Why hello there!
Forever is an understatement for how long it’s been since I’ve written a blog post. Let’s just say a lot has happened in the last year.Firstly, I’ve had a major career change, secondly I’ve traveled to a tonne of new destinations and thirdly I’m starting a new chapter in my life: what it means to be in your 30’s! But! I digress. Let’s talk about China! Or more importantly, what’s so great about Beijing! It’s going to make a lot more sense if I explain why I was in China in the first place, so we’ll get onto the tips in a hot minute.
After hanging up my training shoes, I now work for a charity fundraising agency (who just happens to organize adventure travel for their supporters) and in May last year I was fortunate to team lead a group of 20 fundraisers for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. The goal was to fundraise a minimum of $3,500 for NBCF and in return they’re both challenged and rewarded with a 10 day adventure throughout rural and central China. It was my job, back in May to be on the ground, making sure everything went smoothly, to encourage, motivate and get everyone ‘across the finish line’ so to speak. Some call it a dream job; I call it humbling, incredibly rewarding and gosh darn inspiring. So let’s get into it! Here are my top 5 things to do in Beijing…
Visit the 798 Art District
I could have spent an entire day here. The Art District is a reconverted factory space totaling 500,000 square meters back in the 1950’s (cheers Wiki!). These days it’s a free domain for local artists to display and sell their wares. We had a few hours here to explore during which we sampled green tea ice-cream, a real flat white and witnessed an astonishing amount of selfie taking.
Fortunate enough to have a friend living in Beijing at the time meant that I got the inside scoop on where was hip and trendy to eat in down town Beijing. Not without a significantly smooth few train rides we found ourselves in Andingmen Residential District. We nestled into The Orchid Beijing. A modern and refreshing hideaway for those seeking modern shelter, modern food and an elegant respite. A few cocktails later and we’re hailing a cab * not as easy as you’d think by the way. Other than hip restaurants I was happily surprised to find that actual Chinese food is far better than what I’d sampled before. I’ve never eaten such delicious and varied forms of eggplant, beans (szechuan) and of course, one can’t visit Beijing without sampling the Peking duck! Simply mouthwatering. Embarrassingly I went to China stating to others that I’d be vegetarian for the 10 days for fear of eating unrecognisable meats. Needless to say, that statement lasted 6 hours upon arrival into China.
Jingshan Park, Forbidden City & Temple of Heaven
Firstly, Jingshan park was phenomenal for the people watching alone! We observed a modern day tinder technique whereby parents would lay pictures of their children on the ground in the hope that another parent in a similar condition (awaiting their offspring to leave them to their retirement, one could presume) would appreciate their income, occupation and age and would arrange a meet up. Next up was a compilation of badminton mixed with ballet, feel free to use your imagination. Expect adult dance classes, tai chi and extremely tense games of cards and/or chess. Incredible! The forbidden city and Temple of heaven were fascinating for their architectural display alone. Definitely worth a visit to all three.
Okay, so I was considering not putting this one in, but for intrigue alone it’s definitely worth checking out. Never one to say I’m some sort of history aficionado so I’ll leave that up to you to explore deeper but there truly is something for everyone here. The space is simply put, enormous. The guards will keep you on edge, but they are fascinating to observe.
Trek The Great Wall!
I honestly couldn’t recommend this enough, and can’t believe why one would ever go to Beijing for a holiday without visiting The Wall. As I’ve aptly re-named. Here’s what’s great about The Wall, it’s endless! You can spend as little or as much time as you have romping along as far as the eye can see. You can experience incredible diverse terrain without having to travel too far with plenty to take in along the way. The undulating hills make for many a photogenic pit stop. My advice is to invest in a local guide and get away from the crowds! To really take it in, you need vast space to really appreciate the vast space The Wall takes up!
Xie Xie & Zaijian (Thank you & Goodbye)