The hall of supreme harmony

Beijing, vibrant capital of China.

Our decision to travel to china was as fast as lightening and we only had 1 afternoon to buy flight tickets, book accommodation and decide on the whole trip itinerary due to short time for Visa application. We managed to do all above in 2 hours and so next day we could apply for Chinese Visa and still be able to get them on time just few hours before our flight to Beijing.

We arrived to Beijing around midnight and the first thing I noticed while sitting in taxi was huge number of workers cleaning highways and taking care of road construction. Despite being late night there were still many traffic jams but nothing compared to traffic during day.

Forbidden city Beijing China
Forbidden city Beijing China

Next morning we headed to visit one of the most important landmarks Forbidden City. Getting around Beijing is very easy and cheap. I knew there were going to be huge crowds in Chinese cities and before entering Forbidden City we had to wait in long line at least for 15 minutes just to pass the security check. Later we had to wait in another long line to buy tickets and after that once again to show them and enter the vast area of Forbidden City and its temples. It was a very nice place with many beautiful and photogenic buildings but heat and crowds of people didn’t make it that overwhelming.

Beihai park, Beijing, China
Beihai park in Beijing.

Then we went to visit Jingshan Park from where is beautiful 360 degree view of city of Beijing. Despite all those beautiful places probably my favorite during our first day was Beihai Park. Even to park with no exception you have to pay an entrance fee. Actually in China you have to pay for entrance everywhere. On the other hand there are numerous public toilets all over the city which are for free. But it is better not to mention the look of those toilets. It was Saturday and Beihai park was crazy full. You can rent a paddle or motor boat but it is worth it only for more than 4 people because I didn’t find it that cheap for 2 people. There are many sights you can see in the park such as White Pagoda, Dragon pavilions, Botanical gardens and our favorite Temple Extreme happiness.

Temple of extreme happiness, Beijing
Temple of extreme happiness in Beihai park

Later that day by coincidence we arrived to very busy street which was actually one of the oldest and most famous Hutongs called Nanluoguxiang. Very first thing I noticed was that almost everyone was holding some kind of sweet stuff such as ice cream, huge mango smoothies, ice lollipops looking like roses, fruit sticks or frozen yogurts. There are many shops, restaurants, cafes all designed in old hutong style. Great place to hang around for a while.

Nanluoguxiang hutong Beijing
Nanluoguxiang hutong

Second day was our only option to make it to the Great Wall of China. We chose Mutianyu part which was supposed to be less touristy from those well preserved parts. I knew which bus to take and how to get there fast and cheap rather than taking an expensive day tour. At the bus station very friendly bus coordinator told us to take another bus which was supposed to be faster with fewer stops. She looked very trustworthy so we did hop onto a bus which we thought was going to Huairou Beidajie from where we would take a minivan going to Mutianyu.

Great wall of China Mutianyu part
Great wall of China Mutianyu part

Constantly checking my GPS everything looked good and after 35 minutes I switched to watching a movie. After an hour a guy on the bus told us to get off because we reached our destination. I knew right away that it was a scam when bunch of taxi drivers approached us just seconds after we got off the bus. I was so pissed that most of the drivers just left but eventually I agreed to take an unofficial taxi to get there ASAP because we didn’t have that much time to take another bus, etc. It cost us 15 Euro more but at least we got to Mutianyu on time.

The whole area is pretty new with many shops, cafes, restaurants and everybody wants to take a piece of “wealthy” tourists. There are many options how to get onto wall but we chose probably the most famous one. Getting up by chairlift and getting down by slide. It was not worth buying just one way because the price was almost the same.

Great wall of China Mutianyu
Great wall of China Mutianyu

The Mutianyu wall was very well-preserved and not that crowded at all due to the fact that is was Sunday. There are some steep sections with quite high steps but overall it was a piece of cake at least for two of us. You can visit roofs of some of the watch towers which was the best way to experience great views of the wall. I would say it is worth to spend 2-3 hours walking up and down taking pictures but after that you will get bored.

Once you come to Beijing you have to visit Wangfujing food street for its crazy variety of food sold. There were things for sale I have never seen before such as fried bats or god knows what that was. Since nobody speaks English in China and those local bars and restaurants don’t have English menus sometimes it was difficult to choose or even agree on a price. I ordered a beer and one waiter told me 25 Yuan, another told me 28 Yuan which is really expensive but finally I found a guy who told me 15 Yuan which was not that bad for Wangfujing. Most of time I would find bars where beer cost me 10 or less Yuan.

Wangfujing food street Beijing
Wangfujing food street

Our third and last day in Beijing started in Summer Palace, 15 km North-west from downtown. It is the largest and best-preserved royal park in the whole China. Of course there is an entrance fee to be paid as everywhere you go in China but it was worth it. As all the parks we visited while being in Beijing this one was no exception and it was incredibly huge with large lake and many boats.

Pavilion of Precious Clouds at Summer palace
Pavilion of Precious Clouds at Summer palace

I was really stunned by all those Chinessee tourists taking pictures literally of everything but mostly of themselves. Selfie culture is extremely popular over there and many times I witnessed girls taking selfies rather than a picture of nice and important tourist attraction. Being in China one may thing that asking a person for a picture would be a piece of cake since everywhere in the world you see Asians with great cameras taking pictures, so you think they are good at it. The truth is that they take terrible pictures. At least many of them took some poor pictures of us. That is maybe why everybody takes selfies because they just don’t trust each other to take pictures for them. Most of the time they had to ask me which button to press on regular mirror-less camera. It just shows how attached to cell phones are people nowadays and the only picture they can take is a selfie.

At the entrance to Summer palace
At the entrance to Summer palace

Our last sight of the day was supposed to be Temple of heaven. No surprise there was an entrance fee but since we had seen enough temples and paid enough money for that we decided to entrance just to visit the park itself. Yes, you also have to pay an entrance to the park but that is China.

I am really glad we spent some time in the capital of China and even after an unfair scam by one of the bus station’s staff we were able to get to the Great Wall of China. Beijing has many great attractions to offer and those 3 days we spent there were just right amount of time I would say.

 

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Richard Jančovič

Richard Jančovič

My name is Richard Jančovič and I am a travel addict from beautiful country called Slovakia. Although full-time employed, I try to spend all my free time traveling. So far I have visited 41 countries, met a lot of amazing people and experienced many adventures.

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