Welcome back for Part Two of the 4 Day Beijing Itinerary! If you missed Part One, which covered Day One and Day Two, you can access it here. I wanted to provide as much detail as possible, so I split this itinerary into two posts. In Part One, I covered jet-lag, our hotel, Tiananmen Square, Zhongshan Park, tasty bites, transportation, security, and restrooms. In Part Two, we’ll dive into a full-day Great Wall excursion, historic sites, and scrumptious foods.
We spent the entire day with a tour booked through our hotel concierge. We were going to see the Great Wall, so we asked the front desk if they had a recommended tour company, and they handed us a whole binder of different tours we could pick from. The day began early with a 7:30am hotel pickup by shuttle van, where we learned we were the only two on the tour and lucked out with a private tour for the day!
Our awesome tour guide, Maria, spoke four languages including Chinese, English, Japanese, and Russian. Our first stop of the tour was to the Jade Museum, where we got a brief introduction to jade stone. We learned how it is cut and sculpted, how to tell real jade from fake, the supposed health benefits of wearing jade, and the cultural significance of jade to Chinese history, then we explored many different colorings, shapes, and sizes of jewelry and home furnishings that we had the opportunity to purchase. We were not really in the market for jade jewelry, but we do collect Christmas ornaments from everywhere we travel around the world, so we ended up making a small purchase of a few jade trinkets hanging from a braided string. There was something for everyone’s taste and price range. I recommend waiting to make souvenir purchases until a day with a tour group. They build in a few opportunities to make purchases that are authentic and unique to China than just walking down a random street in China and making a souvenir purchase of something not as authentic.
The next stop we made was to the Ming Dynasty Tombs. Unfortunately, it was disrespectful to take photos inside the tomb, so we don’t have any. Maria came inside with us and gave us an explanation of the importance of the feng shui geography of the tombs, the architectural significance of the buildings, and the artifacts and clothing on display in the tombs. There were exquisitely preserved gold crowns and headdresses, plus Emperor’s silk robes sewn with gold dragon embellishments.
After the tombs, we were headed to the Great Wall. Maria gave us a couple of options on which portion of the wall we could visit. There was one spot with a tram lift you could ride instead of walk the wall, but there was an additional tram fee that we would have to pay, on top of the price of the tour. Otherwise, there was a portion you walk up, but it was more basic and not much to look at. Thirdly, the option that we chose and that Maria recommended, the Junguang portion of the Great Wall had a steeper incline but had other buildings near the Wall, making it a more unique and picturesque location. We went to Junguang and spent 90 minutes on a self-guided walk. It was a serious physical challenge walking up this steep portion of the wall. There was a point I felt we were walking straight upwards. There may have been less strenuous portions of the wall to visit, but this one was so beautiful. Our view was mountains with the expansive wall winding through the hills and valleys. Every once in a while, there was a watch tower lookout. We only witnessed a tiny portion of the Great Wall that stretches 13,170 miles across China (including over 30 million steps). It’s incredible to think that people built it so many years ago, and once completed they worked on the Wall daily, walking the many miles and climbing thousands of steps. I was winded after my first flight of steps! I was a bit terrified going down and needed to hold the guard rails for support and fear of falling. There was a small gift shop at the bottom of the Wall where we purchased a silly “I have climbed the Great Wall” medal that we turned into another Christmas ornament.
When we left the Wall, we headed to a nearby restaurant (translated in English to The Golden Hand Spoon). The restaurant doesn’t show up on Google maps, but I can provide you with the coordinates, if you are even in Beijng and near that portion of the Great Wall, because it’s 100% worth it to go: 40°14’16.4″N 116°08’08.9″E. Maria made a call to our lunch restaurant to place our order and have the food ready for our arrival. About 15 minutes later, we arrived at the restaurant for a family-style meal of two dishes. Our chicken dish was kung pao chicken, a chicken dish with peanuts, vegetables, and chili peppers in a sweet and slightly spicy sauce. The vegetable dish was Di San Xian, a three-vegetable dish which included fried potato, eggplant, and green peppers in a savory, garlic, brown oil sauce. Both were served with white rice. This was surprisingly the best meal we had on our honeymoon and also the best Asian food I’ve ever had in my life (still to this day). The portion was so large that even though we ate at 1:00pm, and the food was excellent, and we had worked up a massive appetite on the wall, we still couldn’t finish it all. We ended up asking to take home the rest (which we ate later for dinner in the hotel, and it was even delicious cold).
After the restaurant, we stopped at Dr. Tea, a government-run tea shop. We experienced a tea ceremony and had the opportunity to learn and taste four to six teas commonly drunk in China: Jasmine, Oolong, Fruit, and Pu’er (an aged tea). Also available, which we didn’t taste, were ginseng Oolong tea and white tea. We purchased a few kinds of loose tea to bring home. On our drive back to our hotel in Beijing proper, we drove through the Beijing Olympic Village and Park and saw the home to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the future home, and active construction site, to the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Apparently, senior tourists are also taken on an excursion to the hospital for a foot massage, but as we were on the younger side Maria said we shouldn’t go, so we took her advice about that. Looking back, though, I don’t know why we wouldn’t want a foot rub after such an exhausting walk on the Great Wall haha!
So all of that was included in the tour: The private English-speaking tour guide, transportation, jade museum, the Ming Tombs, Great Wall, the best food of our lives which fed us for lunch and dinner, and Dr. Tea all for $55 USD per person, plus tip. That was an insane deal.
