One month ago, I had the chance to visit Beijing to visit friends of mine who moved there recently. Although I had other holidays planned for this year, I decided I did not want to postpone my visit – despite the fact my partner couldn’t come with me.
And I have to say: I’m glad I did it!
First, I had the excitement of going for the first time of my life to China, to Asia…and also to have my first long haul flight! On top of that, I have been lucky enough to get an upgrade to business class on my outbound flight: even more excited! (thank you British Airways for rewarding loyal customers 🙂
Note: I think the fact that I had a BA member card with a good amount of loyalty points + travelling alone on a fully booked flight definitely helped to get this nice treat.
That was such a nice start for my trip: no queue to drop my luggage, priority lane for the security checks…and a nice time at the business lounge (the one I am talking about it at the Terminal 5 at Heathrow): food, drinks, TV, magazines, even a spa! (unfortunately I didn’t have time to get a massage) I felt so privileged – although I can imagine you could easily get used to this after a few flights!
On board the service was great, we had a flight attendant coming very regularly if we need anything: a nice kir royal, a full-flat bed, a a tasty dinner, a good entertaining system, a very friendly seat neighbor to chat with…all the conditions for a great flight were there! I was relaxed and ready to enjoy the most of Beijing!
For my trip, I finally stayed 10 days in Beijing, which is not too much if you want to discover different places in the city and take your time! I had read in different travel blogs that you could “do” the city in 4-5 days, but this means you just have time to see the “musts” and not so much time to wander in the streets and get a feeling of the city…
What I keep in my memory is a city where very different things cohabit: traditional temples, super modern skyscrapers, smelly street food in open markets, peaceful and quiet parks where you can meditate, hectic business areas, elder people dancing in the street or practicing calligraphy, grandmas hanging out with grandchildren, young ladies wearing the latest Western fashion … surprises can wait for you at every corner of the street!
I can definitely recommend this city, although I think it is not that easy to visit China when you are totally on your own: but if you learn a bit of Chinese and prepare your trip beforehand, this is definitely doable! (the most annoying part of the trip being obtaining a Chinese visa – but that’s another story)
If I could keep in mind some tips to someone visiting Beijing – I would give the following: (of course, this is totally subjective, feel free to correct me in the comment section):
- Learn some basic words of Chinese – even if you are not able to talk fluently, this will help breaking the ice with the locals and they will be more willing to help you. Learning about the city before you arrive will help you understanding and appreciating the places you will visit.
- Even if it’s tempting, don’t focus only on super-touristic places (although it would be a pity not the visit the Forbidden City), take time to get lost in the small streets, watch people exercising in parks: take time to appreciate the way people live.
- Try some street food and small eateries: it’s cheap and super delicious! If you have a sensitive stomach, take some probiotics before your trip (that’s what I did personally)
- Beijing is a super safe city – just don’t act stupid and you will be totally fine.
- Buy some masks for pollution, they can be quite helpful especially if you have asthma.
- Always carry some cash with you – not that many shops seem to accept credit cards.
- Public transport are quite efficient in the city – and really really cheap: the subway has the stations announced in English, for the bus it depends on the lines, but at least you have the stations written in Latin alphabet inside the bus. Cabs are also cheap, but you will probably need some Chinese skills to indicate your direction!
- Don’t be upset if some people (especially in the public transportation) don’t say “sorry” or push you.
- When you go buy some souvenirs, try to go to a fake market (the one I went to was Yashow Market – if I remember correctly) and bargain ruthlessly – you will have great fun!
- Be polite, curious, open to new things, don’t judge situations/people too quickly…and you’ll have a fantastic stay!