Travelling has always been the escape that I crave the most when I’m facing rough edges along the way. But as a university student, I barely even have time to explore my own city much more to wander to another city. With the midterm week coming, I had an idea to go somewhere since I didn’t really have examinations. Though, I was quite reluctant because my last travel experience wasn’t really ideal. After my backpacking through Southern China in February, I felt so disappointed to the point that I even got tired thinking of traveling. I wasn’t excited at all going to Beijing. It was quite some time coming to the decision of actually going. After I finally decided for the last time, I immediately booked the ticket to minimize more contemplation.
This trip was one of the best trips I’ve ever had. I’ve traveled alone and spontaneously, I’ve met some nice and like-minded people, learned a couple of things from my host, and enjoyed my freaking time without anyone telling me what to do. I’m so happy I went and realized that not all trips are the same. Not all trips can make you feel good. And for every time I’ll ever think twice again between going and not going, I’ll remember to always choose to go.
Here I compiled some information to get you through traveling through Beijing.
ACCOMMODATION IN BEIJING AND COUCHSURFING:
I am personally vouching for Couchsurfing, especially for solo travelers. I really like this app. You can meet like-minded people, usually well-traveled ones whom you can learn great stuff from. This application has been one of my most useful apps when it comes to traveling solo. Also, who doesn’t wanna get accommodation for free when traveling? But if you’re not comfortable living at a stranger’s house then booking a room or a hostel is also possible through Booking.com and other hotel booking apps. Preferably, you wanna stay inside the third or second ring in Beijing. It’s near most of the attractions.
WHAT TO DO IN BEIJING:
THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA; JINSHANLING
Okay, I think everyone here can agree when I say that the Great Wall is the highlight of any trip to Beijing. It really was for me!! I’ve been dreaming of it since I first watched Mulan. We chose the part Jinshanling because I heard that it’s not crowded at all, unlike the famous Badaling and Mutianyu. It is said to be the best part for hiking. Plus, there are renovated and original parts of the wall. If you’re running after authenticity then you should definitely choose to go here too. Unless time is not a problem then visit two or more parts of the wall.
It was my first time in Beijing and The Great Wall so not having been to any other parts of the wall, I really can’t compare. But base on my experience, Jinshanling gave me the most jaw-dropping sceneries. And the best part of it was we had this whole iconic place to ourselves with few to no hikers!
How to get there:
Jinshanling is located in a mountainous area 130 km (80 miles) northeast of central Beijing. This section of the wall connects the Simatai Great Wall section in the East and Gubeikou Section in the West.
We took the subway station to line 15 and line 13 Wangjing West Subway Station then just outside of exit C is the Wangjing West Bus Station. Take the bus that says LUANPING (滦平) in it. It doesn’t have a number so be attentive. The bus leaves at 8:00 AM and every hour after that and the ride to Jinshanling is about 2 hours. The bus to go back to Beijing stops receiving passengers after 3:30 PM and leaves at 4:00 PM. It costs 36RMB per person for one way. Although they are only available from April to November.
TIP: If you arrived late at Jinshanling like we did and think that you can’t catch the bus to Beijing, then you can either hire a taxi that will take you to the highway for the bus No. 980 or continue your hike to Simatai part of the wall. Simatai is the only part of the wall that allows night visits. After getting to the foot of Simatai, you can hire a car to Machang, where there are lots of buses to Miyun County. Take a bus to Miyun Bus Station. You’d better get to the Miyun Bus Station by 6:00 PM in order to catch shuttle bus No. 980 back to Beijing. This was what we would’ve done if we came prepared and knew about it. Darn spontaneity.
April-November Peak Season Entrance Fee: 65 RMB (half prices for students)
December-March Off Season Fee: 55 RMB (half price for students)
One Way Cable Car: 40 RMB
Warning: At the top, there will be sellers on some watchtowers and parts of the wall. If you speak Chinese and have a soft heart, just continue walking and don’t talk to them. Say “no” to what they’re offering then go on your way unless you really wanna buy something. I made a mistake chatting with one. She even offered to take a photo of my friend and I. After that she insisted we buy her T-shirts we get followed by for a good 10 minutes. She almost cried and was begging that made me really uncomfortable which is uncool if you wanna have a pleasant hike. Overall, it was still the highlight of everything. Heck, it could’ve rain and I would still love the experience.
THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN
Honestly, before visiting the great wall, this place was the first attraction that I was looking forward to the most. Although I was kind of expecting a bigger building still, the Temple of Heaven was as gorgeous as the photos found on the internet. Also, it’s blue and circular. So far it’s the most unique ancient temple I’ve seen in China. And I’ve seen a looottt. It is an imperial complex of temples and is situated in the Southern part of Beijing. Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties visited the complex for annual ceremonies of prayer to heaven for a good harvest. There were different ticket prices. One is for the whole complex and one is for each of the three temples.
Address: 1 Tiantan E Rd, Dongcheng, Beijing, China
MARVELING THROUGH MODERN ARCHITECTURE AROUND THE CITY
If you are anything like me, you would want to see the beautiful modern architecture in Beijing. The great thing about architecture in Beijing is that you can see the modern and the ancient ones! Although there are a couple of gorgeous buildings here, my favorite was the Galaxy SOHO by Architect Zaha Hadid. Beijing National Aquatics Center aka Water cube and Beijing National Stadium aka Bird’s Nest are opposite each other. CCTV headquarters is also a fine one. And if you wanna have dinner with a view then CCTV Tower is good enough.
FEAST ON PEKING DUCK AND HOT POT
I’ve lived in China for quite some time now and I’ve eaten these everywhere (especially hot pot). I’ve tried Peking duck in Hangzhou, Shanghai, and even in Chengdu and after trying the one in Beijing, I don’t think I can ever feel the same towards the ones “ordinary” ones. I’m not a food critic but damn I know good food when I taste it. Everything has changed and I’ll always miss it. Peking duck and Hot Pot are one of those delectable foods you just cannot try when in China. The flavor, the texture, aroma, and even the way you eat it is just art, period.
THE SUMMER PALACE
Located in the western outskirts of Beijing in Haidian District, the Summer Palace aka The Museum of Royal Gardens. In 1998, the Summer Palace ranked amongst the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, as well as one of the first national AAAAA tourist spots in China.
This place is huge. After my 26 kilometers walk the day before plus the wind and rain and a 4-hour sleep on this day, I didn’t quite enjoy the scenery. We walked almost all over the whole place until I decided to give up and went home to rest when we saw the nearest gate. Just imagine walking around with three guys and you’re a small person.
THE FORBIDDEN CITY & TIANANMEN SQUARE
The forbidden city is the largest palace complex in the world and it is located in the heart of Beijing alongside Tiananmen Square which also happens to be the world’s largest city square. From the subway station, you will arrive at Tiananmen Square where you can find Chairman Mao’s Monument and also a Maoseleum. After that is the Forbidden Palace gates. Going inside reminded me of Moscow’s Kremlin and Red Square with all the guards but this time, I’m in China. You just can NOT miss this one. Walking around here made me imagine the people who have lived here in the past. Fascinating.
STROLL THROUGH THE PARKS AND HUTONGS
If you’ve been living in China for quite some time now, then you know parks are as good as the main attractions. Beihai Park and Jingshan Park are located North the Forbidden Palace and are worth visiting. There is a platform in Jingshan Park where you can see a great view of the whole palace complex. I even thought that it was more beautiful looking from up there than strolling through the palace. One of the views that remind you of how small you are and all your worries.
Strolling through hutongs, alleys with beautiful lights at night, cute stores and small houses, is also one of the best things to do in Beijing. Although I didn’t have the time to do it, I would definitely do when I go back.
Beijing being the capital of China is very rich; rich in history and iconic sights to see, delicious cuisine and good people. I’m grateful to have witnessed everything I’ve witnessed. <3
The view from the top of Jingshan Park 😉
East of Jinshanling Great Wall
Mouthwatering Peking Duck