I was one week in Beijing and had many things on my To-do-list. The biggest thing was definitely the Great Wall of China, one of the 7 Wonders of the World. I always wanted to go there once in lifetime, but I didn’t thought that it would be so soon. Anyway, I finally went there and it was great! About 21 million people live in the capital of China and I expected a crowded, noisy and dirty city, covered by a blanket of smog. But it was different from what I expected. It was quite clean, not that crowded and next to every avenue are green areas and roses planted. The average temperature in May amounts 26 degrees and because of the dry air, it was very pleasant compared to the southeast-asian countries where the humid air makes you sweat like hell by 26 degrees. We stayed in a friend’s apartment in Dongcheng District, the heart of the city. We went most of the time by cab, because it’s very cheap, when you’re with more persons. Only a very few Chinese people speak English, so you have to be able to tell in Chinese where you want to go or let the receptionist write it in Chinese script. The subway network is also splendidly constructed and easy to use since the Olympic Games where hold in Beijing in 2008. Enough introduction – here are 8 things we did in Beijing or rather 8 things to do in Beijing. Enjoy!
1. THE TIAN’ANMEN SQUARE & THE FORBIDDEN CITY
Beijing is built around the Tian’anmen Square, so it is the center of the center and one of the largest squares worldwide. About 1 million people have space there and it’s sad to say famous for the terrible massacre which took place in 1989 and where thousands of unarmed civilians and students were killed by the military because of a demonstration. Next to that square is the entrance to the Forbidden City, where a portrait of Mao Zedong is watching you like Big Brother. Thousands of people are visiting the Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum every day. The 720 000 square meter big area was forbidden to enter until 1912 except for the Chinese emperors from the Qing and Ming dynasty and their households, who lived there in 9,999 rooms. I loved the traditional Chinese palatial architecture and the tiny green gardens in between.
2. THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN
We visited the Temple of Heaven which is surrounded by a huge public park where local residents practicing tai chi, dancing or playing cards. The emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasty prayed there every year for a good crop. In the park, which is larger than the Forbidden City, are also the Echo Wall, the Circular Mound Altar and other attractions to see.
3. THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
The Great Wall of China is the biggest building in the world concerning the volume and the mass and for sure one of the most impressive things I saw in life. For me, it’s on the same level like Machu Picchu, the Cristo Redentor or the salt desert in Bolivia. The Wall is for visitors divided into several sections. We went to the Mutianyu section, which is hugged by mountains with beautiful natural sceneries and a forest coverage rate of 96%. Going up by cable car we walked 2 km along the Great Wall, up and down at a temperature of 32 degrees. Thanks to the many watchtowers, we had some shady breaks between the hike.
4. HUTONGS , BEIJING ROAST DUCK & HOT POT
Once you’re visiting Beijing you have to go to one of those authentic, narrow alleys, called Hutongs. There, you really feel like you’re in Chinatown and you gain an insight how the historical Beijing was back in the days. When you explore the winding alleys all around the Forbidden City, passing merchants, souvenir shops and dozens of restaurants, you have to try the one and only Beijing Roast Duck. You eat the crispy skin wrapped with cucumber and pickled radish in thin pancaked and dip it in hoisin sauce. So good! Another typical dish is the Hot Pot, a Chinese broth fondue, where you can cook thin meat, fish, plenty sorts of veggies, noodles and other stuff. You can eat it like a soup with garlic oil, peanut sauce and herbs. A must eat when you’re in Beijing!
5. WANGFUJING SNACK STREET
From those delicacies to other questionable delicacies: Wangfuijing snack street is packed with street food stalls, where they sell a wide variety of “normal” and exotic snacks, such as deep fried starfish, scorpions or grilled snakes. If you dare, you can have an exotic menu, trying all these crazy things. I just tried some snake and bugs, but the other stuff was too tough for me.
Sanlitun is a modern area in Beijing where the Taikoo Li shopping mall is located as well as popular bars, restaurants and international stores such as American Apparel, Apple and the largest Adidas store in the world. It is the center of Beijings nightlife and hip and young people are strolling through the streets and malls. Saturday night, we went to the Swing Bar there where a live band covered popular songs, chosen by the crowd. It was very funny, although or because there were drunk Germans at the table next to us.
7. SILK MARKET & HONGQIAO PEARL MARKET
For all those shopaholics among yourselves, the Silk Market should be paradise on earth. On 5 floors you’ll find everything you need, from shoes over jewelry to clothes and high-quality (fake) designer bags made in China. Each floor is divided into several boutiques and shops and most of the merchants speak English, because the Silk Market is a popular tourist spot. As its name implies, you also find silk there in the form of kimonos, tablecloths or underwear. Another popular market is the HongQiao Pearl Market, near the Temple of Heaven. At both spots: don’t forget to haggle!
From Beijing with love,