- Haggle the pricing at the Jade Museum. There was a point where we asked to see lion figures, and they showed us a set of two small lions. It was totally out of the budget we were looking to spend on jade. When we said that to our sales specialist, he immediately took 20% off the price without us asking. So there is some flexibility here.
- Not many countries do to-go boxes or doggie bags. That’s an American concept. Although we knew this, the food was too good to leave behind left-overs, so we asked anyway. Keep in mind some restaurants may not have designated boxes and may re-purpose containers to give you the leftovers.
- We learned that tipping is not customary in China unless to a private tour guide and driver and in other special circumstances. We tipped around $30 USD to our tour guide and $11 USD to our driver. We tipped a bit on the higher range, as it was a private tour and they spent the whole day with us as opposed to rescheduling us to a day with other guests.
We began our day at Holiland bakery for breakfast again. This time, we got these mini flavored cheesecakes. They were available in several flavors, and during our stay in Beijing we probably tried them all. I can’t even put into words how good they are. Each box was packed with five mini cheesecakes. The store gives samples, so feel free to try all the flavors (like we did) before you buy a box. They were so delicious that we bought two extra boxes and put them in our hotel fridge so we could take them with us the next morning when we were leaving the hotel early to head to our next destination.
For our fourth day in Beijing, we decided to visit the famous Forbidden City and Palace Museum in Central Beijing. The property was constructed from 1406 to 1420, consists of 980 buildings, covers over 180 acres, was declared a World Heritage site in 1987, and was listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. I mean, how impressive is that?? There is a $9 USD entrance fee, as well as long lines to purchase tickets and go through security, but it was well worth the wait. We really enjoying the architecture and gift shops (which were aplenty). We purchased a custom hand-painted small glass ornament. The artist’s technique was unique, because he used a fine brush and carefully painted inside the glass ball. I also purchased a beautiful pearl and crystal hair comb. Souvenirs seemed to be more traditional and authentic in the Forbidden City, so this would also be a great place to shop. The site gets very crowded, which could potentially be avoided if you arrive first thing in the morning when they open at 8:30am.
After we finished at the northern part of the Forbidden City, we crossed the river and entered Jingshan Park. The park covers 57 acres with the artificial hill, Jingshan “Prospect Hill,” being the focal point. From this higher peak, you have a magnificent view of the Forbidden City. We were up there before sunset, and it was spectacular lighting over the red buildings with yellow clay tile roofs. Jingshan Park and Zhongshan Park were both very different but beautiful in their own way. If you have time to experience them both, I’d recommend it. I think I preferred Zhongshan Park because it was more of a garden with traditional buildings sprinkled in, whereas the focal points of Jingshan Park are the buildings and view of the Forbidden City.
We exited Jingshan Park on Jingshan East Street then walked north towards Jingshan Back Street and North on Di’anmen Outer Street. We were just aimlessly walking around until we spotted this gorgeous white bridge overlooking a waterway with the sunset glowing over the water in the distance. It is called Jinding Bridge down from Qianhai Nanyan road.
The bridge discovery led us to a large lake surrounded by a promenade, restaurants, and nightlife, so we decided to enjoy our final dinner in Beijing here. We continued to walk north up the lake and stopped into Nuage restaurant. I had hoped we could have Peking duck for our final meal, but the restaurant we chose only served a large full duck. Being that we weren’t that hungry, we missed out on that opportunity. The dinner we did have was okay but not as good as our Great Wall meal.
After dinner, we walked to the nearest subway, because after three days straight of scaling the Great Wall and walking all over town, my legs were exhausted! We took the train back to our hotel and packed up.
We woke up extremely early on our final day in Beijing. Holiland cheesecakes in hand, we took a local train to Beijing South Railway Station, where we boarded a bullet train to Tianjin Station. This was both our first times on a bullet train, and we were so impressed by the ultra-fast speed. Our photos basically came out blurred, but the videos showed just how fast we were traveling. From there, we got on the Jinbin Light Rail to the cruise port. From this station, we still needed to hail a taxi to drive us to the actual cruise ship, but I imagine that the taxi drivers see tourists and know that they need rides to the port, so it was much easier to grab this taxi than it was grab one from the Beijing Airport to our hotel on Day 1.
- You shouldn’t drink the tap water in China. Stock up on large bottles of water. Be careful eating foods that include unboiled water, or even things like fruits and vegetables that are raw and washed in tap water.
- Be careful hand-washing clothes in China. We thought we were buying clothes soap from the store, but it ended up being bleach. A lot of my yoga pants are made of spandex, so they didn’t get ruined, but I did get bleach stains on a cotton shirt of mine. Whoops! BYOS (bring your own soap) haha or at least make sure that you’re buying laundry soap and not bleach.
So that was the end of our 4 day Beijing China itinerary. Some of the highlights included relaxing down-time to recover from exhausting jet-lag, walking the Great Wall, eating the most delicious Chinese food of our lives, strolling through two immaculate gardens, and marveling at the history of the Forbidden City and Ming Tomb. I absolutely loved Beijing. Of the cities we visited in China, Beijing was my favorite. If you are planning a future trip to Beijing, I hope our experiences and pro tips aid in your planning. Going to Asia for the first time, we learned a lot. The remainder of our six-week honeymoon was in Asia, but the next stop was a cruise to Japan and Hong Kong. Keep an eye out for the next Amarvelous Honeymoon blog post that will cover our Royal Caribbean Cruise through Asia!
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