I while back when I wrote about San Francisco I told you that this was our last and final stop on our seven weeks trip around the world. I now thought it was about time to start on the beginning, from when Johanne and I left sunny London and entered a city filled with history and excitement; Beijing.
After planning out trip for a year I could not believe we were on a plane and on our way to Beijing. Ten hours went by so quickly and I was more than ready to spend six days in this forbidden city. It was very easy to travel from the airport and into the city; there was a train then took us to central and from there we took the underground to get to our hotel. We quickly came to find that Chinese people do not speak English but after the Olympics in 2008 the underground had signs in both Chinese and English. I have expressed my enthusiasm about guide books before and I will do it again; they are amazing and they come with an underground map and we then quickly understood how it worked and we then managed to take it around Beijing.
Our hotel was the Forbidden City Hostel which was only two streets down from the main street Wangfujing Dajie and about a ten minute walk from the famous Forbidden City. I could not have dreamed of living in a hostel in a better location and it really wasn’t a bad hostel. Wangfujing Dajie had everything, even a Starbucks where we started our day almost every morning. It was also a very modern shopping street where you could find a huge shopping mall with clothing stores and several western restaurants. It was even a McDonald’s there and it saved us from starvation on our first day.
Beijing is very cheap. The underground cost only ¥2 for one trip, which is about 20 pence, and food and water was very cheap too. I really wish that I had tried more Chinese food when we were there but a couple of the times we did try some it did not look or taste very good. None of us are big fans of slimy food in some kind of sauce. But the Peking Duck is a must when actually visiting Peking and that was absolutely quite good. We don’t know if we ate it right though because the waitresses kept looking weird at us, but we really did not care.
Six days in this city was not nearly enough time to see everything that it has to offer, but we did actually see quite a lot. The Forbidden City is a must see attraction when visiting Beijing. The temples and the history is truly amazing and it is also one of the most popular attractions in this city. We also visited the Lama Temple, Tiananmen Square, the Jing Shan Park where the view over the Forbidden City is spectacular, the Silk Market, The Olympic Stadium, Beijing Zoo and the Aquarium. The Zoo was actually not worth visiting. It was very cheap but it did not look like a zoo but more like a big garden where the animals were hiding. We didn’t see many animals and the distance between them was endless and it looked like the zoo in general was in a poor condition. The aquarium is right next to the zoo and we had a much better experience there. We even got to see a sea lion show and even though it was in Mandarin we enjoyed every minute of it.
The Silk Market was another interesting experience. This was also one of the few places where we found Chinese people who spoke English. This place is all about haggling and Johanne sure was the master there. It was actually exhausting to be there as everyone tried to pull us into their little booths and they really did not take no for an answer. We ended up leaving exhausted but with a couple of shopping bags. I bought a silk scarf that I absolutely love so it is really worth visiting this market as it is an experience you’ll never forget.
Like I said, there is a lot to see in Beijing but sometimes, or almost all the time, it seemed like Johanne and I were the biggest attractions there. We were constantly looked at and people were taking pictures of us all the time and it actually became really annoying. You would think that Chinese people had seen Europeans before, especially after the Olympics, but I really did feel like a misplaced alien.
The Olympic Stadium is absolutely worth a visit. It is like a little city inside the big city and it was very exciting to be there. Of course some people were more interested in us than the actual stadium but we had almost gotten used to that by this time as we visited the stadium on our last day.
All in all, Beijing is an amazing city. It has so much to offer and it is the perfect travel destination for friends, couples and families. I recommend trying to learn some Mandarin before leaving and if you’re taking a taxi in Beijing than make sure the hotel writes down your destination in Chinese for you to show the driver. Their English really is bad. But Johanne and I laughed a lot and had a great start on our adventure. I would love to go back someday and experience even more of this spectacular culture.