Follow me to Beijing!
As part of my MBA program this past summer, a group of 40 of us went to Asia! We started our trip in Shanghai and then took a train to Beijing. We were here for four days, but I think two or three days would be perfect. Here is what I want to share from my trip to China’s Imperial City.
What to do in Beijing:
- Tour Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City
A trip to Beijing would not be complete without seeing these two. Wake up early (the flags are up before 6AM) and be one of the thousands watching the flag raising at Tiananmen (a selfie stick is a necessity). Then spend an hour walking through the Forbidden City (once you enter in, you must exit through the other side). But bring a guidebook, because historical information placards are few and far between and there is so much rich history to learn about.
- Visit the Great Wall
Having been, I wouldn’t recommend someone go to China just to visit the Great Wall, but if you are already in China, you should go. It is an incredible show of human ability to have built the Wall so long ago. My MBA program and I spent a few hours walking 10 miles along the Wall on a day that was surprisingly good air quality. But don’t let this fog fool you, we were all drenched in sweat. The best parts of the Wall? The ski lift up and the toboggan down. Now that was fun!
- Shop at the Markets The Pearl and Silk markets are a great place to practice your bargaining skills (I’d recommend paying about 10% of the initial price) and bring home some cheap souvenirs. I personally find that two hours is plenty before it becomes quite overwhelming, but it is definitely worth checking out. Also, China does not enforce copyright laws, so the markets are the place to go to buy knock-off designer products.
- Visit the Summer Palace
This imperial garden is relatively small at only one square mile, so can be easily accomplished in two hours. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its beauty is stunning. A few of my classmates and I rented a paddle boat and took off around the lake. It was a great way to see the Summer Palace from a different perspective, though we did work up quiet a sweat! The Temple of Heaven also looks like it is worth a stop.
- Walk a Wutong These alley ways are great. Full of character and history, they often lead to a market, bar, or food stand. Definitely worth getting lost wandering one or two.
Other Things of Note:
- Street Food
Just like in Shanghai, there is tons of delicious and affordable street food. You can find anything, from mojito stands to live scorpions on sticks (I personally recommend the mojitos).
- Transportation Although not as good as that in Shanghai, the Metro in Beijing is still extremely easy to navigate and the best way to get around.
- Eat Xiabou Xiabou This is the style of eating where the table has a giant bowl in it to keep broth boiling as you cook your own meat. The dish is totally customizable and a fun eating experience with friends. We had this multiple times in Beijing and I would highly recommend it!
- Be Ready to See: tons of dogs (compared to Shanghai), more lower-income households and developments, men with their shirts rolled above their bellies (not hot), and babies peeing on the street (also not hot). But due to the poor air quality, you will see very few birds.
- Money – When I went in June 2017, $1 USD was 6.75 Chinese Yuan (or RMB) and a typical meal out was about 100 RMB.
- Things Aren’t Always What They Appear You won’t see much in English, so your best guess is typically what you have to go off of. While in a grocery store, my fellow MBAer Pilar and I picked out some mochi ice cream to try. What we thought was vanilla turned out to be onion flavor! Now that was a true Asia experience and one I wouldn’t trade for the world.
Ultimately, I enjoyed my time in Shanghai more than in Beijing because I loved the international feel of Shanghai. But for a truly cultural and historical experience, you can do no better in China than in Beijing.
What are your thoughts on Beijing? Let us know below.