• Roxii Hoare-Smith

Why You Need to Visit Beijing

Updated: Dec 28, 2019

After our short stint in Shanghai we hopped back onto the bullet train to Beijing.

As soon as we reached Beijing I noticed three things straight away. Firstly, the weather. Shanghai was warm but despite the humidity I was able to walk around comfortably in shorts and a t-shirt and sometimes I even felt the need for a light jacket as it got cooler later in the day. But Beijing was HOT. We went from about 22 degrees in Shanghai to 35 degrees in Beijing. It was a huge shock, especially dragging along all of our luggage in that heat trying to find our hotel…

Photo taken at the Temple of Heaven.

Secondly it seemed a lot cheaper in Beijing, we probably paid about half the price for street and cafe food. We spent the same amount of money in 2 days in Shanghai as we did in 4 days in Beijing.

After loving Shanghai so much I didn’t think I could love Beijing the same but I was wrong and fell in love with the city just as much because…

The Food

It’s been a few months since I visited but I still have Peking Duck cravings. I had the best duck I’d ever tried in Beijing – it’s definitely a dish you have to try whilst in the city.

The Parks

We spent hours chilling in The Temple of Heaven Tiantan Park watching locals sing and dance. It was the perfect way to relax after A LOT of walking in Beijing’s scorching heat and get a taste of the local way of life. There’s usually a small fee (40p-£1) to enter the parks.

It’s Cheap

I love the fact that we didn’t really have to worry about money too much even on a tight budget as everything was so affordable. We visited great restaurants where between 4 of us it would come to £5-10 each for about 8-10 dishes to share and an alcoholic drink each.

The History

There’s so many stories to everything in Beijing and so much to see and learn. It was an incredible experience being able to visit sites such as Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and The Great Wall of China. We visited the Mutianyu section of the wall and were able to go up by cable car and then toboggan back down. Pretty cool story saying you have tobogganed down the Great Wall!

There’s Tea and Vending Machines Everywhere

We were pretty fascinated by the vending machines in China and picking drinks based on the photos on the outside of the magazine. Expect lots of tea based drinks. I’m a big tea fan so was very happy with the creamy green tea or jasmine tea drinks which came out. Oh and you won’t always get the drink you choose from a vending machine. So expect the unexpected with everything in China.

You’ll feel like a celebrity

In Beijing we had so many people wanting selfies with us, especially in Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. One time my friends all walked ahead and when they looked back wondering where I was they saw a group of girls crowding around me for photos. Then the girls wanted photos with all of us when they realised I was with friends! It was a bit disappointing coming back to London and not having the same reaction…

Visit Wangfujing Food Market

We hadn’t come across any lively food markets during our short time in Shanghai so it was amazing to find Wangfujing so close to our hotel. Any food you want you can get there.

How about deep fried Seahorse or Scorpion?

Or perhaps Tarantula is more to your taste?

We didn’t fancy any of the above so settled for deep fried ice cream, candy floss and watermelon juice instead…

There are cute dogs everywhere!

We saw so many tiny, fluffy dogs. On our first day we even saw a dog in little shoes!!

Look at this cutie we saw on the Great Wall of China…

Tips for Beijing

– Be cautious when getting a taxi. On our first night in Beijing we stayed a little out of the main city centre as we were travelling to Shanghai early the next day and wanted to be close to the station. Having been awake about 30 hours and feeling very jetlagged we got an Uber to Beijing South station to collect our tickets. It was obvious the area we were staying in wasn’t visited by tourists often as everyone just stared at us while we were waiting for our taxi. Everything was fine getting to the station and collecting our tickets until we wanted to get back to the hotel. No taxi driver would take us back, they’d shake their heads or jump in their cars and drive off if we came near them! When we eventually found wifi we couldn’t order an Uber because we couldn’t enter our destination because we didn’t know the hotel/road name in Chinese. We ended up paying a random man £10 to take us on a £1 taxi journey just so we weren’t stuck in the middle of no where all night!

– When we arrived at the airport we followed an American man who spoke fluent Mandarin to a taxi stall convinced that because he was fluent he knew what he was doing. We got a taxi from there to our hotel but later found out that our friends just flagged down a taxi at the airport taxi rank for 1/4 of the price!

– As I mentioned in my post on Shanghai, people will laugh and stare but it’s actually quite amusing! On our first day I was waiting alone in a fast food place with our luggage and two girls who worked there were laughing and talking about me across the restaurant on a microphone causing all the customers to stare at me to see what the fuss was about!

– Be prepared for squat toilets and always carry toilet paper as if you do find a Western toilet they don’t always have tissue.

– Depending on what time of year you go, carry a rain jacket/umbrella. During June at Forbidden City it was scorching hot (36 degrees). But suddenly there we got caught up in a torrential downpour and it was SO windy, we had to run for cover. Below shows the difference a few minutes can make.

– Don’t be afraid to bargain. I managed to get a phone case from £12 down to £4 at a market. Don’t feel rude, they expect it!

– If you order food and it comes with strange yellow sponge-looking stuff (as seen below) it is most likely Tofu and not sponge, like we thought it was. Oops.

– Probably an obvious one, but do not drink tap water.

– When you go on a Great Wall of China coach trip your guide will most likely ask for a tip, so be prepared. Also when you are exhausted and think you are finally on your way back to your hotel they will drop you off at a tea shop for a tea tasting and so you can buy tea related souvenirs. As a big tea fan I loved the whole experience and I spent about £25 on teas and a china cup. But thinking about it now it was a pretty stupid idea seeing as I’ve only had about 3 cups of that tea since then…

– One restaurant we went to had an option for ‘Old Meat’ on the menu. To this day we still don’t know what that meant. (I guessed Mutton but that was another option on the menu, so it couldn’t have been!)

– Security checks are normal, not just at popular sites but also at train stations so be prepared to have your belongings examined a lot.

– Clothes are expensive. I expected to come away with lots of clothes but even items on stalls were double what you’d pay in your usual high street stores in London. I came away with one outfit from a store called Ledin which we found in Beijing.

How to get there

We flew with Air China from Heathrow to Peking airport. When we booked for June 2016 flights were around £350 return but after a quick search on SkyScanner for summer 2017 flights seem to have gone up a lot. I’d heard lots of bad things about Air China but we *hardly* had any issues.

It was a comfortable flight, in London and Tokyo they put us in the emergency exit seats as Karl is 6ft 9 but they wouldn’t do this in Beijing unless we paid. The food was good, there was inflight entertainment (some people told me there wasn’t which scared me!) and there was free wine – what more could you want? We did get delayed for 11 hours on the way to Tokyo but that’s for another blog post…

Where to stay

We stayed at Days Inn Forbidden City which was really good value and located a short walk away from a Metro station and Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

China is absolutely beautiful and I’d highly recommend a visit. I have a valid visa until 2018 so I am dying to return before then and writing these posts has definitely tempted me. Read about why you should visit Shanghai here.

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