I arrived in Beijing on 20th February later than expected due to (another) delayed flight. I found my Hostel, the 365 Inn with relative ease and checked in. The hostel is situated in a great location a 5 minute walk from Tiananmen Square, with shops and restaurants close by.
The group of mostly girls that I was sharing my dorm room with invited me to an organised tour to the Mutianyu section of the wall the next day, so I decided to go. The tour was a good price; 280RMB for pickup from the accommodation, entrance and lunch. Another option to see the wall is to hire a driver and pay the entrance fee yourself; however we were looking for the easiest option and it wasn’t a whole lot more expensive. We left at 7am and got to the site at around 10.
I was actually quite disappointed in my experience at the wall. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great. The smog was heavy making seeing anything further than a few metres in front practically impossible and the snow made it treacherous and dangerous to actually walk on the wall. I wasn’t wearing snow or ice-friendly shoes. I took the cable car up with one of the girls from the tour, spent a few hours attempting to navigate the wall, then took it back down again. One of the stations along the wall has messages from previous visitors that we all contributed to as well.
I’m glad I got to see the wall in the snow as it was still rather stunning and felt incredibly surreal that I was standing on THE Great Wall, but was pretty heartbroken I couldn’t walk up and down it without fear of breaking my neck or see any of the famous views.
After arriving back at the hostel, I decided to go for a walk around Tiananmen Square. It was incredibly cold and windy – I’d recommend buying a scarf you can cover your face with or even a fabric mask if you visit in February. When I got there, I noticed a large group of people waiting near the road, just before 6pm. I waited with them and by chance, saw the changing of the guards which was pretty impressive. They start at the entrance to Mao’s Mausoleum and walk across to the square, at which point the lights all come on at the same time. One thing I did notice is the volume of the sound their feet make when crossing the road, which is impressive if not intimidating, but definitely worth seeing! The square was nice to see lit up at night as well.
Shortly afterwards, I rejoined some of the group I accompanied to the wall to visit Wanfujing night market – which I absolutely loved! You can buy all sorts of delicious (and some not so) street food; I bought vegetable spring rolls, dumplings, and pancakes and eventually plucked up the courage to sample grasshopper, following recommendation from a German girl who had tried it before in Thailand. I didn’t like it. There are also souvenir stalls making it an ideal tourist attraction.
I really enjoyed the general feel and atmosphere of Beijing; the people I encountered were friendly, the city is easy to navigate and I loved being surrounded by impressive history and architecture. Being the Capital, everything was written in English making it easy to find your way. Being the Capital, everything was written in English making it super accessible and easy to get around. I would recommend Beijing to anyone and am already planning my next trip!
Keep following for my next post about my experience in Beijing tomorrow!