Tips on visiting China from an inexperienced China traveler:
- Speak Chinese
- Better yet, be Chinese
- Hire a driver
- Never try to hail a cab
- Pray when crossing the street
- Be a brave eater
- Wear a blindfold when riding in a car
- Beer is probably safer then water, you should drink this instead
- Be careful of people spitting and/or “relieving” themselves in public places
- Patience is a nonexistent concept, except it and move on
Lets real talk for just a second. I never thought that I would have a chance to tour around Asia like I have, nor did the idea of living in east Asia ever seem at all likely for me. However, here I am living in Japan. THANKFULLY. Truth be told I’m so grateful to be in Japan. China was one helluva an experience and I’m glad I went, but it’s one of those “I came, I saw, I conquered” type situations and basically kissed the ground in Japan when we returned….ok maybe it wasn’t that extreme, but close.
Despite my happiness to be back in Japan, I actually quite enjoyed Beijing. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had heard from those who have traveled to China in the past to be prepared for spitting, defecating, rudeness, poor air quality, heavy traffic, and just plain dirty streets and places. Some of this turned out to true, while others not as bad as I thought. For example, spitting and defecating. The spitting happened but not in abundance and the defecating, I only managed to catch one kid at the Summer Palace just using a patch of grass as a toilet. Not so bad right? ;op
We had planned this trip to Beijing with some friends, Jaime and Kaz, awhile back and were pretty excited to see what China was all about. After arriving late in the evening, on an airline that had flight attendants who looked like Aladdin (just saying!), a driver snafu, and a poorly ventilated cab ride later, we made it to our hotel in Wangfujing to rest up and prepare for the adventure.
Referencing my tips above, I was skeptical about the air quality thing when visiting China. However, I highly recommend checking it before going and be prepared. It was pretty poor two of the three days we were there. Like I might have sacrificed a lung to China, poor. Despite the bad AQI and dreary weather we managed to make it out to the Forbidden City and check out a brewery the first day. But before we get to that, we were welcomed to China with a few delicacies aka food on a stick, at an outdoor market:
Next up the Forbidden City. This place is absolutely huge! I mean Beijing itself is a giant city, but this basically takes up the majority of the city center and goes for at least a mile (if not more). The buildings were stunning and I was more then impressed with how well it has been maintained. Here are a few snaps.
After a beer flight (or two) at a local brewery we were ready for day two! By the way for those that read this blog for travel advice or recommendations, I highly recommend Great Leap Brewing. I have to admit it was really nice to have a solid craft beer in Beijing!
Day two on our tour of Beijing began at the Temple of Heaven. This place is a religious complex from the Ming Dynasty and is pretty impressive. It is also known for senior jazzercise and tai chi classes. Which due to rain I didn’t get to see much of. However, China being super advanced with making old things look new had a giant HD TV on the side of the building that showed people working out…so kind of the same thing. It also really added to the authenticity of this place 😉 Any who here a few pics of the Temple of Heaven.
After getting in touch with Heaven a bit, we mosied our way out to some of the famous Hou Hai neighborhood district where some lakes and a drum tower are. At this point in the day it stared to rain pretty heavily, but we were able to get the gist of this area. Seemed like it would be a cool spot to hang in the summer time.
We also managed to find ourselves at Mr. Shi’s Dumplings. If you are looking for a place a little off the beaten path that has amazing Chinese food, Mr. Shi’s is your spot!
After a day of walking around the city in the cold and rain as well as attempting to hail a cab, unsuccessfully (please see tip #4 and avoid at all costs) we all decided that it would be a fantastic idea to partake in a little Chinese reflexology and treat ourselves to some foot massages. And was it worth it? The answer is hells yes!
Our last full day in Beijing was saved for the best, The Great Wall of China. The primary reason I agreed to go to China in the first places was to see this wall. I had to see what a real live world wonder looked like. Also, I mean it kind of makes Mulan come to life for me (I’m serious…). So we had an early morning start and made our way to the Mutianyu portion of the Great Wall. Man oh man was it worth the wait! Despite the fact that the Wall has become a bit commercialized it was still a pretty spectacular sight to see. We managed to hike around for about a mile or so, and basically killed ourselves hiking to the top of a particularly steep section of the wall, but the view was well worth it. The interesting thing about the Great Wall is that much of it is restored, however, there are places throughout that you can visit the “wild wall”, which is basically unrestored bits. I was not that adventurous and just happy to be on it. Here are a few snaps:
On our way back from the Wall we made a stop at the Summer Palace. Up until this point the touristy places we had visited in Beijing were pretty tolerable in terms of crowds and most people were respectful. This was not the case at a the Summer Palace – remember the kid pooping on grass- yeah that was here. This was straight up real China and the crowds were pretty unbearable. We only managed to stay a couple of hours and didn’t even bother going into a few of the various areas of the palace, but we were able to see most of what it had to offer before giving it the “peace sign” and getting the frick out of there. Despite that, the pictures really didn’t do this place justice. It was pretty darn immaculate! I’d sure as heck use it as my summer home.
After a full day of adventuring around, we made our last and final stop to Tiananmen Square, the center of China. You know the “all roads lead to Rome” type thing, except in China’s case it’s Tiananmen Square. By this point in the day I was pretty much over it, however the center of China is a cool spot. John even managed to get a pic of the military. Although, I’m not entirely sure it was ok to do so…any who check, check , check it out!
Last but certainly not least we ended our trip with a delicious Peking duck dinner and man oh man was it fantastic. Also, didn’t know that the right way to eat Peking duck is in a tortilla with veggies and duck sauce #themoreyouknow.
Oh and finally, in case you guys haven’t noticed John has been traveling with his U of M hat to every place we’ve been, but unfortunately due to a rush to the airport before this trip it was left at home. However, I managed to get a snap of him in his alumni t-shirt at the Beijing airport. It at least counts, right? GO BLUE!
Thanks for making it through this ridiculously long post!
Until next time! Ja mata じゃまた！