Trip Duration: Five days
Where I stayed… Beijing Marriott Northeast
Best thing I ate? Peking Duck! You cannot visit Beijing and not try some of their local speciality! We hit up LiQun Roast Duck (Qian MenDian) which can be found in one of the Hutongs that skirt the city centre. It was an easy walk but I would recommend plotting your route before stepping out without wifi.
Best hang out spot? Summer Palace is a short drive out of the city and it is a much needed oasis from the constant crazy vibe of Beijing city. It was constructed as an escape for royalty to relax and entertain. I can only imagine the lavish gatherings that would have been had here! There are several walks you can take through gardens and up to Buddhist temples. I loved the Tower of Buddhist Incense which stands 60 metres above the lake and has the most stunning views. There is an old Chinese belief that if you can climb the 100 stairs to the top you’ll be blessed with a hundred years of life. We lazed about on a quiet boat ride afterwards and wandered down to the old market buildings that still stand on the river front to browse through souvenirs and trinkets.
Best daytime activity? Trekking one of the worlds Seven Wonders – The Great Wall. The Great Wall of China is listed as one of UNESCOs World Heritage Sites. Its over 21,000 km long and was build over six dynasties, majority of the existing wall was constructed in the Ming Dynasty. The Great Wall stretches from Dandong in the East to Lop Lake in the West with a portion of it skimming the southern edge of Inner Mongolia
We visited a section of the wall called Badaling, which is the closest to Beijing city itself. This section of the wall can experience up to 70,000 visitors a day during peak season (busy!) It’s the most popular and is the most heavily restored section. You take a cable car up to the start of the Wall, from here you’ll souvenir stores and little drink stations, grab some water as its a long walk! Once you’ve finished taking it all in you can catch a toboggan back down to where you started. The outlook is absolutely breathtaking, we had a totally clear day with beautiful blue skies (which is unusual for Beijing) and could see The Wall stretching out for miles and miles. Pretty magic.
If you want to see The Wall in its more natural and historical state you can book a car and head to Jinshanling, this is about a 3 hour drive out of the city. I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re not too keen on some serious physical activity, there is a good 10km hike up and over some pretty precarious steps and crumbling pieces of wall.
Trip Highlight? Stepping back in time in the Forbidden City. It was hard to imagine that this was once the home of past emperors of China. The Forbidden City was the Chinese Imperial Palace from Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty, it holds so much history and tradition it was really an amazing place to spend half a day. Just like The Great Wall, the Forbidden City is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is well maintained. I loved the intricate details of the ceilings and bannisters that wrap around the courtyards, they are filled with so many deep reds, blues and greens. Carvings of dragons, monkeys and roosters reference back to Chinese lunar years and act as protectors for those born under their rule. It’s the perfect spot to stop, sit back and watch the world go by, imagining what these walls have seen.
Could not leave home without… I visited in a cooler month as the city was coming out of winter. I needed my Moncler down jacket, LV never full, Le Coc Sportif sneakers, Zara jeans with the perfect rip and some uniqlo heat tech under garments. The cold weather can really take it out of your lips so I always carry a tube of paw paw ointment for my lips and tinted sunscreen because even though its cloudy those UV rays still sneak through! And most importantly, my portable charging bank and my DSLR Camera.
Most inspiring aspect? The perfect alignment of old and new, Beijing is an overwhelming busy city. There is something happening on every corner of the city, every second of the day. Step sideways down a street and you’ll find yourself in traditional Chinese living quarters existing amongst the madness in one of the cities surviving Hutongs.
I wish I had… A better grasp of Mandarin! Not everyone speaks English in China and sometimes the language barrier can prove to be difficult. Arm yourself with some basic phrases before heading to Beijing, it will really help you with directions and just how to generally get about.
Favourite store or shopping trip? I loved stepping away from the bustling mega malls and heading through the old Hutong’s. Yandai Xiejie is located in central Beijing next to Houhai Lake, wandering down this hutong street you can find a mix of shops with choices of traditional silks, tea sets, clothing, artwork and shoes.
I’m a tea lover from way back and really enjoyed the traditional tea mixes and herbal remedies that I found on Tea Street, traditionally called Maliando. There was a plethora of hand painted ceramic tea pots and cups and various serving settings to choose from. Great for gifts or to keep for yourself!
Why? Perks of being married to a pilot! I tagged along on one of his business trips.