One of my dream destinations is Beijing and it is primarily because of the Great Wall of China. This is why my friend, Feli, and I planned to celebrate our Y2015 birthdays here. However, we learned that it is not easy to communicate with the locals because only a few could understand English. For that reason, we decided to avail of a tour package instead of creating our own itinerary. We found a good deal for US$244 per person, which included the following:
- English-speaking tour guide
- Lunch for 3 days
- Entrance tickets
- Round trip airport transfer
- 1 standard room in a 3-star hotel for 4 nights with breakfast
- Beijing is the capital city of the People’s Republic of China
- Formerly known as Peking
- Located at the northern part of China
- Language is Mandarin
- Climate: Winter (December to February), Spring (March to May), Summer (June to August), and Autumn (September to November)
Generally, foreign visitors need a visa to enter China except those from Japan, Singapore, and Brunei who can stay up to 15 days without a visa. A single entry tourist Visa is valid for 30 days and must be used within 3 months from the date of issue. Multiple entry visas are also available. To get a visa, you need to apply at the Chinese Embassy or authorized travel agencies.
Our Itinerary (Must See Attractions)
Upon arrival at the Beijing Capital International Airport, the driver from the agency welcomed us and sent us to our hotel, Holiday Inn Express Beijing Temple of Heaven. Although he couldn’t speak in English, he had all the tools to communicate with us, which was very effective. We had a lot of time to spend on our own that afternoon, so we decided to go around the streets near the hotel to familiarise ourselves of the place. Our tour started on Day 2. We were the first one that were picked up from our hotel at 7:30 AM. They came on time so you should be ready by then as a courtesy to the other guests that they will also pickup from other hotels. There were about 10-15 of us in the group, all from different countries.
Ming Tombs – Changling
Our tour guide, Patrick, was a nice person and he was very good in explaining things about the places that we were visiting. The 13 Ming Tombs are the best-preserved Chinese tombs for the imperial members during the Ming Dynasty with 500 years history. Emperor Yongle carefully chose this site for his burial based on the principles of Feng Sui. The succeeding emperors placed their tombs in the same area. Changling is the largest tomb of the Ming Tombs where Emperor Yongle and his Empress Xu were buried.
Jade Carving Factory
We had a short visit at the Jade Carving Factory after the Ming Tombs. The jade carving is a famous special Chinese product. I used to have a small jade cabbage that a store lady gave to me as a gift. According to Chinese Feng Shui, the jade cabbage will attract prosperity and money. I am not really a Feng Sui believer but after a few months of keeping that very small cabbage in my purse, I got accepted for a job abroad. The job offered three times my salary at the time. After the Jade Carving Factory, the tour guide took us to Jindian restaurant for lunch.
The Great Wall of China (Badaling Gate)
The most anticipated Great Wall is one of the greatest wonders of the world with more than 21,000 kms in total length. It was built to protect different parts of China from northern invaders. Badaling Gate is one of the most famous and best-preserved walls. Cable car is optional but you have to pay separately for that. Of course, we all took the cable car because we didn’t want to hike Badaling that would take 2 hours. Aside from The Great Wall being great, the other reason why I came here is because of Running Man (South Korean variety show). They filmed an episode here and played hilarious games for their mission. Watch episode 61 for their Beijing special. Coming to The Great Wall is a dream come true for me and it felt beyond overwhelming.
On our third day, the tour included only two groups and we had a different tour guide. Her name was Vanessa and was also very nice. The tour started in Tian’anmen Square with its abundance of monuments including Monument to the People’s Heroes, National Museum of China, Great Hall of the People, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. There are certain historical events that have taken place in Tian’anmen Square. (Some photos taken by Feli)
From Tian’anmen Square we moved straight to the Forbidden City, the former residence or the palace of the emperors of China from Ming Dynasty to Qing Dynasty. It became a palace museum since the 1920s. The palace complex is huge and our tour here alone lasted for about 2 hours on foot. So having a rest at a Chinese medicine culture was just perfect.
Temple of Heaven
It is said that the ancient emperors used to come to the Temple of Heaven to pray for peace and harvest. It is the largest imperial worship architecture group in the world. Our visit to Temple of Heaven took about 1 hour. It was really a day of long walks.
They took us to a restaurant for lunch first then a short visit at the pearl market. From there, they took us to Summer Palace, the largest and most beautiful Chinese imperial garden. It is a masterpiece of Chinese landscape with the combination of natural and artificial features. After the tour, they sent us back to the hotel.
Our tour guide for Day 4 was still Vanessa and there were no other groups with us. Our first stop was Beijing Zoo to see the lovely Pandas. They are adorable but most of them were sleeping at the time. I remember the RM Beijing episode when Yoo Jae Suk needed to take a photo of what’s written on a board where the Panda is sitting on while eating. Poor YJS! He was like waiting patiently for a miracle to happen. Hahaha!
Next stop was Yonghe Temple – the largest Lama Temple of Beijing. It is also referred to as the “Palace of Peace and Harmony.” Prepare for some pop quiz from the tour guide, Vanessa asked me a question to check if I was listening yesterday during the tour. Hehe!
Vanessa introduced us to an Uncle for the Hutong Tour. We visited the old Beijing lanes by taking a rickshaw and had lunch at one of those typical Beijing resident’s houses. Hutong represents the culture and history of China.
Bird’s Nest and Water Cube
Vanessa took us to the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube to take pictures of the exteriors of these amazing modern architectures. Our photos would have been more wonderful if they were taken during the night when they are illuminated. If you are interested in seeing the inner structure of the stadiums, the tour guide will assist you in buying the ticket but you will enter the stadium yourself.
China Tea House
On the way back to the hotel, we had a short visit to a China Tea House to enjoy tea ceremony. My favourite was the Pu-erh Tea because it tastes better than all the others.
Other Places To Visit in Beijing
Wangfujing Street is a famous street in Beijing where shopping malls, night markets, and street food stands are located. We bought souvenirs in the night market on one of the alleys here.
On our last day in Beijing, we decided to go to Houhei Park on our own before our flight at night. So, we checked out early and left our luggage in the hotel. We hailed a cab and tried to ask the driver to bring us to Houhei, however, even after showing some pictures he still took some time to understand where we wanted to go. The cabby was nice though and he dropped us off at the right spot to start our Houhei adventure. While we didn't know which direction to go, we followed along the crowd who seemed to be also there to tour. We all went straight ahead until we reached a small bridge then I found the rooftop of a restaurant across the bridge where RM also have filmed. We stayed there for a little while because I was really happy to have found that location. We continued to walk for more sight seeing then we also discovered the stores where RM members bought the local Chinese snacks for their mission. I became ecstatic again! The weather became colder that afternoon so we had coffee at Starbucks just right before what seemed to be an exit of the park. Well, I think that was just my excuse to not leave Houhei so soon.
We went back to the hotel and waited at the lobby for the driver from the agency to pick us up for the airport transfer. When we met the driver, he also didn’t speak English but with the help of his phone we confirmed he is our driver. And to our surprise, our ride to the airport is an Audi. Wow!
Beijing had given us an overall superb experience. Thank you! If I could I’d definitely come back.