There’s no better way to get a good feel for a country than to visit its capital city. China’s land mass is enormous, its population is insane and its capital city, Beijing, is hands down one of the most impressive cities in the world. I spent 5 days and 4 nights there, but within my first 30 minutes in the city, I knew I’d have to go back. Beijing is big, historical, modern and sexy, yes, cities can be sexy, do not debate this with me. But seriously, it’s like a full-bodied lady in a red dress, you can’t just look once, that goes for you too ladies.
Take A Tour
What’s the point in having a big sexy city without some big sexy national and international records to go with it? Here are a few of Beijing’s noteworthy stripes;
- Tian’anmen Square – The world’s largest city square
- The Forbidden City – The world’s biggest and most well-preserved ancient structure
- The Great Wall – The world’s longest structure built by man (you knew this already)
Everything Else Was History
China is over 14,000 years old. Beijing is more than 3,000 years old, and for the last 800 years and counting it’s been the capital of the Big C (man, I thought my grandpa was old). You can’t spell Beijing without history, wait, well yes you can, but you get the picture. Don’t you? I knew you would. I had nowhere near enough time to visit all of the beautiful attractions but I did get to the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the Badaling portion of the Great Wall. Nothing short of breathtaking.
Get Some Culture
Who’s thongs? No! Hutongs! Hutongs are an intricate set of small alleyways/lanes that everyone has access to. They run all across Beijing, they’re the most alluring thing in everyday life and one of the biggest hints of what ancient Beijing felt like. I wandered down dozens of random Hutongs daily, curiosity didn’t kill this cat though.
Penny Pincher Accommodations
Okay so this blog still hasn’t made me rich. If you’re sitting around reading this blog that still hasn’t made me rich, maybe you aren’t rich either. And that’s awesome, because if not, I couldn’t tell you how super cheap it is to stay in Beijing as a traveller! I stayed at the 365 Inn on Da Zha Lan Xijie. I booked my 4 night stay a few days in advance and got the “expensive” rates for about $20 CAD/night. If you’re more of a luxury traveler, there’s no shortage of posh (yes, like the Spice Girl) hotels to choose from.
Markets Markets Markets
If you can’t find something to buy in Beijing, you’re quite possibly a corpse. There are small shops (great for bargaining), international brands and everything in between. It’s dizzying, in a good way, but not for your bank account. For first time Beijing travellers, check out Qianmen Street and especially Wangfujing Street. Go to Wangfujing in the evening time and kill 2 birds with 1 wallet by checking out all the mouthwatering food at the night/food markets. Get your omnomnom on!
Come Alive In The Night Time
Everyone knows Beijing is one of THE places to be in China (and if you don’t know, now you know playa’). Millions of people go there every year and Beijing makes sure there’s a little bit of night life for everyone. There are free public dances, shows, bars, lounges, clubs, operas, lakes, live music, karaoke (KTV), you name it. Now reread that last sentence and say it in one breath.
There’s no worse feeling than being in a big beautiful (sexy) city, hearing about all the cool things to do but not knowing how to get to them. That’s an issue that you will not have in Beijing. The subway system in Beijing is efficient, wide reaching, smooth and cheap. With 4-6 RMB (about $1 CAD) you can get from one side of the city to the next. Local and coach buses are available as well as taxis, trains and tuk-tuks. BEWARE of local hustlers. This is where some spoken Chinese or directions from your hostel/hotel come in handy.
Despite the cultural obsession with all visibly foreign people (seriously, I’ve been photographed willingly and against my will more times than I care to recount), Beijingers are really cool, warm and funny people. That goes for Chinese people in general as far as I can tell. Once you get past a few of the local habits (people spit more than camels there!), it’s pretty easy to make friends or at least strike up a conversation with locals, especially where there are beers involved.
Got any stories from Beijing or other parts of China? Anything about Beijing you’d like me to write about? Comment below, tweet me [at]DriftAway2015 or comment on the Drift Away – Travel Blog Facebook page.
Stay golden my friends,