take another hostel because we were going to meet at 6:00 p.m. with a guy from couchsurfing that invited us to his place.
Beijing Travel – Our First Impression Of China
We found a metro station and headed to the city center, which took us almost an hour. And important fact: we couldn’t sit because metro in Beijing and other big cities of China is always packed with people. Our first impression of China wasn’t good because we were tired after a flight during the night (altogether we had 2 hours of sleep during that night) and we didn’t have nothing to eat or drink so you can imagine we were exhausted and still had to carry our backpacks all day :) now I’m laughing but I definitely wasn’t at that time.
The City Center
We decided we can wait till 6:00 p.m. and just go sightseeing. After reaching the city center we found a local shop and bought something to eat. And already at this time we discovered two attractions, we wouldn’t be able to think of before coming to China: first attraction was the shop itself – also everything looked different and the products were nothing like the ones we have in Europe.
Second attraction: us :) Yes, the adventure of being an attraction started already at this point in China. Many Chinese people openly showed that they see a white person for the first time. We generally like to be among people so such attitude wasn’t a problem for us but it definitely was something new. It was actually an attraction to be in the center of attention much more often.
Beijing Travel – Day First
It’s funny because we just took off in the city center and we found out we’re on one of the most popular street in the city – Wangfujing Street. We spent the whole day walking around and taking photos. Definitely the biggest attraction was the food market on of the side streets:
It was a food market with everything to eat: chicken, octopuses and all kinds of various bugs. There were many people on the street and many Chinese people were eating chickens on the sticks like this one:
I think we haven’t noticed anyone eating these bugs and we also didn’t try them. Although it’s been almost 2 years since we came back from this trip I can still remember the smell that was wafting in the air – it was so strong and specific :)
There were also many shops and places to sit for a while and eat. Oh, and another great thing that we noticed on the first day: we were sitting on the bench to enjoy the moment and finally have some rest when we noticed many dragonflies over our heads. There are many of them flying in China, we payed attention to it because we seldom see them in Poland :)
Our place in Beijing
We needed to go a little bit earlier to check the way to our host’s home and get there on time. It took us about an hour again to reach his place by metro. We had to wait for him a while at the metro station where we were supposed to meet and then went together to his place.
His neighbourhood was very nice – we saw such kind of architecture for the first time. The buildings were very high and modern, but still they kept this oriental look.
Our host was very nice and helpful. He was also very happy that he had a spare king size bed and so were we :) We spent some time with him talking and then he needed to work a while and we finally went to bed to get rested for the next big day.
Beijing Travel – Day Second
We couldn’t wake up early. Our host left us keys to his apartment so we also didn’t have to and really couldn’t. Already at that point we were so tired so I think we left the apartment about 10 or 11 a.m. and then went on the metro to go to the Tiananmen Square. We wanted to go to Forbidden City but there’s this case with Forbidden City they let only certain amount of people per day and we thought that when we will finally get there, it might be too late.
So we took the metro and in order not to change 3 times we thought we will change 2 times and get off a little bit further. It seemed a little bit further on the map but it’s China and it’s Beijing. So a great tip for you for the future: if the distance looks short on the map, it doesn’t have to be short in reality. I don’t know why we always make this mistake. I remember we did that before but I guess we don’t learn from our mistakes.
In The Park
The positive thing about it was that we like to walk, so we had a walk and saw a nice park:
And we also passed a toilet that was one of its kind. This toilet was integrative. If you somehow don’t know what I mean, here’s the photo:
Also we noticed some helpful instructions how to use the toilet:
This was another attraction that wasn’t planned and at that point I have to warn you (if you haven’t been to China before and if you’re planning to go there): everyday you’ll see something you haven’t seen before. So you won’t be bored :)
And then we finally got to Forbiden City, which is located exactly next to the Tiananmen Square. We thought we will check, if we still can go inside and we could! That day there was not so many people and it was about 1:00 p.m. so keep in mind you may not be this lucky coming that late there.
Anyway, we decided to go inside. To get there we had to show our passports and wait in couple of queues but it didn’t took us long.
About Forbidden City
Forbidden City is one of the best-known attractions of Beijing. It’s a city in a city. It was a place of residence of Chinese emperors. For about 500 years the city was closed for general public. People could enter and leave the city only with the emperor’s consent. And now the whole complex is a monument and can be visited by tourists. It has defensive walls around and all of them are dark red and the whole area is huge. That’s why we needed couple of hours for visiting it and we made many kilometres that day.
It’s also possible to go at the top of the walls and see the city from the top.
In front of the Forbidden City there is a The Gate of Heavenly Peace. The gate is also the attraction itself and there’s a huge portrait of Mao Zedong in the centre of the gate. This gate is also an entrance to the Forbidden City.
