The Travelling Teacher: Bustling Beijing
My last blog mentioned just a handful of places to eat in Beijing but it is scattered with delectable dining options. This blog will focus on some of the landmarks there are to visit in and around Beijing. There’s a lot to see here and with this trip only lasting 11 days, we tried to maximise our sight-seeing opportunities, whilst also trying to keep within a budget. I know it may seem like I’ve won the lottery but my savings can only stretch so far. The only lottery I’ve won, is the lottery of life, well, that’s how I feel experiencing all these places. Want to find out what I prioritised during my trip? Then read on!
There are 9 million bicycles in Beijing…. that’s a fact… (Does anyone remember that song?!): transport
Beijing is a very busy city with a population of approximately 21 million, making it the fourth largest city in the world by city proper population. As Beijing has a sophisticated transport system, there are numerous transport options but the best option for me during my time there was either walking or renting a bicycle. I spent the majority of my time in Beijing riding a bike - with the sores to prove it! You get used to riding in a yellow sea of bicycles. During my travels I have discovered I have a love for cycling and absolutely love seeing as much of a city as I can by bicycle.
With such an ever expanding and developing transportation system and a bustling city the air quality is extremely low here! The government here encourages cycling to reduce the amount of traffic on the busy roads. In the past, during Beijing’s economical rise, there was a decline in the use of bicycles. During my time however, I saw LOTS of people on bikes and I often found myself trying to ensure I didn’t get in their way. The ringing of bike bells is one etched into my memory. The bike hire companies also offer mini electric scooters but unfortunately we were not able to get these to work! The bikes though were very easy to hire. All it took was to sign up to the ‘Ofo’ app and scan a bike with each use and scan again to complete the journey. I downloaded the Ofo app as this was the bike I used the most but there are other bike hire alternatives! Whether you’re travelling by taxi or bike, it’s a good idea to download WeChat or Ali Pay for your time here.
You don’t just see these bikes passing by you on the road, with no docking stations or bike racks you see these making an appearance all over the city. Some looking a bit worse for wear! I can well believe that there are MORE than 9 million bikes in Beijing. With a low deposit fee, it seems some people have a lack of care over the bikes. For us foreigners it’s a great incentive as I ended up paying nothing to use the bike and got my refund back (but you do have to email them to receive your refund).
***Top tip*** Pre-Beijing travel downloads: Ofo, Alipay and WeChat.
Exploring Beijing: The Forbidden City
We began our sight-seeing at the Forbidden City in the Dongcheng Qu district. This palace complex was the former Chinese imperial palace and is now home to the Palace Museum with an extensive collection of artwork and artefacts. When we pulled up on our bicycles we thought it was busy but it didn’t seem out of the ordinary for what we had seen so far in Beijing. We became part of the crowd which began flooding through the gates. Once inside, we found it was not possible to take a tour inside as it was a Chinese holiday and fully booked. Normally you would be able to buy a ticket on the gate. We perused the courtyard and then decided to venture to our next spot, Jingshan Park.
Have you been to the Forbidden city? I’d love to hear about your experience and see what I missed out on!
Exploring Beijing: Jingshan Park
Jingshan park is in the Xicheng district and only around a 10 minute bike ride away from The Forbidden City. As most of the crowds were at The Forbidden City, Jingshan Park was much quieter. We locked up our bikes outside of one of the many entrances, bought our tickets and we were in. This is a large garden area that was previously a private imperial garden, so as you can imagine it has some beautiful royal landscapes.
***Top Tip*** - Many, but not all, of the large landmarks in Beijing have more than one entrance. It’s worthwhile to know as some of the entrances are used less and make for a much speedier, stress-free entrance.
Jingshan Park has 5 summits, each with a pavilion. As a result of so many summits, there are many steps. Once you reach the top the view makes the mini trek up the stairs well worth it. You get the most fabulous outlook over The Forbidden City and get to see the glory of it. You get a real sense of its size, which you don’t quite appreciate whilst walking around its courtyards.
