A Weekend in Beijing

While the main reason I visited Beijing was to hike a section of the Great Wall, I still managed to see a few other sights – here’s a glimpse.

Having arrived in Beijing in the wee hours of the morning after a very delayed flight, we were determined to head straight to our Hutong that we were booked into and get some much needed rest. After getting ripped off by our taxi driver, we arrived at our Hutong which was tucked away in a back alley in the Chaoyangmen neighbourhood of Beijing. For some unknown reason, our taxi driver refused to take us to the front of the Hutong and instead insisted on dropping us off at the corner of the main road. We guessed that he didn’t want to do this as he was probably an illegitimate cab (hence ripping us off) and didn’t want to get caught… but we were too exhausted and didn’t know any better at the time. #rookie

It was 2am and we arrived at the Hutong to find the night receptionist asleep. We woke him up so we could check-in and get to our room. As a non-smoker, I of course booked a non-smoking room but even before entering the room, all I could smell was the foul stench of cigarettes. Again, too tired to deal with this at 2am in the morning… it can wait until some rest and daylight. After unsuccessfully trying to get another room (they all smelled of cigarettes despite being non-smoking), we decided to check-out and find a new place to stay.

TLDR: The Hutong was of terrible standards and we ended up booking into another hotel (specifically, the East Hotel) near the arts district in Beijing.

With that whole annoying situation sorted, it was time to hit the road and get into some typical, touristic sightseeing. First stop: Tiananmen Square.

Tiananmen Square

A guard standing by in Tiananmen Square

After a walk through the National Museum of China and a wander around Tiananmen Square, we decided to find a quieter space amongst the bustle of Beijing. We ended up in a park near Tiananmen Square which I think was Jingshan Park from memory. From here, we made our way to the Forbidden City then onwards to Beihai Park.

Forbidden City

The road around the Forbidden City

The white pagoda of Beihai Park and its surroundings, probably my favourite place of the day

The following day started with an early morning visit to the Temple of Heaven park. We wanted to get in early to see the locals do some Tai Chi and were even lucky to check out some folk work out on the outdoor bars, impressing us with their incredible calisthenic skills. Seriously, these guys would easily put a lot of younger folk to shame.

Locals doing chin-ups, calisthenics and all sorts of bar work in the Temple of Heaven outdoor park

While we were up bright and early to see a different side of the Temple of Heaven park, we were too early that the temple itself wasn’t open. We could’ve waited for it to open, but we had a taxi standing by waiting for us as we had made plans to watch Game 7 of the NBA Finals at a local pub. #priorities

After the game, we explored 798 Arts Zone (the arts district of Beijing) which was a whole different side to the city. Something to definitely keep in mind if you feel like you’ve spent too much time visiting temples and museums in Beijing.

L: Locals taking part in some Tai Chi | R: A close up of the Temple of Heaven

Watching the locals do Tai Chi was kind’ve peaceful in itself

On the other full day we had in Beijing, we took a day trip to the Jiankou section of the Great Wall where we hiked to Mutianyu. You can read more about that here.