When planning our trip to Beijing, Roxy, Natasha and I looked into the lengthy and expensive process of getting a visa for China. After researching our options, we found a 72-hour visa exemption that permits you into the country without obtaining an official visa beforehand. We decided to go this route, and to be on the safe side, booked two flights in and out of Beijing with only 2 full days in the city, for a total of only 40 hours in Beijing.
Arriving at 10:30 am on a Monday, we headed to our hostel to check in begin touristing immediately to get the most out of our trip. Our hostel, Leo’s Hostel, was easily accessible by subway from the airport, and only a 10 minute walk from Tienanmen square. After dropping our bags off, we searched for food, picking one of the small restaurants lining our street recommended to us by a staff member of the hostel. We all ended up choosing traditional Chinese noodles. Although a bit salty, the noodles were delicious and only cos us 10 Chinese Yen ($1.53 USD). We weren’t the only ones who enjoyed this food as a rush of locals came in and slurped away (in the loudest way possible which is apparently customary in China as a show of enjoying the dish).
3 hours in, our official sight seeing began. We head to the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for a pleasant surprise. Although we did get lost on the way, and walk for about 30 minutes in what seemed like freezing cold weather, we were swept away by the beautiful architecture of the temple.
Although there weren’t many things to see, the temple itself, along with the park that encompassed it was worth the money and the cold.
After a coffee pit stop, we headed to the Forbidden City, stopping to appreciate the ancient buildings along the way.
The Forbidden City was closed when we got there, but the walk through the bustling streets of Beijing, everyone trying to sell you anything and everything possible, was deffintely worth the walk.
The following day we booked a tour to the Great Wall with our hostel and our new friend, Helen. After a 2.5 hour bus ride, I woke up to our tour guide telling us we were arriving, and was pleasantly surprised at the lack of tourists at the part of the wall we would be hiking. We hiked a total of 6km of a different section of the wall where we were almost the only people there, and the views were spectacular.
We spent 3 hours hiking to the top and back, experiencing mild cold to parts of the wall where snow was still stuck to the ground. (I thought I had escaped this years’ winter, but unfortunately not!) Taking a secluded tour like this was really what made the experience special for me and I highly recommend it.
With only a few hours to spare, the four of us head to Tienanmen Square to explore, grab dinner and check out the Night Market before heading to the airport. To our surprise, Tienanmen Square is blocked off and Chinese army members fill the street, square and surrounding area marching about in that typical army formation,exactly how you’d imagine it. It was a hectic scene but was balanced out by the beautiful white Christmas lights that lined almost every government building.
Amongst all this hubbub, we continued to notice Chairman Mao’s face EVERYWAY and now after visiting China, I can openly say I have a weird fascination with Chairman Mao and made sure to purchase some paraphernalia with his face on it.
An hour of navigating through the maze of blocked off streets due to the commotion surrounding Tienanmen Square, we made it to Wang Fu Jing Street, where the Night Market is located. As expected, the first thing we see is everything you don’t want to eat but also secretly want to try at the entrance way to the market. Skewered starfish, seahorse, scorpion and even cockroach were all on the menu, although none of us had the guts to try any of it (totally regretting this now…kind of).
Sampling a plethora of food, having no idea what most of it was, and stopping at a variety of stalls, the Night Market was a success and we wandered the streets for looking for deserts and booze. Ending the night with beers at our hostel and a sketchy cab ride to the airport, China in 40 hours was a success. Although another day would have been nice, I am more than overly excited to arrive at our next stop: Bangkok.