My first impression of Beijing wasn’t very good. I was very strapped for cash because I didn’t have access to my bank account during my visit there. Having about $30 after covering a taxi from the airport and my hostel accommodation didn’t leave a lot of money to spend on fun things. Basically, it meant that I had to pick one thing that I wanted to do — and that was eat Peking Duck. Other than that I was limited to free or very low cost activities for the entirety of my stay. Well, that and the Great Wall hike that I was able to pay for with a credit card.
So, I didn’t have a bad time on my first visit to Beijing necessarily, but I didn’t have a great time either. Having that little cash left me pretty stressed out for the whole visit there. After I left I knew that I would eventually have to go back and give Beijing a second chance, and I was given that opportunity when a $462 round-trip business class fare presented itself.
My second trip to Beijing was also a short one. I would have loved to plan something a little bit longer and explored more of China, but that wasn’t in the cards this time. I was going to be spending about 36 hours in Beijing.
Let me start off by saying, I’m so glad I gave Beijing a second chance. My second impression was much better than my first. Without having to worry about whether or not I was going to be able to pay for food, I was able to enjoy myself quite a bit more. I visited both the Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven, I made a new friend who was flying on the same mistake fare, and we ate delicious food at all hours of the day and night (a 36 hour trip will definitely confuse you as to what hour of the day it is)!
The Summer Palace was probably the highlight of the trip for me. I think I could have spent a whole day walking around and relaxing in the park and around the lake. It was absolutely beautiful. [I wasn’t very good with taking photos on this trip because I was playing around with taking video instead — watch out for my video experimentations as soon as I figure out how to rotate the video mid-clip!] In terms of food — my highlight was definitely the pork buns we went to eat at 4:30 am because we were both awake and hungry… 10 pork buns for about $2! And they were so good! For the record — we stayed at the Park Plaza Beijing Science Park, and the place with the pork buns was in the direction of the subway station, but then we turned right along that first road and walked for probably 3 minutes. If you’re in the area, check them out! Though, I’m also sure there are good pork buns a ton of places in Beijing.
We also used Uber a few times while we were in Beijing. If we were able to find the car we had called, it was great. Uber was cheaper than a regular cab or rickshaw, and also left us less likely to be scammed. Which we were the one time we took a rickshaw… (the equivalent of $18 USD for a 3 mile ride after having agreed to half that price, which was still ridiculous!). The main problem with using Uber, however was that google maps doesn’t work the greatest, so it was hard to figure out where we were and where the Uber was. Pair that with not being able to make phone calls and not speaking Chinese, lead to two cancellations that I was charged for. Granted, even considering the cancellation charges, it was still less expensive than it would have been to do it any other way.
All in all, my quick trip to Beijing was a good one. I’m glad I went back, and I’m glad that I now have a 10-year visa for China. I’m sure that I will be visiting China at least a couple times in that 10-year period.