Traveling is all about exploring new places and meeting new people. If you’re traveling for an extended period of time, why not make a stop or two along the way? Before I left to study abroad, my classmate that I was traveling with and I decided that we wanted to experience more. So in turn, we planned to leave an extra week early so that we could spend time in Beijing, China.
We booked our tickets and after looking at a few options we chose to stay at a hostel for backpackers. This, while a bit nerve-racking at first, was an excellent decision! Our room was a giant 12 person room with bunk beds and a shared bathroom. With this, we had 10 roommates from all over the world. It was fabulous meeting so many wonderful people.
The area we were in was perfect, next to a lot of shops and restaurants as well as some main tourist spots. We were just amazed at how kind many of the locals were to us, even with a language barrier between us. They would help us in any way that they could, many times just asking for a picture together in return which we gladly did. During this week we were able to see so many incredible things, such as the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and even the Great Wall. It’s been almost a year since this week in China and I still can remember the excitement this entire week held for me. However, one thing we quickly learned was that Beijing is very much a cash-based city, meaning many small places do not take credit or debit cards. So please make sure you have plenty of cash if you are heading to Beijing or know where the international ATMs are ahead of time!
The Forbidden City was absolutely incredible to see, even though we did get a little lost once inside! 🙂 We spent almost an entire day here and I still don’t believe we got to see all of it. The buildings and the gardens were beautiful and thriving in the summer heat (about 92 F/ 34 C with plenty of humidity). The next place we were off to was the Summer Palace! It was just as beautiful as the Forbidden City, although the palace had much more green space with trees and flowers. The buildings themselves were all painted in such bright colors too.
However, in the end, the most mind-blowing experience for me was being able to visit the Great Wall. Through our hostel, we were able to go on a tour that included transportation, meals, and an English speaking guide. My classmate and I, along with a group of other travelers from our hostel that we met all decided to go on the same day. The bus left at 6:00am and didn’t return until 18:00 (6:00pm), so this was a full day of traveling for us all. The ride was about 3 hours each way and then we had about 6 hours to spend at the Great Wall. Upon arriving there we were told that we could hike up the wall and back down before lunch would be served.
Hiking is something that I have always enjoyed, but hiking on a piece of history like this was mind-boggling! It was difficult and at a couple points I desperately wanted to give up, but thankfully the group I was with didn’t allow for that and continued to help each other forward until we made it to the top!
After making it to the highest point tourists are allowed to go we all sat to enjoy the time and each other’s company before heading back down. Going down was almost as difficult as going up since many of the stairs are crumbling or just worn down from centuries of footsteps. Once we were all safely back at the bottom we had our lunch and headed back to the hostel.
This day marked nearly the end of our trip to Beijing and our next stop was South Korea where we would be studying abroad. Just a few days later we were packed up and heading back to the airport to catch our next flight. This week went by incredibly fast, but I wouldn’t change it for a thing and I can’t wait for the next time I can visit this beautiful city!