• Spike

Beijing - China

Beijing was my second stop in China, and the end of my first trip to Southeast Asia. As with Chengdu, it was not so easy to get around, however I did feel there were more English translated signs here.

By the time I got to Beijing I was starting to feel tired. The speed at which I'd travelled, and the amount of experiences that my brain was still trying to digest was becoming a little too much. Add on top of that the language barriers and lack of new people I met here, I was beginning to feel lonely too.

One thing that really got to me was hocking! If you don't know what hocking is, it's to loudly and intentionally cough up phlegm. Quite often some locals would hock and spit it onto the ground, which for myself seemed quite disgusting! I'm sure people in all countries do this, I've witnessed people in the UK do this on rare occasions. But in China it seems to be a lot more frequent.

Cultures vary throughout the world, what we many consider rude or disgusting can be quite normal in other countries. This is something I have come to understand and to respect.

The manners we hold dear in the western world are very different in China, and at first this was hard to get used to, in fact I'm not sure I ever truly got used to it.


The other thing I found difficult was "pushing in".

In the UK we pride ourselves on queueing, waiting in turn patiently. This was not the case in China, and I found myself being pushed in front of or pushed out of the way by locals quite often.

I was told by Marika that it's not good to complain to them or pull them up on it. To do so is very rude (vice versa in my culture). The key was to push back, if you push back it's not considered as rude as telling a local they are wrong to push. So, that's exactly what I did, especially in my tired and irritable state! I found myself pushing back anytime locals would push me.


There was one regret I had whilst walking the streets of Beijing.

Two Chinese girls approached me asking where I was from. They seemed genuinely interested as to why I was in China and asked if they could hang out with me.

The thing is, I was in defensive mode. In many countries I've been warned not to go off with girls who approach you in the street, they could be trying to con you.

I declined, and they actually seemed quite offended. I love talking with locals when I'm in new countries, so I wish I'd actually taken them up on the offer. Looking back, I don't think they were actually out to con me, they were simply interested.



The Great Wall of China

Without a doubt the number one tourist attraction in all of China. One of the seven wonders of the modern world.

There are various parts of the wall you can visit from Beijing. Badaling tends to be the easiest to reach and the most popular, which of course leads to huge crowds of tourists!

I would instead suggest visiting Mutianyu. Like Badaling, much of this wall is newly restored, but if you walk along a little you will reach ancient parts of the wall.

There's a point at tower 23 where it appears to be a dead end, with the ancient wall in the distance. All you have to do it climb over the wall to the ancient part, and you can carry on hiking to see the original wall. I think it's forbidden, but no one came after me. I spoke to a local Chinese lady on this part of the wall who was selling drinks. She told me people often climb over to the old section and congratulated me on being the first that day. So I'd certainly suggest doing so too!

I hiked for about an hour, and it was becoming more beautiful. But due to not having the best footwear, being alone in quite a dangerous section and the time getting on, I decided to head back to civilisation.

Mutianyu is usually quiet first thing in the morning, so get here as early as possible! I had the wall mostly to my self for the first hour.

You can either hike up to the wall, use a cable car or the special chair lift, I opted for the chair lift, but make sure you're agile and can get on and off it quickly. This also may be a little scary if you have a fear of heights.

To get down you have the same options but also the option of the Toboggan, which I definitely recommend.

It's great fun rushing down the hills at high speeds on a small toboggan! Although you will have various guards shout at you if they see you taking video, but I just made sure I went as fast as possible as I passed them.

There are a few options as to how to reach Mutianyu, you could hire a guide but they are quite pricey, or join a day tour, but then you're limited to the time you can spend here, and may not get to hike to ancient wall.

I instead used public transport and a taxi. It was a little difficult, but I used a fantastic guide I found on the internet which got me to the wall trouble free. You can find it here. https://www.tour-beijing.com/blog/beijing-travel/how-to-get-to-mutianyu-great-wall-by-bus



Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square

Another tourist attraction you should visit as early as possible. I had planned to do so, but due to tiredness I ended up having a lay in. Oh what a food I was!

By late morning this place is heaving! I had to queue for quite some time to get in, and once I was in I think it was the busiest tourist attraction I've ever visited!

It was hard to truly see anything here properly due to the immense crowds pushing and shoving in front of me.

As stated above I had learnt not to complain, but simply to push back, often quite aggressively to make any kind of impact and defend myself!

You'll reach Tiananmen Square before entering Forbidden City. The city itself looked stunning, but the crowds became too much for me.

I tried to look around, learn a little about the palace inside and to admire the architecture. But after a while it was too much and I decided to rush through to the exit and leave. It began to get busier and busier and I was fed up of feeling like a sardine.

In all honesty if the area is crowded when you plan to visit, avoid it! If it's not too busy check it out.

There are much better sights such as Summer Palace which is less crowded and I think more beautiful.


One important thing to note, make sure you have you passport. You need a passport to be able to buy a ticket.



Summer Palace

In my opinion the best alternative to Forbidden City. It's a larger space, so although it's crowded, you're not squashed like a sardine.

The area is mainly made up of beautiful lakes, gardens and palaces. This place is huge, so you will need to set aside quite a bit of time here, and even then you may not see everything.

I got lost trying to leave, and it took quite some time before I finally found the exit.

Walking around the various courtyards will make you feel as if you're back in ancient imperial China. Again I suggest visiting early to avoid the crowds, but I imagine in the early morning light the lakes look even more beautiful.

There are some truly beautiful structures here too, especially the Marble Boat which is a western style structure, yet adds to the magic of the other stunning buildings you'll come across.



Temple of Heaven

The most important temple in Beijing. It was used by past Emperors to worship heaven. As with the rest of Beijing it was very crowded. I still preferred the architecture at Summer Palace, but the temple itself was quite spectacular.

You'll find various buildings here, not just the temple. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Vault of Heaven and the Circular Mound Altar.

Personally by the time I'd got here I was exhausted from my travels and just wanted to rest. So it was a quick visit and I more than likely missed out on a lot.



Shichahai

This is quite a touristy area, but you'll find quite a lot here. Shops, bars and restaurants.

The shops sell good quality souvenirs, especially a shop that's dedicated to selling handmade fans. These can be pricey, but they are quite beautiful and great as souvenirs for friends and family.

The bars and restaurants range quite a lot, but I enjoyed a nice meal here before stopping for a few drinks and watching a live Chinese band. I had no idea what they were singing about, but it was a nice ambience.

I was approached by many men in the street attempting to introduce me to prostitutes or strip shows. After a while I just pretended I didn't speak English and I ignored them.

I think the highlight of this area though were the beautiful lakes which look amazing lit up by the surrounding buildings at night.


Donghuamen Night Market

Wangfujing Street is a busy shopping street in Beijing, you'll find many large high street shops along here. However you'll find Donghuamen Night Market just off of this street.

This night market sells all types of creepy crawlies for your consumption.

Having eaten scorpion and tarantula in Thailand and Cambodia, I was ready to try something new. Although I was a little put off by this street.

The scorpions here could be seen impaled but alive before then being fried. The spiders here were huge in comparison to the one I tried in Cambodia. There were also snacks such as geckos and huge maggot type things which I had no intention of trying.

I opted for trying snake, bones and all still inside it. I can't say it was particular tasty, but it wasn't disgusting either.

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