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The Great Beijing Adventure: from the Hutong to the Forbidden City

Beijing hutong temple of heavenDays are moving rapidly in China and as the hours fly by, it seems that the one week long trip will only leave me wanting more. Since I haven’t got used to the local hour in Beijing, I’m currently visiting by day and writing by night, which in a way is quite nice. Although the last two sleepless nights have brought me to the point where I wasn’t able to visit “another imperial palace” today due to exhaustion, not sleeping at night does provide me with interesting Chinese TV shows…currently “China’s got talent” is playing in the background with a Chinese lady dancing on Ke$ha’s “Take it off”.

Enough about me, let’s talk about the city: Beijing has been surprisingly friendly these past two days, both in terms of weather and of (English speaking) people. We had a bright blue sky and around 20 degrees Celsius both on Thursday and on Friday, are living in one of the last remaining Hutongs of the old city (honestly don’t know if this hotel will still exist by the time we get back because of the pressure that is being put into a forced modernization and sky scraper-ization to soothe the needs of a growing population) and have great restaurants on our very small street. Plus, we reached the best Beijing roast duck according to Tripadvisor in around 15 minutes, making this first trip a “coolinary” experience by accident.

We didn’t get the chance to ride a cab because going to places by public transportation is much easier due to our location and also extremely cheap (2 quai/RMB per trip, meaning around 0,25 Euro). What we did do (and I’m very proud of it) is walk until we almost dropped. All the places you “must” visit in Beijing or to be precise, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and its gardens and the Summer Palace – that we haven’t seen yet due to my exhaustion – are HUGE. You basically walk from one courtyard into another without even realizing how much you had to move up and down and left and right. These places look like they were especially built for a population this size.

Even though I thought that the Forbidden City would impress me the most, I still can’t pick out a favourite place in Beijing, but maybe you will help me. Do you know a place aside from the Great Wall that MUST be explored in Beijing and isn’t always presented in the online tour guides you read before getting here? Please comment as fast as you can, I’m really curious about your opinion and experiences regarding the capital of China.

[Wangfujing Street and its creatures + Shanghai and its Bund will be posted anytime soon...]

The Great Beijing Adventure: on getting there in the first place

No matter how hard it might seem to plan a week long trip to East Asia or how many unfriendly tips you may hear about China, if you can get your hands on decently priced tickets, come check this country out! I’ve been here for less than 24 hours and it already feels worth the long journey we took to get here. Want to know how?

how to get to beijing cheap

Well, first of all, this trip (just like another one you probably read from me before) starts one sunny afternoon in July 2013, back when the austrian.com website decided to have a small glitch in its system (a so-called error fare) that allowed me to book two tickets from Geneva-Vienna-Beijing and Beijing-Vienna for 250 Euro each. Yes, you heard it right, China was less expensive than a ticket from Vienna to my hometown Sibiu that lie about 800 km away from each other. Even if this was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity, I highly suggest you check out cool deal websites such as exbir.de (where I found this offer), urlaubshamster.at or even my Facebook page, since we all regularly post ticket prices you wouldn’t find if you are not obsessed with booking – I am and I can gladly help you out :) .

From that point on, I had to solve some simple stuff to make my trip towards Beijing more pleasant: I got the tourist visas (60 Euro each from the Embassy in Austria, even if we are both Romanian citizens living here – we just needed our Meldezettel), the ride from Vienna to Geneva by train and a night at a lovely Airbnb in Geneva near the center of everything (totalling 85 Euro per person). I also reserved a place to stay in Beijing (which I managed to find quickly on Booking.com using a system that never failed) for 5 nights and 90 Euro per person…in an interesting Hutong (old part of the city, quite close to the center). That plus what we spent in half a day in Geneva plus all the rides with buses from and to the airports plus the five hours we spent in the Viennese airport makes about 500 Euro to get a week into a country that I never thought I could have the money to visit during my student years.

Yes, I was tired upon arriving here. But believe me, living this experience makes all the fatigue go away. Once we served our first Chinese meal at a restaurant near our hotel in Beijing, the spices of a country that is so different from what we are used to kicked in. And that was just the first in a series of events we were about to witness…

[stay tuned for more]

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