How excited was I to go to Beijing. Finally see that Great wall and have another check mark on my bucket list. I flew from Chongqing to Beijing and it was easy to get a train shuttle to the city center （Dongzhimen东直门）for only 25rmb. Then a taxi to my hotel which was conveniently located next to the west entrance of the Temple of Heaven. Taxis start from 13 rmb, but the best way to get around is the metro. There are so many lines and all touristy places have stops.
The hotel had lovely food, English speaking staff and provided tours to the wall and some evening shows such as Kung fu(Legend. Worth your while!), acrobatics and opera. I filled my 6 days by visiting the following popular places:
The Summer Palace (頤和園)is a beautiful place where you can walk around for a whole day if you wanted. Ironically this place is the most beautiful in winter. You can see kids on the ice skidding around. It is that lovely that it has earned a spot on the UNESCO world heritage list. The Pavilion of precious clouds –seriously who comes up with those names?- is just breathtaking.
A ticket to Tianmen square and palace has to be bought at least a day in advance.(40 rmb) The website is only in Chinese, so you would need some help from the hotel reception. An Alipay or Paypal account makes things easier as well. Mind that the metro station Tiananmen east 天安门东 is very crowded. The security around Tianmen is extremely strict, so don’t think you can just go there for a stroll.
Cockroaches or scorpions for lunch anybody? On Wangfujing 王府井 food street you can get it all!. Exit the metro and head into the main shopping street. In a little side alley you can find smoking soft drinks, squid on a stick and other unidentified kinds of food . Just follow the smell, you’ll get there.
What a wonderful idea to give holidays to billions of people at the same time…. During spring festival there are many parks that host fairs, where you can see dancing, kung fu, shoot hoops, buy lots of food or just walk around. Although walking might not be the best word to describe your movement with these crowds.
In 2008 Beijing hosted the Olympic games. The stadium, called the bird’s nest is a complex construction, beautifully lit at night. Next to it is the Watercube, where the swimming competitions were held. Nice place to go when you’re into sports. Go just before dark, so you can see it in light and in the dark. During summer you can do tours inside the stadium. In winter they turn it into a snow playground for kids. Metro stop Olympic sports center 奥体中心
The hutongs are a must see, well, one is enough, but still you have got to go. They are old small streets with lots of fun shops, coffee houses, bars and the occasional ho(s)tel. Many of them are changed into places especially for tourists, but you can still imagine how they lived and still live there. Don’t be scared to wander off into some side alleys, they are less crowded and give a more authentic feel. I bought postcards there, which I wrote and they mailed it for me. The most well-known hutong is Nanluoguxiang 南锣鼓巷
Lama temple , Yonghegong 雍和宫 is beautiful if it is your first temple ever. But if you have seen many more already it is just another one that looks the same. You get a little box of incense for the 20 yuan you pay at the entrance.
These places are all nice, but far out the most magical thing I’ve seen in Beijing is the great wall. It was a lifelong dream to see it and it definitely didn’t disappoint me. Wear good shoes, because even though they have restored quite a large part of the wall, it still is uneven and lots of stairs up and down. Also go early in the morning, they open at 10. You have a chance of getting a picture without other people in the background which is the coolest of course. I went to Mutianyu 慕田峪, where most western people go. Badaling 八达岭 is more popular for the Chinese, because Mao has been there and has said that every Chinese should climb that wall at least once in a lifetime. There are more parts, one famous for hiking, one for the waterbodies, etc. You can also have an overnight on the wall with a barbecue and sleep in a tent. Sounded really awesome to me, but hey, it was -4 at night, so no thank you. I must have taken about 8000 pictures. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but really, I took many. One even prettier than the next.