Jamie and I landed in Beijing at 4:50pm on Tuesday. Sounds fine, but considering the fact that this is also 1:50am in the city that we departed from (Vancouver), we were a bit tired upon arrival. Exhaustion aside, our enthusiasm for landing in China managed to hold open our eyelids until about 9:00pm Beijing time (6:00am Vancouver time). We have been in Beijing for less than 48 hours, but I can confidently say that we have made the most of our time, and have begun to get a decent feel for what this city is all about.
As Jamie has previously mentioned, 99% of people that we have run in to thus far have been exceptionally friendly. After taking the subway into town from the airport, exiting on the street and finding ourselves completely disoriented, we decided to look for the nearest hotel and ask for directions to our hostel (reason being, I assume that somewhere such as The Hilton will require employees to speak at least moderate English). My experience with this technique for acquiring help has worked variably in the past. However, the concierge that we ran into in Beijing (who was about our age, maybe a year or two younger) went so far as to print off directions, grab one of our bags, and walk us half way to the hostel. As we said goodbye, he joked “perhaps next time, it may be easier if you stay out our hotel.” Good guy. If I’m in Beijing again, and under different financial circumstances, I’ll take him up on that!
One thing that I was told would happen, but didn’t necessarily believe, was the warm curiosity toward our obviously different appearance. People from all walks of life are quick to smile and say, “hello” and are truly thrilled when you say “hello” back. Jamie also seems to be something of a sensation thus far. People have, in various subtle ways, tried to scuttle close towards us to get a picture of themselves with us in the frame, but a number of people have gone so far as to tapping Jamie on the shoulder and politely asking if they can have their picture taken with her. On a couple of occasions I have been the one holding the camera, but more often than not they immediately ask to have their picture taken with me after they have had one with Jamie. This curiosity is endearing, and we have gotten quite a kick out of it! It has happened more so at tourist destinations than merely walking along the street, so I have an inkling that those who are most wanting pictures with the two of us are Chinese tourists.
Things are definitely cheap in Beijing, especially if you hold out for a good deal. The price of beer can range from 15 – 20 CNY, which equates to about $2.50 – $3.40 Canadian Dollars. Keep in mind, this is the price of a much larger bottle of beer than we are served back in North America… at least twice the size. The price of food varies, but you can easily find a good meal for 10 – 20 CNY. Jamie and I actually just returned from a particular restaurant where we each had a bowl of beef noodle soup for 20 CNY, and shared a plate of dumplings for 18 CNY (this is about $3.00 Canadian, and we got a plate stacked with about 12 dumplings). Ask to see a menu ahead of time if prices aren’t posted. From what we have come across, most restaurants fall into the price range outlined above. Entrances to most of the tour attractions are around 20 – 30 CNY.
The subway is SUPER cheap: 2 CNY (about $0.33 Canadian) will take you anywhere on the network (one way). The subway in Beijing is fast, modern, and clean. However, travelling from city to city can be a bit more expensive. Our train from Beijing to Shanghai is about 550 CNY (around $93.00 Canadian), but this is because we are taking the bullet train. It will be the most expensive train that we take, and was not the one we had originally planned on snagging. The overnight trains, which are considerably less expensive, were all sold out.
First and foremost, Beijing is an excellent base for planning a trip to see the Great Wall. Jamie and I booked a trip to visit the Mutianyu portion of the wall through our hostel, which included breakfast, lunch, an English tour guide, and entrance to the wall. All in all, the price was around 280 CNY (about $47.00 Canadian). The Wall is everything that you could have ever dreamed of. Truly incredible, and a must visit if you are in China. The views are incredible, hiking the wall is an adventure in itself, and… IT’S THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA. I shouldn’t need to say more than that to convince you to visit! We will be writing a separate piece on the wall shortly, so I will go in to more detail at that time.
Tiananmen Square is also quite a site to behold. Located directly in front of the Palace Museum (or the Forbidden City), lies the absolutely enormous, instantly recognizable piece of land. Entrance is free, which is a nice bonus! Also worth mentioning are the Hutongs, just north of the Forbidden City. Littered with cool little restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops, this is one of the oldest areas of Beijing and has been transformed in to easily the hippest part of town. Almost every bar that you pass by will advertise delicious and cheap mojitos. The drum tower, a famous structure in Beijing is also nearby if you feel like climbing to the top (about 20 CNY). I should also mention the Temple of Heaven park, which is quite pretty and rich in traditional Chinese history, as well as the Wanfujing Night Market which offers up some of the strangest looking food you may ever see.
Beijing is a HUGE city, and can be overwhelming. However, it is definitely worth a visit, there is a ton to do and see!Her Take