Beijing is a fascinating city with many things to do, including historical attractions and experiences.
This may sound clichéd but this is the No. 1 thing to do in Beijing – even though The Great Wall is not restricted to Beijing. It is over 8000 km long extending from the East to the West of the country. We went up the Juyong Pass. The views are spectacular and the experience is phenomenal. You get to tick off one of the New 7 Wonders of the World on your bucket list and earn the bragging rights – and the T-shirt, as well as the certificate that you can buy there. It helps to be fit as the wall is steep. Do wear comfortable shoes.
Visit the world’s largest public square, the scene of many important events in Chinese history and one of China’s most famous landmarks. Chairman Mao Zedong, the founder of modern China, now lies there in his mausoleum. Hundreds of visitors queue to pay their respects everyday. Go at dawn or dusk, if you can, to see the elaborate flag-rising and lowering ceremonies.
The Forbidden City was the residence of the Chinese royal family and dates back to the 15th century. The imperial palace was home to 24 emperors and is recognized as one of the five most important palaces in the world.It was thus named because no one could enter or leave it without the emperor's permission and is surrounded by a moat. Almost as big as a city, it is reputed to contain around 9000 rooms within 980 buildings which have beautiful names such as the Palace of Heavenly Purity, Palace of Earthly Tranquility, Hall of Supreme Harmony and Hall of Mental Cultivation.
This has been one of the most important places in China for the past 5 centuries. Apart from the religious and historic significance, it is a centre for social gatherings (mainly for senior citizens). In the early mornings, you can see people practising kung fu and tai-chi and at any other time, you see people entertaining each other with music or playing cards. I was fascinated with a couple posing for wedding pictures.
This is the largest royal garden in China. Built in 1750, it used to be a summer retreat for the emperors and is now a retreat for locals and tourists. Consisting of beautiful pavilions, hills, bridges, mansions and a huge lake, it is a lovely place for a leisurely stroll and a boat ride. Locals also come here for fashion shoots and we saw several in progress.
We watched “The Legend of Jinsha”, a superb show with death-defying stunts which had us on the edge of our seats through most of the show. It was by far the best acrobat show I’d ever seen and I have been to Cirque Du Soleil and other world-renowned acrobat shows. The acrobats are fast and flexible and the show was one of the top highlights of my trip. It combines traditional and modern Chinese acrobatics and includes martial arts, motorbikes, and plates with feats that I did not know humans were capable of performing.
7. Chinese Health Centre
A doctor looks at your palm and tells you what ailments you suffer from. I won’t say what he told me but I was impressed at how accurate he was with both my husband and I. This is not palm-reading but rather a traditional form of diagnosis for Chinese health practitioners. They then “transfer energy” to you by touching you with their fingertips. To me, it felt like an electric shock. Through the translator, they then pressurise you to buy Chinese medicine for your ailment. At this stage, you feel that you need to buy something after everything they’ve told you, which we did. I can’t say that it really helped with my ailment but the experience was something we’ll remember forever.
Jade is a beautiful stone usually associated with the colour green although it can be found in white and orange as well. It is an important symbol for the Chinese, from the time of its ancient civilisations. It stands for beauty, grace, luxury and purity amongst other qualities. At the jade factory, you can see craftsmen creating their jade works of art and marvel at the thousands of beautiful objects made out of jade.
You are taken to a tea shop where you are shown different types of tea for different conditions by the tea hostesses. They generally speak good English so they are easy to understand. You get to select your choice of tea depending on your preference (or ailment). The hostess then shows you how to brew the tea in the proper way and you get to drink it. These aren’t the teabag variety of teas. Rather, they are herbs. I was most fascinated with the jasmine flower tea. Hot water is poured over a flower pod which then opens up into a beautiful flower in your cup. My husband, being the tea addict that he is, walked away with several different varieties. You can even buy tea-making and tea-serving sets.
As you leave Beijing, experience the bullet train. It is one of the fastest in the world and goes up to speeds of 380 km/h taking you to other prominent cities in China, in record time. It is clean, comfortable and super-fast.
Find accommodation in Beijing.
Read about my other experiences in China here.
What are your favourite things to do in Beijing ?
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