Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Smog in Beijing, China

After five days in Shanghai, the boyfriend and I took the five hour, high speed train to Beijing. The train was packed with adults, children and tons of luggage. After a fourteen hour flight, a five hour train ride felt incredibly short. Upon arriving in Beijing we grabbed a taxi in the incredibly smog-filled garage and made our way to our hotel near Wangfujing.  (NOTE: be sure to wait in the taxi line and do not accept rides from the soliciting drivers. They will just rip you off) We stayed at the Novotel, I wouldn't reccommend it but it wasn't the worst hotel I've ever stayed at.

Beijing has most of the "must see" locations in China. We only had four days to see it all, so we hit the ground running as soon as we arrived. Up first, a walk down Wangfujing and dinner on the street. Wangfujing is a pedestrian only street, lined with shops and restaurants. At the southern end is the entrance to the food stalls and small vendors. You can be adventurous and try some deep fried scorpion, or live life in the slow lane and enjoy sugar-coated hawthorne fruits. We filled up on fried noodles and dumplings and got to bed early.

Hitting the sheets early was important because we needed to get up early to see the Forbidden City! Tickets are limited to 80,000 people per day and surprisingly they sell out each day. Be sure to get there early to avoid the major crowds and avoid waiting in an insane line. It takes several hours to walk through the palace, especially if you want to take it all in. You can certainly rush through the grounds, but you will likely miss out on the amazing details all around.

The majority of people visiting the Forbidden City on any given day will be native Chinese tourists. Being tall and blonde, several people wanted to add my photograph to their vacation albums. It is very easy to avoid the crowds, most of the native tourists crowd together and follow each other. The palace is so large if you just break from the line of locals, you will enjoy a quiet walk around the edges.

After walking through the palace, we didn't feel like we were sweaty enough (we visited in July), so we walked across the street and entered the Jingshan Park. It costs 10 RMB and gives you amazing views the Forbidden City.

Or at least there would be good views, if there wasn't so much smog!

After a shower and a change of clothes, we headed to central Beijing via metro. The subway system in Beijing is just as clean and fast as the one in Shanghai. As a consistent rider of the NYC subway, I am ashamed at how dirty our subway is in comparison to the Beijing subway! There are three times as many people in Beijing and the system is nearly spotless. Anyways...

Since it was such a nice day and the sun was trying to peek out from behind the smog, we headed to the Temple of Heaven Park aka Tiantan Park. For 30 rmb (about $5) you get entrance to the park and tickets to visit all of the sites. You could get a map, but it's more fun to just wander around the park. The temples were built over the course of several hundred years and show a nice variety of architectural styles.  

WARNING - There is very little shade in this park. They could really use some more trees around the buildings. Be sure to slather on the sunscreen. Smog is not a good UV blocker!

Our last stop in Beijing was Tienanmen Square. It is apparently the worlds largest city square and it certainly feels that way. There could have been thousands of people in the square and there was room for a few thousand more.  At least twenty of them wanted to take their picture with me in front of the photo of Mao.

The rest of them were hiding under umbrellas from the midday sun...

Our final day in Beijing was actually spent outside of the city, exploring the Great Wall! An experience like that needs a post of its own, so be sure to stop back Friday for a full recap of our trip to the Wall!

Have you been to Beijing? What were some of your favorite things to do and see?


  1. I'll have to be honest that China isn't high on my list of places to go at the moment, but ti is purely because of all the pollution and smog. I'm afraid i'd have an asthma attack of epic proportions. But that street food though, that is certainly something I want to try. What was your favorite part overall?

    1. The smog in Beijing can definitely be bad for someone with asthma. Apparently the Fall is the best time to see Beijing with the least amount of pollution. The food all over China was amazing and unique. My favorite part of Beijing was actually outside of Beijing - at the Great Wall (post coming tomorrow!)