Last weekend, I traveled to Beijing with my roommate, Tariq. He had never been to the magnificent city and wanted me to accompany him since I had been there twice. It is quite a luxury to be able to easily access one of the biggest cities in the world. With a simple visit to the train ticket office, friendly help from local Chinese staff, and my passport, I was able to make my way to Beijing. Our last day of work was on Sunday and we left Monday morning at 6:30am. We did not want to waste any time or effort going to Beijing.
The Forbidden City
The train ride was smooth and we arrived with ease. We caught Bus 21 to the main metro line and within a few minutes, we were standing at the entrance of the Forbidden City. We walked through the parks that inhabit the entrance to the City and took some pictures of the traditional architecture. We got to the gate and decided against entering due to the longer lines and the pricey tickets. I will be in China for at least six more months and the City will be there waiting for me another time. After seeing the outside of the Forbidden City, we walked over to Tian’anmen Square. The Square is quite large and has lots of open space. It was very interesting to visit such a monumental part of Chinese culture and history.
After seeing some of the touristy areas of the city, we headed to see another famous Beijing landmark. We had researched some different things to do in the city and came across the Ox Street Mosque. This mosque is the largest and oldest mosque in Beijing! It was really fascinating walking around inside the mosque and learning about the very ancient Islamic tradition.
After walking around and sightseeing for the better part of the day, we stumbled upon a great looking hostel in the Qianmen area behind Tian’anmen. Qianmen is made up of many hutongs, or alleyways, that are heavily populated with shops, stores, restaurants, tea shops, and hostels. It is quite an exciting place to be! After booking the night at a hostel, we headed to the main strip that makes up inner Beijing. Wangfujing Street is known for its bustling stores, restaurants, and culture.
Our main intention was to go visit the Wangfujing Snack Street, which became famous for its delectable treats. We were not disappointed with the “snacks” we saw walking up and down the market. We saw everything from silk worms to tarantulas to centipedes on a stick. I decided to be adventurous and indulge in the snacks. I bought a stick of three deep-fried scorpions for around 10 Yuan. They actually tasted really good! I mean, you can’t really go wrong with deep frying.
The second thing I had was not so great. I decided to go for the gold and try out some snake on a stick. Imagine eating calamari without the tasty fried batter around it and about 100 times chewier and you get snake. It took about ten full jaw clenches for a minuscule bite to go down. Needless to say, I ate half of the snake and then threw the other half away. I am just proud that I could even get that much down!
The next day we signed up for a special tour of The Great Wall. Our hostel arranged a bus to take a group of us to an area that has not been restored. It took about two hours before we finally arrived at the secret section of Badaling! Let me tell you, it was truly a secret area; there were maybe ten other tourists on the wall besides our group. It was so great to be able to climb the wall and see the areas that were destroyed on my own without thousands of tourists. We had about two hours on the wall to climb at our leisure, and then we had a traditional Chinese lunch. The whole Great Wall adventure took around ten hours and we were exhausted by the time we got back. We did not have much time and had to immediately head to the train station to catch our 8pm train.
Beijing is a great international city to travel and explore, but it is even better because I live only two hours away. It is very convenient to visit and a lot can be seen in just a mere two days. I am happy to say that I am starting to learn how Beijing works and will definitely travel back there in the future.