I absolutely love being in China. I love the cuisine, I love finding the most random things in any shop I walk into & I love how all the busyness & chaos seeps into & overtakes my thoughts & for a while I’m completely lost in my surroundings. I love how everything seems to be so incredibly different from the way of life I know & isn’t experiencing that the point of traveling?
I was over the moon to be going back & super excited to get to visit Beijing as I hadn’t had the opportunity the last time I was in the country. Although, the only thing I wasn’t excited about was visiting in winter.
For a bit of background, Beijing is the capital of the People’s Republic of China. It is home to around 21 million people, covers an area of around 17,000 square kilometres & has a history dating back around 3 thousand years. Reportedly, there are 9 million bicycles in Beijing… I’m not sure who has time to count them though. Jokes aside, it goes without saying that a city of this magnitude contains an overwhelming number of points of interest & should definitely be included onto every bucket list.
I knew while I was there I wanted to see the Forbidden City so at 9 am my friend & I faced the icy wind & were determined to make it there on public transport. Taking directions from the hotel reception seems like a good idea, right? Wrong. We walked around in the freezing weather for half an hour before we finally found the metro station that was “just around the corner”.
We got off the metro at the right station & true to unprepared tourists, we left the station through the wrong exit. We were opposite the Forbidden City, on the wrong side of the road & it wasn’t like we could just quickly run across. We had to walk quite a distance up the road, use a pedestrian crossing underneath the road & then walk back. When we got to the right side of the road, we followed the crowd. This was a mistake because we were the only foreigners & we followed them into a fenced security checkpoint. We thought it was for the Forbidden City, but it was actually the military doing checks on locals.
A man in uniform spotted us & charged towards us, blowing a whistle as loud as he could & pointing in the direction we had come from. We both got a little bit nervous so we turned & tried to get away as fast as possible… which wasn’t very fast at all because we were going against the flow of the crowd. He & his whistle followed us until we got out of that fenced area.
We did make it to the entrance & had a great time in the Forbidden City. We used the main exit & wanted to get back to the main entrance so we could backtrack to the hotel. The thing was, once you exit, they don’t let you back in & the walk around is over 3 kilometres. We asked the security guard if there was a bus that went to the entrance & he said there was & he pointed us to it. We paid & got on. The bus didn’t go back to the entrance. We just kept getting further & further away from the Forbidden City so we decided to get off & take a taxi back to the hotel.
I think my organs were frozen & my face was sunburnt, but I had such a great day.
Keep traveling, keep safe.
I’m so in need of my passport!
This sounds like a classic Beijing adventure! You’re very brave to be visiting at this time of year though!
I’m still laughing! Mama said there’d be days like this!
This brings back memories from my own trip to China back in 2016! We visisted the Forbidden city as well and luckily we had a Chinese guidd with us so everything went smoothly😅
My son and I visited Beijing, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City in winter last year. It was during the party congress that elected Xi president for life. There were military people in uniform all over the place. I was surprised at how Chinese citizens had to show national IDs at many checkpoints in the area. The Forbidden City was impressive even in the cold.
I visited The Forbidden City in October of 2018. A good experience, yet a really long walk inside the complex. Despite it being a bright Tuesday morning, it still was crowded- most of them tourists from China.- That, I wasn’t prepared for.
This post made me giggle, but it sounds like you made memories to last a lifetime lol
Glad you had a good time amidst the setbacks. I can picture inside my head the guard blowing the whistle the entire time you were backtracking to get out of the locals line. lol The guards all around Beijing take their jobs seriously. I remember looking at some who were standing on corners or on guard throughout the metro and other busy places and some resembling statues with no sign of human emotion.
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Thanks for this look at an extremely challenging place to visit.
On my single time in Beijing, I was on business, but made the best of my free time. I was there in early spring and got a break from the weather you experienced, although we got a taste of the dust that blows in from the Gobi Desert the night we arrived.
My hotel was only a couple of miles from Tiananmen Square. The city’s relatively flat, as you know. The wide avenues on either side of the roadways that are reserved for the millions of bicyclists were an excellent place to run. I headed out early and made it to the square. It’s one mile around Tiananmen square, perfect for runners. Early in the morning, the only other runners were a squad of young military troops. I was in my mid-fifties, and in good condition for my age, but those young soldiers ran past me, three paces for every two of mine, and blew me away.
Just as well. As I ran past him, I made a gesture to that portrait of The Chairman over the entrance to the Forbidden City they would not like to have seen.
It’s fine to visit exotic places, but one has to remember, too.
My daughter who is 18 next year, wants to travel China 🙂
Nice post man! I lived in China for a year – a few years back. Sometimes I miss it, and wonder how places have changed since I last saw them. But I can’t help but being a bit afraid going back, with the changes in course China has taken under Xi Jinping – not least the situation with Canada and Huawei…
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I have been there before, my first time taking my parents to the Forbidden City was a bit of a nightmare… We ended up trudging along in the Summer time, so the heat was unbearable! When we finally got there though, we did enjoy it. A one hour trip (which we thought it would be) turned into being 5 hours.
Thanks for the information about the Forbidden City. Looks like the entrance and exit can be tricky! -Rebecca
So jealous. I was supposed to be in China this April, alas…. 😟