After seeing the Forbidden City, we went straight to the Tiananmen Square. We were exhausted already but we thought that we are so close and we can see it the same day and won’t have to come there on the next day. And it was a good decision. It’s worth to go there because it’s a famous spot in Beijing but we’d say there’s no need to plan much time for this attraction. It’s a great idea to see it at the same time with the Forbidden City as Beijing is really huge. You can save some time, if you don’t go there twice (especially if you’re not staying close to this place).
The Tiananmen Square is surrounded by buildings and there’s also the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong at the square. However, we didn’t go inside. We would have to come early in the morning and stand in a long queue to enter it. We thought we can skip going there (we’ve already visited Lenin’s Mausoleum during this trip :)).
We didn’t eat much during the whole day and decided to find something after leaving the centre. We took the metro and got off near our host’s apartment. There were some convenient stores and some places, where mainly locals go to eat. We chose one of this places, went inside – there were some locals eating already but also couple of tables remained unoccupied.
It was a relief for us to see the photos of dishes and their translations in English with the price above the till. We came to order the food and told what we wanted in English and then … everyone started laughing (also customers) like we lived under the rock :) Apparently it was funny to expect that someone can speak English. So we had to communicate using body language, which also wasn’t easy especially when comes to numbers. Chinese people show them differently on their fingers, so it’s better to learn how to do it :)
Beijing Travel – Day Third
The Great Wall of China
We woke up early in the morning and chose to go to the biggest attraction of China – the Great Wall. There are many parts to visit but we wanted to visit the most popular part of it – the Great Wall of Badaling. We got there by train and bought tickets on the spot. There were couple of tills and we didn’t queue long. The Great Wall of Badaling is very crowded. At the time we visited it, there were mainly Chinese tourists. There were so many people that it wasn’t possible to shift around freely and we had to move slowly in a queue almost all the time. Mainly there is steeply and it’s no easy to walk without holding the railing.
We were very lucky when it comes to the weather. It wasn’t raining and what’s the most important – it wasn’t smoggy that day. We had good visibility and could take beautiful photos. The view from the Great Wall is impressive and we would love to go there once again someday.
The Eight Tower of the North Side
We managed to get to the Eight Tower of the North Side. It wasn’t easy – there was so much of going up the steep stairs and it was hot that day. But we did it! :)
It took us almost the whole day to visit this attraction and it was totally worth it! But we were so exhausted after it that it wouldn’t be possible to go for some more sightseeing that day.
Even the views from the train were impressive and we could spot some parts of the Great Wall from it.
Beijing Travel – Day Forth
Our fourth day in Beijing was a day in which we went to train station to collect all the tickets we needed for our further travels around China. We generally travelled mainly by train in China and we had to get to train station to get small tickets for all the trains be booked before.
We could collect them at one of the till that was served in English (all other only in Chinese but there was the writing above the till that English speakers may go – so it was easy to find it). It was necessary for us to collect these tickets to get through the gates before entering the train.
We spent half a day for it because we stayed quite far from the train station and had to get a long metro ride to it. We’d say that even the train station was an attraction for us because of its oriental architecture style from the outside.
After that we went to eat something. We went to a restaurant and later found out it was a Japanese one. We ordered something that looked like beef to us but it was a fish with dressing :) Nice surprise! We never knew what we were eating :)
Beijing Olympic Park
Our last stop that day was Beijing Olympic Park. It’s a park with Bird’s Nest Stadium, in which the Olympcs and Paraolympics took place in 2008. There are also beautiful fountains and Beijing Olympic Tower which was impressively illuminated in the evening.
This place was worth seeing. Maybe it’s not a top of the top attractions to see in Beijing but we had so much fun there! The whole complex is very modern and there were many local people in this park. We came there as it was still sunny but just after the sunset people started their nightlife in this park – they were dancing, rollerblading, singing and even practicing tai chi.
And what’s most interesting: mostly elderly people were active. It was at that point when we realized how active older people are in China and that this park wasn’t an exception. We later found out that they have so much fun also in smaller parks in their neighbourhoods. This was really soething for us, we just loved this atmosphere! :)
After visiting this park we had to come back to our place and prepare for the next day. We wanted to spend some time with our host and also had to wake up early and catch the first metro in the morning to get to the train station on time.
Beijing Travel – Our Final Thoughts
There is really a lot that can be said about Beijing and actually about the whole China. Somehow we feel right to sum up that our visit in Beijing was crazy and different. And this country made one of the strongest impressions on us (it evoked strong feelings and everything was different).
And what about you? Have you already been to China before? If so, write us what you think about this country :) If not, let us know if you felt encouraged after reading our note :)