Red. If I were to pick a word to describe Beijing, it would be ‘red’. I remember us flying in from Manila very late at night into Beijing and looking outside the window and just seeing a reddish haze over Beijing. It was intriguing and sinister looking all at once. The whole city seemed to be glowing red.
The first place we visited was the Forbidden City. This place is massive! I’m not sure we were able to really check out everything inside. I think we made a good effort though. It was pretty interesting to see inside this place, although I kind of wished I read up more on it before we went. Just across the Forbidden City is Tiananmen Square.
After exploring the Forbidden City and seeing Tiananmen Square, we decided to head to Wangfujing. Wangfujing is a shopping area, but is also famous for what they call snack street, where they have local street food and some souvenirs.
After dinner and a bit of souvenir shopping, we headed back to find something that was, I would assume, fondly called ‘The Egg’. This is actually the National Center for the Performing Arts, and is one amazing piece of architecture. We knew it was close to where we were earlier, but we thought it would be something nice to check out at night with it lit up. It didn’t disappoint.
The next day found us on a bus to Mutianyu. Or so we thought. This was our first attempt at visiting the Great Wall. We actually ended up at some far off town, hours away from Beijing. I’ll talk about our Great Wall failed visit attempt and successful visit on a separate post.
Eventually, we did make it back. We decided not to let that get to us and just visit The Summer Palace instead. This is a beautiful property of not just the palace, but with gardens, and a lake. We took our time here, having arrived just after lunch time. We walked around, took lots of photos. I’d say it’s a good recovery from the mishap earlier.
Finally, we ended our day by visiting the Olympic sites, the Cube (which is actually the National Aquatics Center) and the Bird’s Nest stadium (this one is officially the Beijing National Stadium). Both look incredible in real life, especially at night as they are lit up.
Skipping ahead to our last day in Beijing. We had the whole day free since we weren’t flying out until that night, so we went ahead and visited a few more temples on the list.
The first one was the Temple of Heaven. While I think the temple itself is amazing, what I loved best about visiting this place is seeing the locals go about their day. I believe we visited on a Saturday. When we were there, we saw locals playing chess, or doing a bit of gambling, people dancing, or playing instruments. It was such a great use of public space.
We also had time to visit the Lama Temple, which reminded of those old temples my grandmother used to visit when I was younger. The smell of incense was everywhere. It brought back memories of time spent living with my grandmother. My grandmother on my father’s side while catholic, observes some Buddhist practices for my late grandfather. I don’t know how effective this is, really, but I guess it gives her comfort.
Since we were leaving that night, we went back to our hostel to warm up and eat before heading to the airport.
One thing I confirmed while we were on this trip was I definitely was not built for the cold. This is from a person who describes temperatures below 20°C cold. On this trip, the temperature averaged 0°C to 2°C. I’m just glad we didn’t visit when it was snowing. I survived with four layers of clothing. That’s probably the most number of clothing I’ve ever had on. As someone who grew up in a tropical country, I’ve always complained about the heat, but after getting a taste of winter, I’ve really developed a better appreciation for our warm weather.
I also got to travel with a good friend of mine this time. Having had several trips where I traveled alone that year–this trip actually happened in 2014–I really appreciated having someone to share the experience with me. It was a crazy trip. We did manage to get lost a few times. These types of shenanigans are always less stressful when you have someone to share it with. Plus you have someone to share cool moments on the spot.
Also, I thought I’d share a video my friend made of our trip to Beijing below.