Myself and a colleague booked a quick stopover in Beijing prior to a cruise.
We flew with Cathay Pacific to Beijing via Hong Kong. Check-in and service was all very good, the aircraft was clean, food ok and the movie selection was great. We transit in Hong Kong and had to change planes and discovered the airport is absolutely huge, so you need plenty of connection time here!
Our flight was delayed leaving Hong Kong (to avoid lightening) so we arrival in Beijing very late. Despite this we were met by our lovely Wendy Wu tour guide with a smile. The transfer time to the city was only 30 minutes as it was late evening, apparently in peak times this trip this can take up to 1.5 hours. The vehicles used for the transfer and our day touring were clean, comfortable and air conditioned. The guide spoke English quite well.
Our first day touring with our guide was to visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City which was truly amazing. Forbidden City is 1km long from beginning to end. Lots of walking and lots of people- so comfortable shoes, a hat, sunscreen and patience are a must! You can buy drinks along the way. Our guide was a wealth of knowledge on the history.
That afternoon we had some time shopping at the Silk Markets and bought some nice designer knock off handbags here. That evening we went to an Acrobat show and Peking Duck dinner, the show was incredible and is a must see! After this we asked to be dropped off at the night food stalls (to see all the crazy critters on sticks that locals eat). We then walked the few blocks back to our hotel- The Novotel Peace. This was a nice hotel, in a good location. The breakfast buffet had a good selection of western and eastern food.
The next day we head off early with our guide to the Great Wall which is truly spectacular! There are several different sections of the wall to visit, we went to Mutianyu. This section has been fully restored and is popular with tourists, it has a cable car to get you part of the way up and down! The cable car takes you to Tower 14- from here you can walk left towards Tower 20, which is the steeper part of the wall, but offers great photo opportunities. The walk right from Tower 14 is downhill and flatter and you also have the option of coming down from the wall at Tower 6 by luge- which is fun! Regardless of which way you choose it is not an easy walk along the wall as the ground is very uneven, and there are many uneven stairs along the way also. It is also a very long steep walk just to get on to the wall (even if you use the cable car) so you need comfortable shoes and plenty of time here so you can stop and rest when you need.
We finished off our touring day with a visit to the Ming Tombs. After all the amazing sights we had seen this was a bit underwhelming. If you are pushed for time you won’t miss much skipping this place!
We stayed that night at the Hilton Airport Hotel. This is a beautiful hotel, with fantastic restaurants and a great bar.
Our lunches and Peking Duck dinner were included during our Wendy Wu touring. The restaurants they used were all clean, air conditioned and the food was good. Menus are rarely in English so without a guide it really would be anyone’s guess what you are ordering! Our lovely guide assisted with all our food and drink orders which made it very easy.
It was extremely hot when we were there in July (34 degrees) which made touring/walking quite uncomfortable so I would only recommend travel in Spring or Autumn. Aside from this I loved my brief time in China and look forward to going back and seeing more of this fascinating country.
Tip: You have to embrace the squat toilet or bust (literally). Tissues, hand sanitiser and a sense of humour are required! At some attractions you may be lucky and find one western toilet but there will be a big line up of tourists waiting to use it!