We flew into Beijing from Shanghai and although you can take a high speed bullet train from Shanghai and reach Beijing in about 5 hours it was just as cheap to fly and faster.
We had a little trouble finding out which street our B&B was on (we knew the street name but some streets don’t have any signs) and we knew it was close to the subway station but still had a hard time finding the right hutong (alley). We stopped some foreigners on the street who had a phone with data and they confirmed we were on the right track (I love this about traveling – people helping people). We liked our B&B right away (they had the cutest little poodle name Ami who loved to attack my slippers) and you couldn’t beat the location. The B&B was right in the heart of many quaint hutongs lined with restaurants, bars, and artsy shops.
We booked a tour from Angela at our B&B to visit the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall – it’s less touristy then some of the other great wall sections. We were going to go by public bus but this part of the Great Wall is far and it’s complicated to get there by local transport, and with us not speaking the language it would be difficult to even ask for help. So the tour, which is basically just transportation and lunch, seemed like our best option because this section of the wall is about 3 hours out of Beijing. Angela arranged to have breakfast ready for us to take on the bus. As she was walking us to the end of the Hutong to catch the bus, (at this point we both thought we weren’t going to have breakfast) she grabs a bag from the basket of a parked motorbike and hands it to us – it was our hot breakfast. In most circumstances this would seem really strange but after spending so much time in SE Asia we didn’t think anything of it and our breakfast was amazing. It was like a cross between an omelette and a crepe all folded up and on the inside was something like a crunchy tortilla although I think it was crispy wonton. The inside had a spicy sauce and green onions. I really loved the texture of it and the flavor was fantastic. I need to have another of these!
I can’t begin to describe in enough detail the day we had on the Great Wall – it was incredibly amazing and we were completely awestruck the entire time. We arrived at the Jinshanling section of the wall at around 9AM and the plan was to walk from Jinshanling towards Simatai to the East Tower. Since we are so curious and love to explore, we headed the opposite direction (we broke the rules) first for about an hour and walked to the Dark Tower. Then we turned around and headed to the East Tower to meet up with our group. This section of the wall is pretty quiet with a lot less tourists than other sections so we found that to be a great bonus.
It was tough climbing in some spots, the wall was very steep but the views were outstanding – the photos really don’t do it justice.
There were so many towers to explore along the way. We loved how we saw part of the wall that had been restored and also saw part of the wall that had been left in its original state.
Gordon’s showing me the way.
Around 3 hours later we arrived at the East Tower and climbed down the mountain to the parking lot to meet up with our group. We then went for a traditional Chinese food lunch and I have to say that every single dish was delicious and it’s not like the Chinese food we eat back home (the traditional food is much better).
Our second day in Beijing we visited the Forbidden City. We took the subway there and followed the signs pointing us to the ‘Forbidden City’. Honestly we thought we were in the wrong place for a while because the signs all said we were at the Palace Museum (even though we followed the street signs that indicated Forbidden City). We walked around wondering where the heck we actually were only to find out from someone that yes we were in fact at the Forbidden City (it would be nice if the signs indicated that because we wasted a bunch of time second guessing ourselves).
The Forbidden City (Palace Museum) is a UNESCO World Heritage site but I have to say we found all the buildings to be really similar so it got a bit repetitive for us, and it was really, really, really crowded. You had to fight through a mob of people to see the Emperors throne.
The treasure gallery here was most impressive and it was a highlight for us. These treasures were amazing, I loved the Emperor’s crown. The jade carvings were huge and they were carved in such great detail.
I found this piece really interesting, it’s an ancient celestial globe used to measure the movement of heavenly bodies.
I loved this flower arrangement, the flower petals were made out of pearls.
After spending a few hours at the Forbidden City we visited Tiananmen Square and walked around the perimeter. By this time my feet were killing me, so we headed to a subway station only to find out that it was closed. We ended up walking quite a distance to the next station to catch the train back to our B&B (I’m really making up for lost walking time when I broke my ankle).
The next day we were a bit torn on what to do because we only had a certain amount of time in Beijing and it became obvious to us that we would have to give up one of the sites that we were hoping to see. After doing some research we gave up seeing the Ming Tombs, it’s a couple of hours out of Beijing and would have involved some local bus travel which is much more difficult than the subway (nothing is in english for the bus routes or the bus stops). We decided to visit the Summer Palace, another UNESCO World Heritage site and unfortunately we had to do it in the rain but we had umbrellas and made the best of it. We really liked the Summer Palace, it was alongside a lake and it had a beautiful park setting, it would be a great place to spend the entire day when the sun is shining.
We loved this old jewellery box on display at the summer palace and this vase was gorgeous.
On our last day in Beijing we made a morning visit to the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage site and we really liked our time there. The site is basically a huge park with different gardens and pavilions. So far we have found that they really know how to design a park over here, they are all beautifully treed with long wide walkways and little sitting areas where people can sort of get away from it all. Again we are stunned at how clean the city is, we see workers constantly sweeping and picking up the tiniest pieces of garbage including cigarette butts and they are big into recycling here.
The rest of day we spent walking around the Hutongs (alley’s) in the area of our B&B. Close to us was a large lake with a pedestrian street all around it, so we took some time and took in the sights.
We stopped at the drum tower and lucky for us we arrived just in time to catch a drum performance – that was really cool to see. Across from the drum tower was the bell tower so we visited that too.
We took a stroll down Yandaixie Hutong which is the oldest commercial street in Beijing. It’s lined with shops and street food snacks.
By early evening it was time for us to head to the train station to catch our overnight train to Xian. Angela from our B&B was so helpful, she put our luggage on a motorbike and drove it to the subway for us and Ami came along for a ride too.
The sights we saw in Beijing were amazing and the city itself offered us so many great surprises. We sure enjoyed our time here and could have easily spent a couple more days.
Where we stayed: Maoer 28 Courtyard Hutong
Written by: Tammy Hermann…Live~Love~Travel