Definitely several unique experiences during my trip to Beijing, China with my family when my cousin who is living there invited us to visit the country for a vacation. We booked a flight with Cebu Pacific and got our Chinese visas ready for our vacation last February.
I was excited to see for myself a new country I’ve never been to and only heard stories from people who lived or been there. We took the 8pm flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) 3 and arrived at Beijing Capital International Airport at midnight.
My cousin advised us to bring winter clothes and told us it’s going to be cold when we arrived so it’s better to wear closed shoes. Being stubborn and all, I wore my sandals all the way to Beijing and it was as expected very cold.
Good thing I quickly changed into my rubber shoes and took out my winter coat to brace myself from the very cold weather–a depart from the tropical weather I’m very much used to. It was -6 C after all and my cousin had a fun idea to bring me outside the terminal and see my reaction with the sudden super cold temperature outside. Oh the highlight of her morning!
We had to wait at the airport until 5am because of the transportation. You can take the bus also but we opted to take a cab all the way to the Beijing city center to check in our hotel. It was located at the busy business district and at this ungodly hour, it was a ghost town.
They don’t accept dollars so we had to wait until the time the banks open to have our money changed into their local currency, Yuan Renminbi (RMB) or Beijing Chinese Yuan (Yuan). Though we were lucky the hotel allowed us to go to our rooms and leave our passports as a guarantee we will pay as soon as our money was changed to their own currency once banks opened.
We were tired from the five-hour plane ride from Manila but we were excited to see what Beijing has to offer. So our adventure begins after the breakfast at the hotel and we began our walking tour around the famous city–bundled up in winter clothes of course or I’ll die from the cold!
You’ll see a strip of shopping malls in Beijing, from high end to low end–you name it! Every corner has either a huge branded store you’ll see in other countries or a small store with lots of souvenir items that are cheap. Definitely you won’t be disappointed.
You can haggle and having a calculator works if you don’t know their local language. It’s true if you walk away after unsuccessfully haggling for a lower price, they’ll shout or ran after you and give you a cheaper rate. We tried it and it worked!
We checked out some stores to see for ourselves and bought a couple of items. I had a funny experience when I went to a department store to buy a thermal wear, the saleslady wanted to go inside the dressing room with me to help me wear it but since in Philippines, we’re not used to it I found it awkward and I had to tell my cousin who speaks Mandarin to tell her no and I can do it by myself. Good thing she understood but with the smiling expression on her face, she probably found it amusing. Oh well…
Of course, you’ll get hungry when you shopped ’til you dropped so we decided to check out the food stalls on the streets. There is one long street that offers food and you’ll think you’ve gone to heaven with everything they sell that titillates your taste buds and definitely once the smell of food hits your nose and touches your tongue, you’ll want to devour every single dish immediately!
My cousin prepared us for some unusual food they have. Hint! Some legs, wings, tails… oh you know a little bit of insects and other exotic animals on sticks like crickets, cockroaches (yes, cultured), snails, soups with snakes or crocodile meat, and well, I also saw some rats on sticks. Wow, that was quite something (and disgusting)!
Don’t worry, you won’t get hungry because if you’re not into these local Chinese delicacies and your stomach gets a bit (or shall I say a lot?) sensitive from eating food you’re not used to, they have fruits coated in melted sugar (these were so good!), bread with different meat or vegetable fillings inside, and other Chinese food you’ve probably tried before.
This is one of the highlights of our trip since I love trying new food so having a great food trip in a foreign land fulfills the goal of crossing it out on my travel bucket list. I tried the fried snake, fried crocodile and spicy squid apart from the sugar coated fruits and other dishes. Also the stinky tofu is a must-try even though it smells obviously stinky. They sell it in food carts around Beijing and a lot of locals are eating them. I must say it’s quite good with the spicy sauce so it’s perfect with the cold weather.
Afterwards, we’re full to the brim and satisfied with food (imagine the heavenly smile on our faces), we ventured to the area where the malls are because my cousin said have great teas that we can try and sample first before we buy them.
Truly a unique experience since we don’t have tea tasting at the malls in Philippines (unless I’ve never stumbled upon it). They served us different teas and also different kinds of nuts or chocolate coated ones at the same time. You’ll feel even fuller right after but since tea is good for your digestion, it’s all good. Oh and throw in some free desserts, perfect! We ended up buying some of the good teas we chose to bring home to Philippines.
One of the things I stumbled upon while walking around malls in Beijing is this Chinese sculptor creating some of his artworks to be sold at the mall. He was so concentrated on what he’s doing and he didn’t even budged when I took several pictures of him. He was pretty good with what he does and I love how passionate he is with what he does.
Also a man and a woman dressed in traditional Chinese costumes were at the entrance of a mall welcoming guests. Painted human statues were also scattered around the shopping area to amuse tourists. It was quite cool to see them and obviously there were made to attract the tourists who visit Beijing every year.
We decided to go back to the hotel to rest a little before dinner then we went out at night again to have some good dinner and I must say, I love Beijing better at night when everything is lit up in different colors and people are everywhere eating, shopping and enjoying themselves. Day time is gloomier because of the smog and there’s a sad vibe to it despite a lot of people roaming around. At night, there is an electric feel in the air as people wanders aimlessly around the city of Beijing giving it more life and making it more vibrant.
We were satisfied with our Day 1 adventure in Beijing and capped the evening as we returned to our hotel to sleep since the next day is another adventure in the city. This is simply just the first part of our Beijing trip and we already did a lot of things. Continue reading my China articles as I posts about the other well-known places such as the Great Wall of China, different temples in Beijing and the quiet province of Hebei coming soon at The HodgePodge Lifestyle.
Photos from different websites
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