Beijing China has always been a dream. Not just because almost everything I've ever used during my life said “Made In China” on the back, but also because it has always sounded intriguing and different… and my expectations were more than fulfilled. Actually – I was totally blown away.
When I got the offer to go to China with Laurel, the first thought that went through my head was “Of course – Beijing!”. I mean, if you go to China and don't visit Beijing, have you ever been to China at all? The moment I landed in Beijing, I felt that this was about to do something very different. Something unlike the trips to other foreign countries I've been on before. This was about to be an adventure.
We got to the hotel at 12 pm, dropped our luggage and were out and about by the time it was 12:05 pm. The first thing that caught our attention was the APM mall that was 200 meters from our hotel. Every big city I've been to had malls and this one didn't look much different. We were on the hunt for some authentic food since we were starving, so we entered the mall.
Beijing China Shopping
Inside we found a restaurant called “Grandma's House” on the last floor. It's been quite some time since I flew out of Beijing and my heart is still breaking. I don't have the authentic Chinese rice I had at “Grandma's”. It lifted raised my “rice standards” so high, I rarely eat any rice at home since none of it is as well done as the one there. I forgot to mention that all food prices in Beijing are reasonable. We spent almost no money on food, although we ate a lot, all the time!
So, after we ate our rice and weren't food hungry anymore, both I and my friend felt pretty internet hungry. I connected to the local Wi-Fi (by the way, there was free Wi-Fi all around Beijing). I opened my browser and typed in “www.facebook.com”. A page popped up saying that Safari couldn't load the page. I guessed it was a bad Wi-Fi connection, so I locked my phone and put it on the table. To my surprise, when I looked at my friend, she was reading information about a local museum.
Beijing China Social Media Block
Long story short, it turned out to be the social media block in China. Some Wi-Fi routers are “hacked” and can get you to Facebook or Twitter but! Should a policeman, catch you using it, you may get your arm or leg cut off (The Truth. – these are types of sentences that the country of China gives you for something as small as using Facebook).
It was a total shock when I found out about that. To be honest, I was pretty upset. I'm not a social media addict but everybody loves a dose of virtual sociality. To my surprise, by the end of our 3 days in Beijing, I was happy about it. I got to experience everything we did there to the fullest since I wasn't on my phone texting. Whatsapp and Viber are also blocked in China) or scrolling through Twitter.
The Forbidden City
The next and last stop for the day, since we were getting very jetlagged, was the “Forbidden City Palace Museum”. It was near the mall we were in and we got to the Forbidden City in less than 5 minutes of walking but the line was crazy! I'd recommend booking tickets online in advance. We waited in line for 2 hours or even more. I had heard about the Forbidden City before but when went inside we could not believe the size.
We found out that it was the number 1 most visited museum globally which explained a lot. The museum was much bigger than I expected. It to be and had a countless number of rooms, gardens, and places to explore. – we spent 4 hours there and still didn't manage to see it even a fraction of it. Still, it was so amazing to be able to walk in the steps of emperors. To run your hand over a rock railing and wonder what royal hand has done the 1000s of years ago.
I found it interesting to see how the Emperor and his people used to live back in the day. It was definitely much different than the way we live now. For example, people were able to enter and exit the palace only with the Emperor's permission. And now you know where the name “Forbidden City” derived from.
Travel In Beijing China
The next morning, we got ourselves subway cards and managed to go to 3 different places before sunset. I don't know if I mentioned this, but Beijing's subway is very cheap and convenient. You can get to any part of the city in no time, for a small amount of cash. The first place we visited was the famous Tiananmen Square. It is the biggest public square in the whole world! It is pretty much across the street from the Forbidden City but were out of time the day before.
The moment I was in the middle of it and looked around, I realized that Beijing is rich in history and culture. Even now standing in a place where such a big number of people congregated in a protest is breathtaking. I still remember the breaking down of the system there and the famous photo of the solo man facing down a tank.
Great Wall of China
The next place we visited was the one and only Great Wall of China. It was amazing. We went to the Mutianyu section (only an hour and a half from the Beijing city center). The wall wasn't too crowded and actually was pretty quiet. We had a great time and the wall was fascinating. There were the right amount of stores for souvenirs and snacks. Not too many but enough. The wall itself was huge and my mind still can't assimilate how on Earth they managed to build it.
I have now been to other sections of the wall and this one was by far the best. The others are nearer the city and more popular with the locals.
Sanlitun Bar Street
After 2-3 hours of admiring the wall, the nature and the snacks in the shops, we went back to Beijing. We headed straight to our last stop for the day – Sanlitun Bar Street. As you can tell, we had had enough culture and history that day and it was time for a bit of fun. Sanlitun Street is famous for its diversity of bars. It had a modern flow but at the same time, an authentic Chinese vibe. We sat there and had a few drinks but since we were very tired, by the time it was 11, we were already on our way to the hotel. We planned to go back to that bar the next night but we were even more tired. So – we're sorry Sanlitun – we didn't pay you the respect we should have!
Day Three. 10 am. Less than 24 hours to our flight home. We were still tired from the day before, so we decided to visit Jingshan Park. It is a few meters away from the Forbidden City (and 7 minutes from our hotel). We climbed up all the way to the top, and it was worth it! We got a wonderful view of the entire Forbidden City complex. It was breathtaking and the only way to get a true value of the size of the city. The Jingshan Park experience was very calming and nice – a must-do in Beijing, for sure.
We decided we wanted to go to another park as well since the first one was relaxing. So our next stop was the Beihai Park. It was also quite nice – there were a lot of trails, artificial and natural lakes, islands and more. The biggest attraction was the locals, for sure.
They all gather up in groups, in different places and practice all kinds of activities. Everyone was playing traditional instruments, doing yoga and gymnastics and dancing and laughing. They were very friendly. I was at the Temple of Heaven Park and the Summer Palace on a later trip. People were doing the same things in both locations. People in China still spend time with each other and their neighbors.
Before we knew it, it was getting dark and we realized it was time for us to go back to the hotel and pack our things. The morning after we checked out, we got to the airport, boarded our plane and flew back home. I got no arms or legs cut off and I ate some kickass authentic Chinese food. We visited amazing museums, parks, and squares and met unique people.
We had the pleasure to get some ways to enjoy life more from a whole different culture. Of course, I was looking forward to landing in my home country, so I can check all my social media. But looking back, I miss Beijing a lot. I can say that I fell in love with China and I only spent 72 hours there. It was an amazing, educational and tasty adventure and I knew I was going back someday. I have now been there two more times and am still in love with China.
After looking over Beijing China must-visit locations, where to next?
Check out Beijing in 72 Hours