THIS WAS THE TRIP I LOOKED FORWARD TO THE LEAST. Each time I even uttered the name Beijing, other travelers would gasp and caution me to spend the least time possible in China’s capital city. They warned me about the pollution, the dirt, and the crowds of people. Fortunately, my experience proved them wrong (well..partly wrong). Traveling to Beijing with low expectations and an open mind helped make my trip to Beijing unforgettable.
HERE ARE JUST A FEW OF MY FAVE THINGS TO DO IN BEIJING:
The Great Wall (duh)
I’ll be honest the only reason why I went to Beijing was to see the Great Wall. Hundreds of other travelers feel the same way. In order to beat the crowds, I headed to Jinshanling. Jinshanling is an unfrequented part of The Wall in the Hebei province. Here you can enjoy this world wonder in peace. There’s even space to do cartwheels on the wall (I only did one because I was so terrified of falling off!)
While you won’t be hassled by the crowds, it is a hassle to get to Jinshanling.
Getting to Jinshanling:
From Dongzhimen subway station take the fast bus 980. Stay on the bus for 6 stops until Mi Yun Shao Nian Gong.
Take a taxi to Jinshanling. You may not be able to find an official cab. So you’ll have to bargain with a driver to get to the wall. You shouldn’t pay more than $500 yuan for a round trip. It’s best to travel with a group to split the cost.
The Alleys of Qianmen Pedestrian Street
Qianmen Pedestrian Street is great, but the alleys surrounding the pedestrian street are even greater. You’ll find much cheaper food and shops along the alleyways. Getting lost throughout the streets is a great way to spend the afternoon and evening.
Yes, eating Peking Duck is an activity. In fact it was the highlight of my day. The roasted Peking Duck is a speciality in Beijing. At restaurants, you are served course after course until you finish an entire duck. You can dip the duck in sweet or salty sauce. You can also wrap it in a thin pancake and make what I call a duck taco. Though pricey, Peking Duck is worth the restaurant experience. A Peking Duck meal will cost you around 200 RMB. I can personally recommend Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant on Qianmen street. It is well worth it! I meant to grab a few pictures, but the duck disappeared all too fast.
I first heard about the Beijing Opera in my Chinese class, and I was set on seeing a performance before I left China. Unfortunately, I compromised with my friend and saw a budget show. It was a waste of money. Other travelers recommended Li Yuan theatre. There are shows every night at 7:30PM and tickets start at 200RMB.
Running in Tiannanmen Square
Running in Tiannamen Square reminded me so much of my hometown Washington, D.C. If you’re lucky enough to get clear weather, running along the museums and monuments is such a great way to experience this historical block of Beijing. However, I don’t advise actually paying to enter Tiannanmen unless you are a huge historical Chinese buff. It is an honor to pay homage to to the lives lost at the square, but once inside I was a bit underwhelmed. Feel free to disagree.
The Temple of Heaven
Another beautiful Chinese park. I loved strolling through the gardens and gawking at the gorgeous wedding photo shoots!
The Alleys of Wanfujing Pedestrian Street
Wanfujing is one of the most popular pedestrian streets. It’s also one of the most expensive. Still, it’s great fun to try some of the infamous snacks. Spider anyone?
As I mentioned earlier, I only partly proved other travelers wrong. I got really lucky because it rained heavily before I arrived and the skies were crystal clear for most of my trip. However, after four days the smog came right back. For me, dealing with the pollution was the hardest part about traveling in Beijing. (After living in China for 10 months, I got quite used to the crowds, dirt, and the excessive stares and picture-taking of foreigners). I was advised that fall is the best time to visit for the best weather and air. Regardless, I believe that most experiences are ruined due to our false expectations of reality. If you travel just wanting to learn more about Chinese culture with an open mind, you will have a great time no matter how long you stay.