I’m going to be completely honest and say it wasn’t love at first sight when I landed in Beijing. It may have been the 1.40am flight from Bangkok that got us off to a bad start, but the heat and humidity even at 8.30am was overwhelming.
I imagine most people could without too much thought roll off a list of sights to see in Beijing, China’s busy capital. I’ve talked about The Great Wall already, the cheat’s version but here are a few more highlights.
It’s obviously a must to visit Tiananmen Square. I did it, as in I walked around the vast square in unbearable heat with hoards of tourists (mostly Chinese tourists). My highlight was a young woman asking me to pose for a photo with her mother. The excitement on the elderly lady’s face when I stood arm in arm with her was infectious. I like to think there’s a photo of me in denim hot pants on their mantlepiece at home now.
We crossed the road, which means marching confidently as cars screech to a halt around you, to the Forbidden City. A huge image of Mau stairs back at you from the entrance and you’re free to walk around at your leisure once you get in. Unfortunately the heat, humidity and pure volume of people took the shine of this experience for me. I wasn’t aware of the history but for around 500 years only the emperors, their concubines and their Unichs were allowed to enter this walled ‘city’. The part I found interesting was the concubines and the role they played. All aged between 13 and 17 females selected from military families to go and live with the Emperor. Many of these young women never even got to hang out with the Emperor, but by living this lifestyle they were now cut-off from their families completely forever. Only the smart women got what they wanted, if you’re interested check out ‘The Dragon Lady‘.
Of course you have to try ‘Beijing Duck’ formerly known as ‘Peking Duck’. It’s roasted duck, very different to the UK’s Crispy duck, but served with plum sauce, pancakes, cucumber and spring onions just like the majority of our restaurants.
I know I’m probably selling Beijing a little short here as there are many temples and places to visit but my advice would be don’t even attempt it in August. The heat, humidity and crowds make it a tough city to navigate and enjoy.