While sitting sweating profusely at my departure gate after a slightly too friendly interrogation by the German security guards as to why I had make up in my bag followed by a sprint through Frankfurt Airport picking up the total of €106 Philippine Pesos, I thought to myself ‘What are you doingAmy and why do you always put yourself in uncomfortable situations’!! That was the whole idea behind my trip. Back in April I decided that my life wasn’t challenging enough. My day to day routine was becoming mundane and I decided I needed to be put outside my comfort zone. The biggest rush I was getting was jumping on the airport bus just in the nick of time to catch a flight. Of course, I even cut the fine for this big journey…why change a habit of a life time hey!!
My first flight was Madrid to Frankfurt. It was quick, comfortable and with Iberia. I had flown with them a few months back and knew they were a good airline. It was my next flight I had a few concerns about: Air China. Obviously when I booked my flights I paid little attention to which airline I was flying with. I just wanted to book them as quickly as possible before I chickened out! ‘I am flying with Air China’ I said to a family friend, who is a serious world explorer. His face dropped and all he said was ‘good luck’. I quickly scuttled off and googled the reviews, not that I could do much about it now. Their average score on Trip Advisor was 5/10…I was in for an interesting journey. Boarding the plane in Frankfurt actually came as quite a pleasant surprise. With a score of 5/10 I was expecting to be loaded onto a tin can type structure with a set of wings. Nope, it was certainly a real plane, with super smiley staff. I was going to make it there in one piece. My only qualm was the beef and noodles for breakfast…I really can’t complain otherwise as I was more than happy to eat my leftover M&Ms for breakfast! HELLO BEIJING.
I am far from an expert on Beijing but I thought I would share some tips that future travellers who are stopping over in Beijing might find useful.
- Before you land in Beijing be sure to collect and fill in an immigration card, it will save you time once you get there. Foreign travellers are allowed to stay a maximum of 72 hours without a visa and must stay in the Beijing area.
2. Research where you want to go and see before departing your country. Be selective. Things are quite far apart and take a long time to travel between.
3. Find out if these places are accessible by train from the airport. I took a taxi and it took close to 1 1/2 hours to get into the city centre. That was out-with rush hour times.
4. Write down the names of the sites in English and Chinese. Many people don’t understand English as I found out the hard way!
5. Make sure you have enough time. My layover was 8 hours 45 minutes and it was cutting it tight. You need to allow for time through customs, collect your bag, put it into storage and then find your chosen transportation point.
6. Carry Chinese Renminbi or sometimes known as the yuan with you. You will need it to enter places in the city.
7. Have fun, soak it all in and be prepared to sweat walking up all the stairs to the temples!!!
During my short time in Beijing I had planned to go to The Forbidden City but due to time constraints and information between myself and the taxi driver being lost in translation I only had time to visit Beihai Park and Jingshan Park, both of which are absolutely worth a visit. Enjoy the photos.