Beijing is arguably the jewel in China’s crown. It is home to some of the most iconic spots throughout history, and is an instagrammers paradise #omg #somanypictures #ThisIsHowOld
Before the 2008 Olympics, the people of Beijing were ordered to better their English and they made an attempt to clean up their city. We had no trouble finding people that spoke English, however, sanitation was still an issue. Smog still hangs thick in the air some days, and be prepared for the behavior of the Chinese. It was common for people to sneeze and cough without covering their mouth/nose (eww!), spit in the street, right next to you (double eww), or worst of all, I saw a parent allow their child to use the bathroom right in the street (?)
I had some ups and downs in this city, some my own fault, some not.
We checked in the Westin Beijing which was lovely and had a great breakfast, but I was immediately offended by the hotel restaurant serving Shark Fin Soup. This blogger is committed to opposing wildlife trafficking, and supports Fin Free (To be fair it is my understanding that it has since been removed and Starwood has also come against shark finning.)
It was brutally cold in Beijing. It was the middle of their winter, and while I brought all sweaters and a heavy coat, it was not enough. Every bit of exposed skin burned. The Great Wall was the coldest I’ve ever been in my life. Totally my fault. Should have worn more layers.
We didn’t care, and pressed on, determined to see everything.
Breakfast at the Westin, fresh dragonfruit every morning. ? I never really thought about it, maybe I just had the idea of American Chinese food in my head, but we had some great fruit and vegetables there. I chose to eat mostly vegetarian the entire trip, and was very satisfied the entire time.
We went to the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace (along with the Palace Museum). These were a collection of buildings and palaces that were home to the Chinese governments and dynasty for approximately 500 years, and is now a World Heritage Site. I had no idea until I visited, but apparently is considered the most visited art museum in the world with almost 15 million annually. It is beautifully restored, and I took a billion pictures. However, I will say, everything looks a bit like Walt Disney’s Epcot Center. Not a critiscm – just an observation ?
After, to warm up, we had lunch and then went to a traditional Chinese tea house. Tea is taken very seriously in China, and there is a set procedure and a ceremony. They had a terracotta baby, that “pees” when it is ready. Again- they take this very seriously. Makes a pretty fun souvenir to take home though. Our tea was lovely, and we headed out to Tiananmen Square.
Tiananmen Square was gorgeous, every more so as it turned to dusk, with a large military presence. The architecture was some how prettier here to me, maybe it just felt more authentic, more real and raw.
Later that evening we went to the Donghuamen Night Market- this is going to be a separate post all its own. It was totally crazy and weird.
The Day we were waiting for- THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA-
The Great Wall was begun in 220 BC although most of what we see today was built in the Ming dynasty in the 1400s. It is actually the only man made structure visible from space. It is also a World Heritage Site, and gets millions of visitors every year.
There are only certain sections of the Great Wall suitable for tourists, we went with a guide who drove us (me trying to figure out Chinese street signs?! Nope) and escorted us through (no lines for us, thanks). It was so much longer than I thought it would be. As far as the eye could see, through miles and mountains, stretched this wall that looked like a grown man could climb. It was beautiful and fascinating. And cold. It was legitimately the coldest I’ve ever been in my entire life. Everything was numb, every bit of exposed skin stung from the wind. That day it was -10 degrees with the wind chill. I was not properly dressed, totally on me. Fail. I found myself hurrying through the experience due to cold which is a shame since it was the freaking Great Wall of China. Do your research! We spent as much time as we could handle there and took lots of pictures, and it was still my favorite part of Beijing.
Later that day we went to the Beijing Zoo, which was very disappointing. It was the only panda I saw in China, but exhibits are small, concrete, and the animals sit in cages all day. It was depressing and sad.
Our last day, we wandered around the city, trying to see everything we missed and shop for souvenirs.
If you want souvenirs in Beijing the Silk Market is the place to go. You can get anything. I bought all kinds of souvenirs for my family, and had a custom dress made for me. Beware!!! The vendors can be somewhat aggressive, and always mark up their product so you SHOULD NEVER PAY FULL PRICE! I love to negotiate, so this place was right up my alley and I had a ball and did very well financially. ?
The Chinese money here had Chairman Mao on the 100s, so were fond of saying we were “All about the Benja-Mao’s” ???
We saw the Nest, from the 2008 Olympics, which was really cool. We walked around the pearl factory where we all bought some black pearl earrings for next to nothing. I am wearing them as I write this actually. We checked out of our hotel and headed to the airport to catch our flight to Xi’an.
Impressions: I loved the Great Wall, and would have loved it more if it wasn’t so damn cold. However, I did not love the city of Beijing. It was dirty, and the people really were not very friendly. It felt like everyone was trying to sell me something, and if they couldn’t, then they had no further use. China and Beijing in particular was difficult for me as an animal lover, they just have a different view of things like that than I do.