“I travel because I’d rather look back at my life, saying ‘I can’t believe I did that’ instead of ‘if only I had…’”
~ Florine Bos
This post records a 2019 trip and amends a post from Adnarim93Creative.
My time was winding down in Shanghai, China for the moment. However, I still had so much to do and so much to see! One of the things at the top of my to-do list was Beijing. I could not say that I have lived in China for almost two years and had not been to Beijing—had not gone to the Great Wall! Could you imagine?!
So, a trip had to be planned. It was a necessity! There are times when I plan and times where I just go with the flow; this was not one of those times. My dad was coming on this trip, so the OCD side came out as I painstakingly planned what we were going to do. Beijing has a lot to offer and more than anything I wanted it to be memorable.
Many of the friends I had made during my time in Shanghai had already made their sojourn to Beijing. Like Shanghai, it was a hub of historical sites, traditional cuisine, and so much more. It was a required item on the “China- Travel bucket list.” They gave me the ins and outs of their stay and other recommendations. I took in all of their notes as I planned out my stay.
With the destination and number of travelers known, the next step in planning, of course, is where would I stay? The further you book in advance, usually the cheaper the price will be. I knew in January that I would be going to Beijing in April, and in February, I booked my stay. I did this through Luxury Escapes. I had stumbled on this app while planning my end of the expat year journeys. This was my first time using this service and I will definitely use it again, because it did not disappoint. From the name, I’m sure you can tell what type of hotel stays they offer—luxury… like with all the stars. It was simple to book and pull up my information through this app.
Did I pay an arm and a leg? No. It was luxury that didn’t kill me because the deal was amazing and totally worth it. I saw the deal for the NUO Hotel Beijing and snatched it right up. This was for the Nuo Hotel in the Chaoyang District.
What was the offer? A 3 nights stay in the Nuo Club Room with daily breakfast buffet and exclusive club lounge access with daily afternoon tea and nightly cocktail hour. When I broke the offer price down from the regular price, and of course, after researching the hotel, the decision to book was a no brainer. During our stay, we took advantage of the club access. It, honestly, only took the free flow of coffee to be sold. We were there every evening and morning sipping our lattes, and by the end of our trip, were familiar with all of the club lounge staff.
What I appreciated most about this stay was the exhibition of art and care to hospitality and elegance. Walking into the NUO Hotel it was easy to see why it is ranked five stars. Art lives in the building, seen in paintings that adorn the wall, to the ceramics that accentuate the spaces. The hotel itself is lovely and each staff member we met were amicable. The hotel is tucked out of the way, bordering the city center. The location was nice.
I have no shame in admitting that I have expensive habits. I love luxury travel. It’s a blessing and a curse since I have high standards and am critical about where I stay; but I don’t hurt myself. I save up and budgeted accordingly. I saved up and paid myself back for this trip because it was more than hotel stay. It was memories.
Traveling and Transportation
So, how did I get there? I strongly contemplated by plane, however various friends had taken the bullet train and claimed it to be better than traveling by plane. I was skeptical. I had never taken a train—anywhere. So, to try to book tickets in another language and commute from the station… It seemed a bit much. Still, it was cheap and convenient, so I took the chance—and I’m glad I did. While the queuing was a bit chaotic, the ride was awesome and so smooth! A plus—the snacks were great!
Bullet Train Tip: Move fast. When they give the time the train is leaving, there are no exceptions. You better hop on that train
After I knew where I was staying and how to get there, how did I get around the city? This had a rocky start. From the train, we thought we could get a DiDi to the NUO which was around 40 minutes from the station. This was a lot more difficult than I thought because one, there was a wait for a DiDi and two, the traffic. So, like any sensible tourist… we took a ride from a stranger off the street. Yes, I know. The images of Taken were flashing in my mind too and sadly, this wasn’t the first time we had done this. Our guardian angels were working extra hard and fortunately we arrived safely at our hotel. From here, transportation was covered because it was prearranged.
Activities and Sightseeing
We had made it, so what did we do? My list of locations to hit was drawn up before we had left. I had arranged my list between what we had to see and what we wanted to see. To see all I wanted to see (without the rush) more than three days was definitely needed because I barely got to all of my must-sees: the Great Wall, the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City. We had to be mindful of working between the rush hour traffic hours and best available times, and also consider how much time we would spend in each spot.
All of these places are a good distance from each other. Making local transportation arrangements is helpful. I had arranged for a driver for the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. The hotel concierge helped with calling a taxi for the Summer Palace.
Travel Tip: Reserve a driver for full days. Taxi’s are especially convenient in Beijing, however for places outside the city like the Great Wall, it is best to make arrangements with a driver. The fee is usually a daily fee, so you can use the same driver throughout the day to see other sites. WeChat is a necessity for this convenience.
I am a slow traveler. Not only do I walk slow, but I take my time looking at things. So, it’s easy for me to spend hours in one place. The first place we went to was the Summer Palace, which was absolutely gorgeous. This was a full day. The long walkways, temple areas, open courtyards. It was a sight that I greatly enjoyed musing through. My dad noticed a temple far off and said let’s go to the top. I agreed, not really thinking we would climb all the way to the top. Oh, the pain in my legs! Stone steps are not fun to climb, but the view from the top was completely worth it.
The next day, we hit the Great Wall and Forbidden City. The Great Wall we ventured off to early in the morning, arriving just before the grounds open. That is the perfect time to go because it was quiet and empty. The Wall was scarce, and it was perfect for climbing, strolling and picture taking. We rode a cable car up to Wall and back down and walked a short way. We spent more time picture taking than actually walking. The Wall has a toboggan, so next time, I will definitely have to ride it back down. Arguably, this was our favorite spot. I think my dad took more selfies here than I did!
The Great Wall was followed up with the Forbidden City in the afternoon. For this location, it might be better to go early in the morning like the Wall because by the time we went around about midday it was crowded. I did not enjoy this location quite as much since I don’t do well in crowds. I’m short and once anyone taller than 5”2’ gets in front of me I can’t see anything. This was a quicker walk through, capturing all of the main areas.
After a taste of Beijing, I know next time I would come about the same time and hit every spot early in the morning, leaving my afternoons free to try more local cuisine. Still, I’m glad I got to cross Beijing off my list, and I got to do it with my dad. This was an awesome trip that I’m glad to have gone on.
Have you been to Beijing or would you like to go? Are there any tips or must-see places you tack on?