On the ground level the park had some beautiful topiary works of art. There were also some beautiful floral arrangements. Whilst admiring one of the floral sections some locals began to play some music. It created a really great vibe and felt really relaxing.
I always find the history of a place so important in understanding it’s story and how it has become what it is. This park holds many stories. For somewhere so beautiful and peaceful it also hides a dark history that makes for an interesting read! If you’re interested in finding out more about Jingshan Park do not hesitate to contact me -firstname.lastname@example.org
Exploring Beijing: Houhai Lake
Back on the bikes and only a 17-minute bike ride from Jingshan Park, is Houhai Lake. This Lake surrounds the neighbourhood in the Xicheng District. It is the largest of 3 lakes in the Northern-most lakes in Beijing. I find it mad to think that this lake was once the royal exclusive pool in ancient times! It’s amazing that I, normal old me, can potentially stand in the same place that those of royal descent once would have stood.
Though this lake doesn’t have the clearest of waters it fills you with serenity. For a moment, you can forget you are in a busy city and gaze across the water and take in the mountain backdrop. It’s also a great place to sit and take in the views at one of the many restaurants along here.
Exploring Beijing: The Golden Mask show
Whilst in Mongolia we met a friendly Indian lady who recommended some top spots to visit in Beijing. She raved about ‘The Golden Mask Show’. So, I looked online and pre-booked some tickets to experience it for myself.
The show is a large-scale dance drama that tells a romantic story through the art of dance and different chapters. The tale is about the rivalry between the Golden Mask Dynasty and Blue Mask Dynasty. The Golden Mask Dynasty won the war and captured the Blue Mask Dynasty warriors. The queen of the Golden Mask Dynasty liberated those they had captured in war and they were free to marry whom they wished, even those from the Golden Mask Dynasty. The show has a sad ending that I will not spoil. It had some really cool stage effects and it made for an interesting watch! I definitely recommend it as something different to see as well as a different way to learn about the history of the Dynasty.
Exploring Beijing: Summer Palace
Summer Palace, situated in the northwest of Beijing City, is near the top of many recommendations of ‘things to do’ in Beijing. It is even said to be one of the best kept imperial gardens in the world! It really is a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. It was designed in accordance with the Chinese philosophy of balancing the works of a man with nature. I know I for one could do with getting a much better balance with this!
This place is big! You could easily spend at least half a day here if not more. There are gardens, courts, bridges and a lake to explore. Ironically, on the day we visited the so called ‘Summer’ palace, it rained! Rained more…oh and just for a change, rained some more. I definitely found that looking like a real tourist and wearing my rain-mac was essential whilst exploring Beijing! I soon found that I was beyond being embarrassed, as for me, there’s nothing worse than having your clothes soaked through, I know it makes me feel like a right grump!
Would it be possible to teach/ work here?
Beijing is a very tech savvy city. There are numerous restaurants and cafes where you are able to access WIFI but you will need to make a purchase, as often the code for the WIFI is on your receipt. Lots of people also carry portable WIFI hotspots so they can access WIFI whilst on the go so this may be worth investing in.
As I have already mentioned, the main barrier is for those who operate on a Google or Andriod system or even if your emails are Hotmail. However, with forward planning and the download of a VPN you should be fine! I would recommend Beijing for an ideal place to teach or work and especially if you are/ or become a member of the IQBar Teaching family, as the majority of the students are from China so you would be working within the Beijing time zones.
What’s up next?
My next blog will be delving into more Asian gems. I’ll be writing about the historic Great Wall of China and how I travelled between iconic sites such as the Terracotta warriors and to another busy city, Shanghai.
I hope you’re enjoying sharing my stories and experiences. If there’s more you’d like me to include or if you have any questions regarding the places I’ve visited email me at - email@example.com.
Thank you for all the messages I’ve received so far, I love hearing from new people and have enjoyed the stories you’ve shared and questions you’ve asked.