Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Beijing, China

Beijing is the capital of one of the oldest and most traditional cultures in the world. We can only now appreciate the immense culture and history after having visited.

    Fast Five Favourites:

    • Great Wall - The reason we wanted to visit Beijing. An incredible place to experience.
    • Temple of Heaven - The temple is magnificent and the surrounding park filled with locals going about there day made it even more enjoyable. It's so unique that it didn't feel like we were just visiting another temple.
    • Forbidden City - Taking a step back in time to the home of China's many emperors was a fascinating experience. It's so vast it seems like a small city once you are inside the gates. It was especially interesting to visit after seeing the Forbidden City.
    • Hutongs and Old Beijing - We loved exploring the Hutongs, just north of the Forbidden City.
    • Markets - It felt like a must to experience the markets of the world's largest manufacturer of goods.


    • We decided to visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. It is about a 2-hour drive from the city which means that it is not as busy as sections closer to the city can be. Our private driver picked us up at 7am and we were able to beat the morning traffic before enjoying the Great Wall with nobody around. It was magical.
    • We used a private driver from Miles Meng. They were excellent to deal with and the car was new and comfortable. The driver offered very good service. For a slight premium to a taxi, it was well worth it.
    • At the Great Wall, our driver purchased all of our tickets and dropped us near the entrance. We decided to take the cable car up one end and travel down by toboggan on the other end. This route is mostly downhill if you are traveling with young kids. If you're up for a hike you can spend the whole day enjoying one of the great engineering masterpieces. Lilah was actually not allowed on the toboggan as she was too small. We walked back to the entrance and it was enjoyable.
    • Many people visit areas of the wall that are not as rebuilt and made for tourists like Mutianyu. When Lilah is older we might revisit the wall with her and perhaps stay a night or two near one of the less known areas of the wall.
    • Both the Temple of Heaven and Forbidden City are places you could spend a whole day. There's so much to see and take in. Being with Lilah, we were happy with spending half a day at both places.
    • We hired a guide at Forbidden City. This was money well spent. The stories from the time of the emperor are very interesting and bring the place to life. It's best to purchase tickets beforehand. We arrived early and there were no lines but there were a lot of people! The best viewpoint is from the park just outside the city, and you can also visit Tiananmen Square located on the opposite end.
    • The Hutongs to the North of the Forbidden city were amazing. We loved experiencing some of the more authentic areas and some of the more modern areas. There are a couple of lakes where you can enjoy a leisurely walk before visiting the Hutongs. We would definitely explore them more next time. There were also Hutongs to the East and South of the Forbidden city that we didn't quite have enough time to see. We had the most amazing hot pot in this area and would recommend trying one.
    • We spent 4 nights in Beijing and October was a nice time to visit. The climate was not too hot or cold. We did not have time to visit the summer palace so one more night may be necessary if you wanted to fit this in without rushing too much. We would recommend staying near a subway station.
    • The pollution was fine apart from our last day there. The smog was so strong that we didn't spend much time outside at all. It's probably not something you can plan for but we were glad that we got to see the blue skies of Beijing mostly.
    • Make sure to try the famous Peking duck and the hot pots!
    • Using the subway system is easy and convenient. It's probably a better option than driving as the traffic can be very busy.

    Baby on Board:

    • We used our stroller mostly everywhere we went and it was fine. A stroller that you can easily fold up would be convenient for the subway.
    • On the Great Wall, Lilah walked most of the way. This worked well as we were going predominantly downhill. If you're up for an adventure and a longer hike, a carrier would be a good option.
    • Obviously, the pollution is something to keep an eye on with a baby. We were very aware of the levels using the AQICN website. We also had a face mask for each of us just incase.
    • The locals may want a photo with your little ones. We didn't mind but there was one time when we asked a lady to leave Lilah alone when she clearly wasn't in the mood to be in her selfie.
    • There were many food options. Lilah was able to eat everything that we did.

    Five things the photos do not show:

    • The smog was crazy on our last day! You could literally see no more than a few meters in front of you. Thankfully it is something that the government is addressing.
    • Lilah thought we were in "vagina" the whole time. Luckily no one was listening to her close enough or able to understand her running around the airport before we left in Korea. She did end up being able to say China by the end of the trip. She loved it so much she keeps asking when we are going back.
    • The number of people everywhere! It is what you expect with a population in excess of 20 million but it's a different feeling seeing it.
    • The internet as we know it is non-existent. Instagram, Facebook, Google, Youtube are all banned. Make sure to purchase a VPN beforehand, and even then it is going to be glitchy.

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