It takes 6 hours flight from Singapore to Beijing, a city not on our bucket list at first. My parents have been blabbering about how different and beautiful China is in comparison 10 years ago. So I am excited to explore China with Beijing as our starting point of interest.
When we arrived in Beijing, the weather was freakishly cold (-10 to – 16 degree Celsius). We got stuck in a terrible traffic jam and didn’t get to our hotel till 8:00 pm, so the only thing we managed to do on the first day was to go out for dinner. Here for only 7 days, barely enough to scratch the vast area of a 3,000-year-old country, we have to be very selective.
To give you a brief overview, here are the top 8 attractions and photos of the places we visited in Beijing. Why 8? It is because the number 8 is considered extremely lucky. In Mandarin Chinese, the pronunciation of ‘eight’ is close to that of the phrase meaning ‘to make a fortune’. The number 8 is also uniquely symmetric, and when laid on its side, it resembles the Greek symbol for infinity. Booyah!
A glance at Tiananmen
World’s largest public square, open to Mao’s Mausoleum, History Museum, Great Hall of the People, Forbidden City & Qianmen Street. It is also located near the National Grand Theater. It has more of historical value. Remember the Tiananmen massacre? that happened here. The monument and open area are guarded with guards. Great location for a quick stop to take photos.
Exploring The Forbidden City
Built in 1406-1420 by millions of labourers. Home of the emperor and his household until 1924. Located in the heart of Beijing.
Take a stroll in Beihai Park
This park surrounds Beihai Lake, whose island has the white Pagoda and occupies the site of Kublai Khan’s palace. Perfect for a Saturday or Sunday walk. This park is very peaceful and at least it was not crowded with people when I visited the park. From the top of the white Pagoda, you can feast your eyes on the amazing view.
Sunset in Jinshan Park
Situated in the centre of Beijing, Jingshan Park is a beautiful royal landscape garden. The mid summit of the hill is the highest point in Beijing. Looking from the peak, we are able to get a full panoramic view of the Forbidden City.
From the Forbidden City, this looked way too high to attempt, but the walk up is easy and took less than 10 minutes. The view was rewarding and it was one of the highlights of my visit in Beijing.
Feel the connection in the Temple of Heaven
Conveniently located in Beijing centre, just oppositive the Pearl market. The temple opens early. It is a place where local old folks go for early morning exercise.
Majestic imperial temple and park where emperors offered sacrifices. Featuring circular “Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest.” I am not a spiritual person, but there is definitely a sense of calm and serenity about this temple and it’s surroundings. Just make sure you take a tour that allows ample time to enjoy that serenity!
The Great Wall at Badaling
This is the easiest access to the colossal wall that fortified China against invaders 2700 years ago. The most popular site for tourists and renowned for receiving foreign dignitaries.
Climbing up the wall did take some effort, there were steep slopes and uneven steps. However, there was a handrail all the way up which did help. The views from the top were stunning and well worth the walk.
Ornate and extravagant Gong Wang Fu (Prince Gong) Mansion
This is Prince Gong’s mansion which is now a museum. It is located at the North of Shichaihai Lake. It is the most ornate and extravagant residence in all of Beijing. The buildings include several courtyards, two-storey buildings and even a grand Peking opera house. The gardens include artificial hills and rockery, pavilions and ponds. Worth a visit if visiting the lake area and the surrounding hutongs.
Experience the Old Beijing Street (Qianment Street)
2 Km-long street located just South of Tiananmen Square, now meticulously restored to reflect Qianmen’s 600 years old traditional shopping history and architecture.