After two days in Shanghai, my friend and I decided to fly to Beijing. We arrived in the middle of the night, greeted by a blanket of thick fog, yellow from the street lights as we landed. Ah, the mystic that is Beijing begins.
Our two days in the northern capitol, what “Beijing” means, was planned on a tight schedule. After taking a long bus ride from the airort to the middle of nowhere – literally, we had no idea where we had been dropped off – we were ignored by several taxis swerving by, before finally flagging one down that stopped for us. Honestly, looking back, I don’t know what I would’ve done without my friend, who was born and raised in Shanghai. I could only imagine my stress level of being exhausted from a long flight and an hour’s bus ride. Then to be left alone, a single woman in a foreign country, practically stranded on a desolate city street close to midnight. Thank goodness for having friends around the world.
The morning after, we were able to take a look around the rustic, but endearing courtyard we stayed in, traditional housing in Beijing. Walking down the alleys of our neighborhood, our eyes swallowed the well stacked and colorful fruit, business owners cleaning while co-mingling with customers, people riding their bikes; all the while, them staring back at us (me).
First on our list was the Great Wall of China. It has always been this untouchable thing of great significance to me. Something I never thought I’d be able to say, “Yes, I’ve been there.” I was excited. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that about half of my excitement was in anticipation of riding a toboggan down the Great Wall of China! [Spoiler: It was the WRONG Wall of China.]
My thirst for the rich taste of excitement on a small, self-driven, bob-sled-like toboggan was quickly watered down to a bland tug-boat-type kiddy train. Basically, it was for the elders who couldn’t handle the entire walk of the Wall. I was crushed. The toboggan I dreamt of was at the Mutianyu Wall, I, unfortunately, was at Badaling. This is what I wanted… big difference.
Mutianyu is further out, but less crowded and more authentic than Badaling, but both received positive feedback, according to online reviews. (Please let my hindsight be your 20-20.) However, don’t let my toboggan-disappointment misguide you, the Badaling Wall was spectacular.
We also visited Summer Palace, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, but above all 798 Art Zone is a must-see! We split this day with the morning at Summer Palace, and the afternoon (equaling about two hours of play before having to jet back to our courtyard and then to the train station for Shanghai) at 798 Art Zone, and totally regretted not going there first. It’s an art district where old buildings are utilized as art galleries among other things. It’s like one huge outdoor art gallery, in fact. If it wasn’t for that $200 visa, I’d be back to China in a heartbeat. (Stay tuned in a later post for the loophole around that pesky $200 visa for U.S. citizens.)
I swallowed my pride and made the best of the Mutianyu mishap, and tried to soak up all of the ornamental beauty boasting itself in Beijing’s 789 Art Zone. What has been a planning debacle for you when traveling?