After spending a month in the very fast-paced, cosmopolitan Shanghai; I was ready for a slower pace to enjoy the history and the ancient beauty in Beijing..
I definitely got what I wished for with the slower pace... I have spent my past three days in Beijing waiting in security checkpoints to go into almost anywhere.
In the metro I had expected this - Shanghai also has x-ray screenings for all bags when you enter the metro so I guessed Beijing would be similar in a security sense.
However Beijing, like with everything it seems, wants to take it up a notch. Security wands, cameras and police everywhere.
Also walking seems to be a favourite past time here, with everywhere I've gone requiring a consistent amount of fitness which I am slowly building up again.
But it's all worth it to see these icons of Beijing.
The first check was the Forbidden City. The city is like a maze. I was trying to follow the map in my guidebook around and around... But I still felt as if I was getting lost in a concrete maze filled with beautiful archways and facades everywhere I went. Prepare yourself for a few hours of trekking around the Forbidden City. But with beautiful architecture like this, how could you not?
It's an extra RMB10 (on top of the RMB40 to enter the Forbidden City) to get into the Hall of Clocks, which was completely worth every yuan I spent. The clocks were fabulous. European clocks, Chinese clocks and they were all so intricately fine. However the other extra RMB10 entrance point into the treasure gallery I wasn't as impressed with. Despite this amazing Dragon facade on the wall, I was a bit disappointed with the extra RMB I just spent. But overall I could spend all day just wandering around. The garden was just divine, if not slightly busy with tourists all trying to see it.
The next one, the Summer Palace, may be a bit off the radar, but is definitely worth the visit up in the north-west. A stunning complex that was built when China's capital became Beijing, that was subsequently burnt down in 1800 and re-built. The main lake was frozen over when I visited, meaning everyone was skating on the lake and generally enjoying the tranquility and beauty of a frozen lake in the gardens. I enjoyed the Longevity Hill. But the lake was the spectacular bit. The bridges were modelled after the beautiful West Lake in Hangzhou.
Of course I did manage to get to the Great Wall of China. Avoiding the joke of saying it's a pretty 'great' wall (which was a good joke the first time I heard it), it was spectacular. I couldn't stop uttering how beautiful it really was. Seeing the quintessential icon of China was really something. It's expensive (if you go with a tour like I did for convenience), steep and some bits aren't 100 per cent safe if you're feeling adventurous, but there are really no words when you're looking down and all you can see is mountains, wall and snow.
In the end my thoughts on Beijing? Go. After walking around all these days in Beijing I've been coming back to the hostel feeling so content and satisfied. With views like this? How could I not.
~ Olivia (WM)