Whenever I hear the word, Beijing, two things come into my mind, the Great Wall of China and the Peking duck. Beijing may be synonymous to plenty of words, but architecture and food come first for me.
Beijing is the capital of the People’s Republic of China, a country with a very aggressive economy, and a super power in the making. China has a very rich history and culture, starting from its era of dynasties, to its era of communism under the leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong. The legacy of each emperor/leader can be seen until today through many things.
Beijing, China in a glimpse of 2 nights and 2 days. (02.24-25.19)
I arrived in Beijing around midnight as part of the crew operating for MNL-PEK-MNL. Our hotel is located right in the downtown of Beijing, accessible through metered taxi cabs, local MRT, Didi (local version of Uber in China). We were in the last week of February, and the season is still winter (although the snow was starting to melt). Since our crew were mostly first timers, we were planning to get around the city, and visit the famous landmarks. One of our seniors shared with us their local contact, who can speak good English, and who can take us around the Great Wall. It was in the wee hours when I tried my luck and called Mr. Qian, and to my surprise, he answered. He said that he will be picking us up from our hotel.
It was 8am, and Mr. Qian was waiting for us at the lobby of our hotel. I was joined by my 2 colleagues, and another 3 from the crew operating KLO-PEK-KLO-CEB, and together we took the van bound for Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China. The trip was about an hour and a half from the city, and the temperature dropped at 1 degrees C. There are actually other sections of the Great Wall that is open for tourists, but this one is less crowded and most areas of the Great Wall are still intact and tourist friendly.
As we arrived at the Mutianyu entrance, we have to pay for our entrance fees and transfer fees (shuttle, chairlift and toboggan). From the main entrance, we have to walk a little bit more, passing by some restaurants and souvenir shops, before we can take the chairlift that we will bring us to Tower 6.
We had an ample time going around the Great Wall before we decided to have lunch and buy some souvenirs. For lunch, we had roasted duck (super crispy), dimsum, yang chao rice. The meal was quite expensive, although this is expected as the restaurant is located in a tourist area.
Before finally calling it a day, we stopped at the nearby Frozen Lake. It’s starting to defrost as the climate rises. We were not asked to pay for an entrance fee (although the ones before us were charged)
Since it was a 2 day layover in Beijing, we had another day to spend around the city. We started our day after brunch, to recover from yesterday’s trip to the Great Wall. We visited the Tiananmen Square, Forbidden Palace, and the Wangfujing Street. We had everything DIY. From the hotel, we walked about 15mins to the train station. From there, we took a train ride, and alighted at Tiananmen Square. Forbidden Palace and Tiananmen Square are just next to each other. The train ride was pretty easy to understand as long as you know where to go (there are English translations.) Going to Tiananmen Square on a weekend can be a little crowded, as you may have to line up to get in. When we were there, they never asked for IDs or passports, but a few months later, I heard from some crew that police are starting to do some random check, so it’s always best to bring your passport whenever going out (be sure that you won’t lose it). If you’re planning to really get inside the Forbidden Palace, it’s best to go there in the morning, so you can maximize your visit, and entrance comes with a fee. I was really looking forward to our stroll along Wangfujing, but to my dismay, most stalls are closed due to renovation. Wangfujing is known for its street food and the exotic food that it offers. I have no plans to eat it, but I just want to see it.
Mausoleum of Chairman Mao
I personally think that most Chinese are misunderstood. If you can only visit the mainland, and you’ll probably understand. I have several encounters with them, and based from experience, they’re really nice. They may not be fluent in English, but trust me they try their best to help you out.
- Before going to China, make sure that you have a VPN (at least 3, just in case that it fails to work or it has been blocked) to have an access to the outside world. All those apps that we use are forbidden and blocked in China, and they have their own.
- Download Mandarin from the Google Translate. It works offline too. This will help you to break the language barrier.
- China has a reputation of producing fake items, and that includes food. When in doubt, order from your hotel. (Although, I have eaten in decent restaurants, and food is yummy)
- Don’t touch anything if you don’t intend to buy the item. The old ladies will shout at you and probably curse you.
- Always haggle with the lowest price possible that you can imagine. Stick with your price until they give in. If they don’t agree, walk out, and they will run after you and give you your price.
- It’s best to have your money exchanged at your hotel to avoid being scammed
- Be careful when paying. Make sure that it’s the money that you handed. Some might trick you and tell you that it’s fake. (when in fact they have already exchanged it with another paper bill)
If you need a driver/guide around Beijing, you may contact Mr. Qian.