Beijing: A guided tour of the capital of China
January 1, 1970
Let the two kiwi adolescent travel bugs take you on a journey to China
My partner Falko and I have done a wee bit of travelling recently and we decided this time China was on the cards, a more of a spontaneous trip, booking and departing NZ within 3 months – I was excited to start the journey learning their way of life and their kind of culture.
After seeing a China tour on daily deal site, it had sparked my interest in going to see this country (which I knew little about), I then began to research what tours were available, and shortly after, my partner and I had decided to book a 10 day tour with China Discovery tour company – starting in Beijing going through Xi’an and Chengdu, finishing in Shanghai.
Let me tell you that as a New Zealander that only speaks English and someone who knew not much about China at all, I was glad that I had decided to book a tour that came with our very own private English-speaking tour guide.
Personally, I don’t think that I would have gone to China any other way. The language barrier was a whole other ball game, with some cities residents not speaking a word of English – this made something simple as ordering a bubble tea a 20 minute and very interesting task to complete ha-ha.
Never the less, this trip was a once in a lifetime kind of trip with so much to see and do, and so much to tell you, so I decided to take you through the first part of our journey which was the capital of China, Beijing.
Beijing was our first stop in China and our first experience into the country. It has 21.5 million people living in the city, and compare that to where I live in Auckland, only having 1.3 million, we were instantly taken back by the business, the super crazy driving, the tooting, and “go, go, go” attitude this city had. By our first day here I almost felt like a celebrity, I had many of the Chinese locals staring at me, pointing, and taking photos of me (or photos with me). I guess they don’t see many white-skinned, ginger-haired girls walking around their local areas. I really knew I was a wee while from my own country in a very large and busy city compared to little NZ.
Things to do in Beijing:
The Great wall of China, probably one of the many icons people know China for and naturally for me loving to travel this was one thing on my travel bucket list that I had wanted to see – and boy was it NOT a disappointment!
Our tour guide took us to a less crowded part of the wall called Mutianyu – this is where we took a chairlift to the top, might I add it was a very steep ascend!
Once at the top, the landscaping views were spectacular and the mountains and greenery that was surrounding the wall was something of the unexpected.
Going to China in summer, it wasn’t ideal to be doing a long walk on the great wall, at temperatures between 30-35 degrees Celsius, this was a heat our kiwi bodies were not used to, so we only walked about 1Km on the wall, soaked in the views and then did the exciting luge (toboggan) ride down from the wall.
If you have ever seen a YouTube or Facebook video of people doing this, it is exactly like that! It is about 6mins of total thrill as you descend down to the bottom – in my opinion the best way to get down and one of the absolute highlights of our trip to Beijing. If you are planning on going to the Great Wall of China – and are a bit of an adventure junkie, then this is a top recommendation to do.
Another area the tour took us in Beijing was a visit to Tiananmen Square where we were shown one of the world’s 5 most important palaces – the Forbidden city. We could pass through various doorways to admire the brilliant and well-preserved buildings decorated with yellow glazed roof tiles, with a white marble base and a collection of colourful paintings.
Learning Chinese way of life:
We drove to the outskirts of Beijing to the Summer Palace, this is the largest and best well-maintained royal garden in China, we strolled through with our tour guide and saw ancient pavilions, mansions, temples, bridges and a lot of colored paintings in long corridor walk ways – this is where Chinese residents (mostly retired) can come to play cards or various other games while drinking tea, and laughing along side each other (and yes, even the seniors get competitive with their games ha-ha) this was something culturally beautiful to experience and be able to engage with as they allowed tourists to come through and see what they get up to during their day.
We were also lucky enough to be given the opportunity on this tour to visit a local Chinese dwelling and be cooked lunch and shown around their home – this was a traditional Chinese house in Beijing and very different to how we live, their house is set up in a square with a central courtyard connecting each individual room and to get from the lounge to the kitchen, you will need to step out into the courtyard and get to the kitchen, none of the rooms are connected.
They also do not have their own toilet, they have small villages of these kinds of houses and they all share a common toilet located in the middle of all the dwellings
If you are wanting to get to know the Chinese culture a little better and their way of life and, this is something to put on your list when you visit China.
Tips and hints for Beijing:
- If you are travelling without an English-speaking tour guide, I would highly recommend downloading a translator that can be used without internet (if you won’t have any), this is something we didn’t do initially and assumed that there would be more English-speaking locals. This was NOT the case, and not all restaurants have pictures with their menus, making ordering food harder than expected!
- Recommended downloading a VPN app, as China do not use google or Facebook – especially if you use messenger from Facebook to connect with loved ones back home.
- The currency they use is RMB – $1NZD is $58 Chinese Yuan, $1 USD is $6.63 Chinese Yuan and £1 British Pound is $8.67, Chinese Yuan.
- If you plan on taking a taxi, ask your hotel for a business card of the address you are staying, it will be written in Chinese, so when you get into a taxi you can show them the card, and there will be no getting lost or difficulties translating where to go.
- If you like dumplings, check out “Din Tai Fung” – best dumplings ever!
- Lastly be careful crossing the road, especially if you come from a less populated city or country ha-ha there will be lots of tooting
Initially having no expectations of going to China and what it may be like, and even though I was underprepared for the language barrier and how different it was, it was a trip I won’t ever forget. I learnt so much and got to experience what some resident’s daily life consists of. It also gave me a greater understanding of the many Chinese residents that now live in NZ, and how their cultural norms differ to our kiwi way.