I went to Beijing for 3 days with my friend Tafie as I felt I had to see the city before I left China. Flights were quite expensive so we took a train from Shanghai. It was an overnight train and took over 10 hours to get to Beijing, but it was a comfortable journey because we booked a sleeper train and it was leaving at night so it didn’t mess with our sleeping pattern. Even though we booked tickets together the seats were issued in different compartments which was rather strange as many had an issue with the way their families and friends were divided up. Fortunately, we managed to arrange it so we got in a room in the end. It was comfortable even though it was strange sleeping in such a tight spot with others and many people brought lots of bags so exiting for the bathroom was a night mare. it was also very warm.
Then we went over to our hostel Leo Courtyard Hostel. The place was abit run down and shabby and abit damp but considering how wet it was it was understandable. We had an average private two bedroom. It was a close distance to Tianmen Square and easy to walk to the Forbidden City and other destinations. It was down a street with many late night eats and shops and had a lot of character. On our first day we decided to see the Forbidden City. We were told you could spend a whole day exploring the area but in all honesty, one hour was enough.
It was so hectic with hundred of different Chinese tourists gathering around the walls. We were told that many Chinese people never get to see their capital city, and treasure the opportunity to do so. Once in a lifetime, the government offers the chinese people a chance to go to the city for free via tours to see it. Many of these groups are these types of tours.
I respected how beautiful it was and the history behind it but I think I went there to say I had been there. It was very busy and not relaxing, so we looked around before parting for some fresh pineapple from a stall outside (we became addicted to purchasing stall fresh fruit throughout our trip). It was so hot and walking tired us out quite abit.
During the evening we went to the Famous Night Food Market where we snacked on array of foods. There were an array of Chinese and korean treats as well as some creepy ones such as Dog, Insects and Starfish.
On the next morning we went on a trip to the Great Wall booked through our hostel. I admit, I have never been fascinated with the wall, preferring to invest my time food, drink and seeing local districts but my friend wanted to go and I felt I had to see it before I left China.
We drove for at least an hour to a very tranquil part of the wall. Most people visit a very hectic part that has been rebuilt for tourism so does not retain its original paving. We were able to see the Great Wall very differently. The path was not easy to walk on as much of it was broken but that added to it’s charm. Our photos were free from people, the only sound being the wasps hovering near the wall. We were supposed to do a ridiculously long trek (I think at least 6k) up the wall but I have to admit I didn’t walk it. The height tests your fears, especially with the steepness and the unsteady broken path, I found myself scared to go further as I could imagine my self rolling down. The height was overwhelming and so I was one of only 3 people who didn’t do the trek. I heard the view was amazing but I was content with the view I had from my little journey. Nonetheless, I stole photos from my friend who did do the trek:) If there’s one thing I learnt it was how unfit I was, I do not know how she managed the whole walk as I was suffering 5 minutes into it. I perched myself at the beginning, tanning upon the wall, watching the clouds…
Yup.. this is photo of how much I walked. My excuse was I was pretty hungover.
Photos courtesy of my friend who managed to do the trek
We also tried to see the Beijing Urban Neighbourhoods Called Hutong’s. These are narrow streets where the locals live, known for their very distinct living cultures. Many can be found near and behind the Forbidden City but unfortunately we didn’t get photos. Many of the locals were unfriendly when we attempted to look around, as these areas are very private. Many neighbourhoods are hid behind doors, and what looks like one house is actually a variety of different households with a shared garden and courtyard. When walking in the alleys, locals were very hostile disapproving and even forbidding photography. Nonetheless, we looked around and got the general feel of the culture there. It was very communal with the community gathering in places, older women seated outside their doors, play cards…
My favourite district in Beijing was the Art District 798 Art Zone was a flourishing modern art neighbourhood with an array of galleries, eclectic boutique stores and cafes. It was beautiful day and I could have spent alot more time sitting outside with my coffee enjoying the environment. It was quirky, which a very young and trendy generation. It was hard to find, and the journey by taxi from Tianmen Square seemed to take forever. The sheer size of the city was not comprehended until we went to the art district which was as far as 45 minutes drive.
When walking around the Art district we found that artwork was placed in the most random of places. At first you do not even notice it, and then you see things on top of buildings. It was great fun to walk around and I recommend it on any trip to Beijing, especially if the weather is nice.