Beijing has so many attractions to offer, Tiananmen Square… The Forbidden City… The Great Wall… Pandas… As I have lived in China for over a year, of course I visited Beijing and experienced the capital city properly. Right? Not quite.
I and Natasha took a very short trip to Beijing earlier this year. Our company doesn’t really offer any time to travel and we suffer harsh penalties for taking trips longer than the weekend. So it seemed likely that we wouldn’t visit Beijing or Shanghai before we left China. However a situation arose where we were required visit our respective embassies for some important documents.
We left Shenyang late on Sunday (our last day of work) by taking the train to Beijing. The journey was absolutely horrible, full to the brim with people. People who despite the late time, didn’t wish to sleep, or speak quietly, or really show any kind of common decency. Topped off by a couple playing loud lullaby music to their child who spent the duration of the trip talking.
Luckily for us, the awful experience we had on the train did not extend to Beijing itself. We stayed in a hotel directly by the train station as it suited our travel needs perfectly. The Howard Johnson Paragon Hotel was fantastically luxurious yet reasonably affordable for a foreigner. Since we arrived at 2am, we had to check in and sleep as soon as possible. To our delight the hotel televisions had BBC. This might sound like absolutely nothing, but I have gone over a year without hearing an English voice on a television. It meant a lot at the time.
We ordered breakfast delivered to our room the next morning. It arrived exactly on time and was delicious. For the majority of the day we took care of our business at the embassies. After that we were free to explore, travel and eat.
The first thing we ate was a kebab. Quite obviously not Chinese but absolutely amazing all the same. There are no links available online, but if you’re ever in Beijing on silk street. Try the kebab place.
Our first stop was Tiananmen Square. I knew nothing about the square save that it served as the location for the famous tank man photograph. I don’t know what I was expecting exactly but I was mildly disappointed at first to find an open square with nothing to fill it. However I did enjoy the beauty of the square on a day which not many people were there.
Clearly the square holds significance culturally and historically. So I would recommend travelling there with someone who can inform you as to what happened and when. Otherwise you are in for a pleasant walk. Not a bad deal either way.
Naturally we recorded our experience with GoPro’s and have uploaded the footage for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.
As you will have seen, everything looked quite clean and nice. There was a monument in the middle of the square which is dedicated to the martyrs of the revolutionary struggles of the 19th and 20th centuries. It was impressive to view but the guards and gates were a tad off-putting.
The Forbidden City
One cannot discuss travel China or Beijing without mentioning The Forbidden City somewhere in the conversation. A building once inaccessible (or forbidden, if you prefer that kind of vocabulary) to the masses, now available to anyone with enough change to cover the entrance fee. How mysterious. What a fantastic preserved piece of history. As we moved through the gates we could barely suppress our excitement. I remember imagining that this would be the highlight of our journey.
Except we were forbidden entry. Genuinely, we were stopped at the gates. They weren’t allowing people to enter. Apparently in our rush to tour the city, we neglected to find information which explains that the city is closed on Monday’s.
Nevertheless, merely walking up towards the palace was an interesting experience. Everything we saw looked beautiful and well maintained. There was a park which was accessible and a few other buildings open to the public. However we decided to head to the gift shop and go for lunch.
We ate the most OK Peking roast duck in the world.
The end of the day
But worry not reader, we returned to our hotel to plan day 2. Our train left at 6pm on our last day, giving us every hour up until then to experience Beijing in the most efficient way.
We ordered an incredible dinner from the hotel. When we arrived to the restaurant it was empty and we ate in peace. Despite our disappointment with The Forbidden City it was the perfect ending to what was shaping up to be an amazing, memorable trip.
Day 2, coming soon.
– Adam Pemberton