We were fortunate that Matt had a business trip to Beijing, China in early March. That meant the kids and I got to join him and do some sight-seeing. In preparing for this trip we had to get a visa for everyone. To make things easier on me, we used HAS travel agency to take care of the visas. I gathered the papers needed and then someone from HAS travel showed up to our home and took everything to the Chinese Embassy for us and waited in whatever lines were there. Unfortunately, the Chinese embassy charges ~$170 per person for a visa, but at least Matt’s was paid for as part of his business trip (and his hotel and airfare). Of course we booked a tour guide through Viator. We were fortunate enough to have Iris Liu as our guide and she was wonderful. Her English was great, she did some research for us beforehand, she was wonderful with our kids, she told us how much we could bargain down to, and it was totally stress-free for us for the 3 days we had her. A cool fact is that the NBA contacts her each year to help guide their staff and players when they visit for exhibition games. If she’s good enough for the NBA, she’s good enough for us – we highly recommend Iris (read our tripadvisor review of her here)!
Tiananmen Square; we didn’t cross the street, so this was what we saw of it in front of the Forbidden City
Behind the Forbidden City is Jingshan Park. It offers a fabulous view of how huge the Forbidden City is…9,999 rooms total before a fire destroyed some of them
Down a side alley of the pedestrian street is the “Food Market” where people can eat scorpions, starfish, seahorse and other items…yes, Matt ate some scorpions after they were deep fried
Around the corner from the scorpion area is this souvenir alley full of people and trinkets
We had time to do a little bit of shopping at this 4 story “gray market” where you bargain down and should only give the vendors 30-50% of their asking price. Matt got a couple of clothing pieces, Kalani got a pair of gloves and I got $20 knockoff Ugg boots that Kalani wears
We ended our first day watching a 45 minute acrobat show. It was the most amazing show that we had ever seen with a variety of talent and tricks
We took these “ski lifts” up to the wall
We wished Kalani a Happy 10th Birthday on the Great Wall of China
To get down from the wall we rode this “Luge”.
Our last stop for the day was to the Summer Palace which has a ton of artwork since everywhere you looked there was some kind of painting, carving, mural, etc
This massive stone marble boat has held many functions and is just beautiful
The water around the summer palace still had some ice at certain areas
We started off the day by going to the “Dirty Market” to look for a painting and other souvenirs, and we weren’t the only people there
We visited the aquarium where we saw Beluga whales and heard the loud noises that they make
The sea lion, dolphin, whale show was also pretty cool
Of course we had to visit the zoo to see giant pandas in their home country
And we ended the day by visiting a silk factory where we learned about the silk process
We got to ride a Rickshaw through an old neighborhood and tour a traditional “Hutong” courtyard home
Motorcyclist have warm gloves and blankets attached to their motorcycles to keep warm while driving
The BEST Chinese food we have ever had was in Beijing and didn’t cost very much. The servers take down orders on these devices that look like a walkie-talkie or cell phone (this is our tour guide Iris)
I don’t know if they block the doorways year round, but while we visited all of doorways had some kind of “blanket” to keep the cold air out
Last photo with our tour guide Iris, who we highly recommend
We had a wonderful time in Beijing. It was also refreshing to leave the 85 degree weather that we’ve had for the past 16 months in the Philippines and enjoy the cool weather of 45 degrees for a few days. Also we had pretty great weather with the air quality index. Matt had flown in with the index level in the 500s. But, when the kids and I arrived we had 47, 94 and 139 index levels; anything above 300 is classed as hazardous by the World Health Organisation. A couple of fun facts we learned from our tour guide. Top 3 things to do in Beijing are: Great Wall, Forbidden City/Tienanmen Square, and Chinese Opera. (we saw an opera in Taiwan, and prefer the acrobat show over the opera). Top 5 things that China is known for: silk, porcelain “china”, jade, tea & holistic medicine.
More photos of Beijing here.