My very last stop in China was Beijing. Along with sightseeing, shopping, and eating, we got to spend quality time with Ke’s grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
It was such a wonderful experience to meet his family as well as tour and eat our way through this city. I accomplished so many things on my bucket list and am counting down the days until I can return.
The Forbidden City
Our first stop in Beijing was the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. The Forbidden City is such a massive attraction! Much of Beijing reminded me slightly of Texas: everything was huge!
When we arrived at Tiananmen Square’s subway station, we had to go through a ton of security to enter the Square and The Forbidden City. It’s important to carry your passport wherever you go in China. Many tourist attractions and hotels require it to buy tickets or rent a room.
The Forbidden City is an incredible tourist attraction (It takes a minimum 4-5 hours to see most of it), and depending on what time during the year you visit, it can be massively overcrowded. Luckily it was manageable during September.
I also highly recommend getting the audio guide while walking around the different sections. Its GPS activated and is such a delight to learn more about Chinese history as you walk throughout the square.
Temple of Heaven
After our early morning excursion in The Forbidden City, Ke and I made our way to the Temple of Heaven and the Temple of Earth. These temples are a bus ride away from Tiananmen Square and inside Temple of Heaven Park.
We made it about an hour and a half before the temples’ closing time which ended up being the perfect time to visit. The weather was cooler, the sun was setting, and both attractions were less crowded than usual.
The temples were constructed in the Ming Dynasty and built for ceremonies and sacrifices to heaven for good harvests. The are both quite a view to behold and perhaps my favorite attractions in Beijing.
Temple of Earth
The next day we made our way to the Beijing Zoo and the Summer Palace. Beijing Zoo is of course famed for their pandas! If you think pandas are weird looking on tv, they are even weirder in person. They really do look like people in a bear suit haha.
On top of being able to see the panda’s exhibit, Ke and I had the special privilege to go behind the scenes and meet a panda up close. I was terrified!! They are not as cute and fluffy as their personas lead you to believe. It was an awesome and unforgettable experience nonetheless 😀
After strolling through the zoo, we took a boat directly from the zoo to the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace is huge! It would take a minimum of a of day in my opinion to see half of the park. There are so many pavilions and gardens that I couldn’t all see but the Long Corridor and Tower of Buddhist Incense are an absolute must.
The Great Wall – Mutianyu
The #1 thing I had to do in China was climb the great wall! Ke kept making fun of me about my obsession with “a big wall” in his words. But The Great Wall definitely lives up to its hype in my opinion. This landmark is just massive and majestic, and absolutely beautiful.
Ke and I bought bus tickets to the Mutianyu section that also included lunch. The entire trip took half a day, round trip from Beijing. While Mutianyu section of The Great Wall is a little more geared towards westerners, it is much less crowded and I’d highly recommend it over Badaling.
Quick pit stop after The Great Wall to see the Olympic Stadium!!
Hutongs, Nanluoguxiang & Houhai
After spending our first few days tackling the major attractions, Ke and I spent the rest of the week with family and exploring the old streets and neighborhoods of Beijing.
These old neighborhoods are called Hutongs, untouched and preserved parts of the city with traditional architecture and home layouts. We explored Nanluoguxiang and Houhai many times as well, popular streets and touristy neighborhoods.
A Rush of Emotions
I’m not really sure how to explain it but I always have this surreal feeling when I visit a place that I have only dreamed about visiting. I was able to meet my future family, become immersed in China’s rich history, and experience something new every day.
Everyday was a rush of emotions and sensations; my senses were bombarded with new sights, food, people, and a language I am eagerly studying. It was an amazing rush that was also overwhelming when it ended.
When I left Beijing, it felt as if I left a large piece of my heart in China (the jetlag didn’t help either). It’s definitely tough returning to a safe and known routine after spending weeks waking up daily to something foreign and new. However, reminiscing on Beijing and this trip has only motivated me to explore and travel more.