So few weeks ago, I just finished my school semester and have the whole summer for myself. Normally we would get a summer job and do the usual stuff. But I figured, I haven’t been travelling for awhile now and I’m in need to see the world. So I got a quick free lancing job to get some cash for my travelling expenses, and started planning my trip to Beijing, China! Also because the airlines was having an offer at that time too.
Being a student with limited income, of course I had to go cheap. Hence, I spent appx $600 for the flight (return) and $250 for my stay. — I stayed at a shared Airbnb, and it wasn’t that bad honestly. Getting there was a little bit dodgy of course, it felt like straight up from a horror movie with lights flickering at the lobby and no lights at all on the ninth floor. Other than that, the host was nice, patient, prompt and provided all the essentials even though she barely speak English and I had to communicate with her through Wechat and translation app.
I know I said I planned my trip earlier, well… it wasn’t much of a plan really 🤣. Thanks to my friend though who lives in Beijing, she helped me out by sorting my tours for me locally and help me get started with some useful insights and showed how the subway works. I know, some people say its no brainer but I felt more confident with the insights I got from her.
The Forbidden City 故宫
Yess, The forbidden City or Gùgōng , a typical tourist destination. The place is massive and beautiful. I often seen it on movies and photos, but I never thought I would actually be there physically. It took me almost 2 hours to go through everything and there were a lot of people even though, some people say it could get way crazier on the weekends. I was curious with the histories behind this magnificent landmark, so I got myself one of those ‘Automatic Guide’ device for $8– its one of those electronic device that comes with earphones, guiding you through the landmark. I find it pretty insightful and probably cheaper than hiring a tour guide.
The Great Wall 萬里長城
The highlight of my trip, ‘The Great Wall of China or Wànlǐ Chángchéng’ 😍! Who would exclude this destination in their itinerary? No one! Getting there, I took the easy way– I paid for a tour bus called Mubus (all they did was drive you there [to and fro, 2 hours each trip] and purchasing your tickets. The bus ride cost me $26 including entrance ticket, excluding cable car ride and any other access that you might want such as ski lift and toboggan ride (more on this later) because there are few ways to get to the great wall as well as getting down too.
So there’s 3 ways that you could get to the wall that I know of:
- Ski Lift [access to tower 6].
- Cable car [access to tower 14]🚠.
- Hike 🏃🏼♀️.
- Toboggan slide [only getting down, access from tower 6].
As I said before, there’s different ways you could use to get up and down from the great wall. I had a long conversation with Leo, the tour bus guy about my options, because I really want to get on the Toboggan slide too (who wouldn’t want to slide down through a mountain ) and since I came with the tour bus, of course theres time limit (10am- 2.30pm) and I need to be smart with it. I guess thats the down side of getting a round trip tour bus. To make it time efficient, I ended up strategising my experience without getting left behind. Bear in mind that the great wall is huge and have 20 towers in total. Hence, I purchased tickets for these access– Cable Car [to and fro], Ski Lift [one way] and Toboggan slide.
Basically, I started with getting up to tower 6 with Ski lift, took some pictures etc– then went back down 30 minutes later with the Toboggan slide (pretty cool and insane) and then finally went back up again with the cable car to tower 14. Now of course by now, you realise I skipped few towers, well… 14 towers in total. But, it only get interesting from tower 14 onwards, thats where you’ll get the best view and it gets better and better as you walk up to the top. I’m not a hiker myself, and walking from 14th to 20th tower took me almost 2 hours and it had my legs feeling like its falling apart haha. Ultimately, it was quick and fun! In total I spent $77 in total for the whole experience.
Temple of Heaven 天壇
I often get recommendations to visit the Temple of Heaven or Tiāntán, well I can see why now, cuz its massive and beautiful to experience. It took me roughly 2 hours to explore everything it has within the historical landmark and the admission fee was priced for only $6. I don’t see why one should miss it. The temple was opened to the public since 1918, you could see the locals would come with their families for a walk, jogs, or even play card games at the park. I can see why one would spend their morning or evening here at the park area, it could get peaceful and quiet that comes with a nice view.
The rest of my tip
I spent my remaining days and time exploring the locals such as Gulou East Street (Gulou Dong Daji), Houhai riverside, National Art Performance Centre, Tiananmen Square, Beijing Olympic Park and 798 Artzone. These destinations were brief and quick and didn’t require a lot of my time. Gulou East Street is where I got some vintage merchandise and some interesting food and traditional bites.
If you are a fan of arts, you’ll probably wanna do a quick visit at 798 Artzone and that exactly what I did. They have heaps of cafes, shows and exhibitions for us to visit. I didn’t attend any shows and purchase anything other than a cup a coffee, but its a nice a place for a quick a visit if you have extra time in your hand and snap some insta worthy pics.
and…just like that, I ended my quick trip to Beijing!
I’ll be listing down some tips based on my experience 🙂 If you are interested, keep on reading friends 💃🏻.
- Get ALIPAY for hustle free transaction:
The ‘cashless culture’ in Beijing or in China in general is bigger and much efficient than any other country I’ve been to. From massive retails store all the way to the street vendors are practicing cashless system, even ordering food too! I’m all about making my life easy, and ALIPAY solved my struggles in making a transaction with the locals and when I ran out of money, I didn’t have to look for ATM machine or currency exchange– I just load money to the app in seconds and done!
Why not WeChat pay you wonder? That was my first option, however you need to attach it to a Chinese credit card or some sort to make it work. While ALIPAY actually provide a ‘Tour Pass’ which you easily load money from your attached credit card.
- Get a Translation App (iTranslate):
If you know how to speak Chinese, don’t bother at all. If you don’t and often get anxious in communicating with the locals like me, you might wanna consider to download iTranslate app on your phone or any similar ones. In a “non- touristy” place or area, the locals might have troubles understanding WTH you’re trying to say.
When I was all by myself, the app helped me to figure out the basic on how to request for something, or even play it out loud for them through the app.
- Use the Subway:
When your’e travelling within the city, the Subway could be your convenient option to commute and cheaper too. If you’re confident you’ll be using the public transport often while in Beijing, consider getting their e-card. During peak hour, the stations could get really busy and the queue for the ticketing machines could get really long. Doing so, it could make your commuting faster and easier.
- Lastly, definitely enjoy your trip!
If you’re curious how did I ended up stranded in the Airport for a day, well… its quite dumb and this is what would happen if you got careless like me. My flight departs at 12:40 am, I arrived at the gate, around 11.30 pm or so, yeap I wasn’t late. Around 12 am, I got hungry and decided to get some bites and right after that I had to go to the toilet real bad. By the time I got back to the gate, I realised they have changed the gate, I wasn’t sure if they have announced it because I didn’t hear it, at least not in English.
I ran to the new assigned gate which took me 5 minutes, and by the time I got there they literally just closed the gate and didn’t wanna let me get on the bus. Just like that, I had to stay at the airport for another day till the next flight. The whole process of going back to the ticketing counter to sort out my flight and getting back my luggage was frustrating, because I didn’t speak the language and the instructions given by the staff was confusing and a lot of hand gestures and pointing.
I learned that being multilingual could have been beneficial in so many ways by now 😅.