Geography and History are some of my favorite subjects back when I was still in school. I’ve always been fond of learning about countries, capitals and famous landmarks. I remember being curious about The Great Wall of China as my high school teacher once told our class that it is the only man-made structure that can be seen from the moon (not true though). Other than that, I never really had a strong desire to visit China. Encounters with rude Chinese tourists abroad and the recent territorial disputes with the Philippines also contributed to my disinterest.
This all changed after seeing travel vlogs about China on YouTube, specifically, Ryan of One Shot Adventures‘ video where he compared the three sections of The Great Wall accessible from Beijing. Availability of cheap direct flights plus the fact that we’ve crossed out most of the countries in South East Asia had me asking myself, “Why not?”
On this blog, The Daily Phil will tell you all the things you need to know before traveling to China plus a detailed 5-day itinerary to Beijing.
Table of Contents
- Day 1
- Beijing New World Shopping Mall
- Peking Duck
- Day 2
- Tiananmen Square
- Forbidden City
- Jingshan Park
- Day 3
- The Summer Palace
- Bird’s Nest
- Day 4
- The Great Wall of China (Jinshanling)
- Day 5
- Pasalubong Shopping
- Day 1
- Final Thoughts
- The Daily Phil on Youtube
Philippine passport holders are required a visa before entering Beijing for vacation and leisure. We personally applied for a single entry tourist visa (Category L) at the Chinese Embassy in Makati one month before our date of travel.
Application requirements are very similar with other embassies, documents pertaining to income, employment and previous trips abroad plus an application fee of PHP 1,400.00. We picked up our passports after 4 business days and much to our delight, we were approved. Beijing, here we come!
Cebu Pacific flies directly to Beijing 4 times a week. Average roundtrip tickets range from PHP 9,000.00 to PHP 20,000.00. We were able to score Manila-Beijing roundtrip tickets for only PHP 2.800.00 during the airlines’ 11.11 seat sale, 9 months before our date of travel. Other airlines flying nonstop from Manila to Beijing include Air China and Philippine Airlines.
We stayed at The Emperor Tiananmen Beijing which is only 5 min away by foot from Qianmen Station of Line 1. It’s also close to The Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City. We booked the Snow King Room for more or less PHP 5,000 a night via Agoda.
The room is equipped with a King-sized bed, centralized air conditioning, modern toilet and shower, a decent sized closet with safe, an office area, flat screen cable TV and a mini fridge with complimentary beverages restocked every day for free. The hotel also has a restaurant, exercise area with basic gym equipment and a rooftop pool and bar.
Beijing has very efficient and convenient public transportation. We toured the city by subway through Beijing Metro as most of the places of interest are just walking distance from its stations.
For fast and seamless transfers between lines, we got a reloadable stored value card called “Yikatong” for CNY 20.00 refundable deposit.
We purchased a 4G sim card with 3GB of data valid for 30 days for only PHP 560.00 via Klook. We picked it up upon arrival at Beijing Capital International Airport. The data was used for Google Maps and to update our social media accounts. It was shared between 2 devices via mobile tethering. 3GB was more than enough for our 5-day stay since we connected to the hotel’s wifi when indoors.
The “Great Firewall of China” prevents you from accessing applications and websites from the west such as Google, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube among others. VPNs allow you to access blocked sites by utilizing a proxy server. Out of the 4 VPN apps we installed on our devices, only Astrill VPN worked during our stay in Beijing. Make sure to download it while you are still in your country of origin and install at least 3 or more different VPNs just in case some of them do not work when you arrive in China.
After checking in and settling in at our hotel in the afternoon, we went to the supermarket inside Beijing New World Shopping Mall to purchase food and basic necessities. Our accommodation did not come with breakfast and so we bought food items from the grocery to save money. However, we ate out a lot in restaurants for lunch and dinner since we are practically touring the city for the rest of the day.
Originally, we planned to visit at least one tourist attraction on our first day but we decided to sleep instead as we flew to Beijing straight from our shifts. We went out in the evening and had a delicious Peking duck for dinner though, more of that on the next food blog.
Our first stop is Tiananmen Square which is just a couple of blocks away from our hotel. Tiananmen Square was the site of several important and controversial events in Beijing such as the proclamation of founding of People’s Republic of China by Mao Zedong and the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Some of the buildings that we saw in front of the north gate are the National Museum of China, The Great Hall of the People and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. It was a very crowded Saturday morning with numerous groups of local tourists filling up the square. We had to squeeze ourselves among hundreds of people to enter the north gate.
Passing through the north gate of The Tiananmen Square connects you to Forbidden City, a palace complex that served as home for the emperors from Ming until Qing dynasty. It also houses The Palace Museum, one of the most visited museums in the world showcasing rare and valuable works of art and an extensive ceramic collection. An hour after the gates were opened, the complex was immediately filled with local tourists. Gate after gate, their numbers seem to grow even more. This made it difficult for us to appreciate its grand size and architecture. We even forgot to check out the Palace Museum as we tried to get to the other side of the complex as quickly as possible. We purchased our tickets via Klook for only PHP 282.00.
The heaps of people stayed with us until we reached the south entrance of Jingshan Park. The highlight of the park is a pavilion that sits on top of an artificial hill which provides a breathtaking, panoramic view of The Forbidden City. We relaxed at the garden below where lush greens cooled us down from the increasing afternoon heat and stress from big crowds of people. Entrance fee costs CNY 2.00.
We woke up around 10 am the next day, later than our usual call time because we wanted to be out for a special attraction later that night. Our first stop is the Summer Palace, the emperor’s rest house during the Qing dynasty. It was declared “a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design” by UNESCO in 1998 when it was included on its World Heritage List.
We checked out Suzhou Street, a water way surrounding the back hill. It reminds me of the canals in Venice though I’ve never been. The highlight of the visit was the climb to the top of Longevity Hill where the Tower of Buddhist Incense can be found. It stood out because number one, going up through the endless stairs was extremely exhausting and number two, the view from the top is breathtaking and well worth it. The intricately designed roof of the buildings, perfectly lined up next to each other can be seen up above.
A panoramic view of Kunming Lake featuring the 17-Arch Bridge and Nanhu Island is also a feast for the eyes. The presence of chaotic local tour groups never left us even on high elevation.
Entrance to the Summer Palace including access to all of the attractions cost CNY 60.00. There is an additional fee of CNY 10.00 to see the Tower of Buddhist Incense. To get here, get off at Beigongmen Station of Line 4 and walk for 2 min.
The sun was about to set when we arrived at Beijing National Stadium more popularly known as the Bird’s Nest. The nickname is from its unique design that resembles a bird’s nest (duh, he he). The landmark is best known as the venue of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Unlike most Olympic venues which are abandoned after the games, the Bird’s Nest is consistently maintained and utilized to generate profit. Beijing will host the 2022 Winter Olympics and the stadium will be the centerpiece once again.
We purchased an all access ticket worth CNY 100.00 for us to see the light show inside the stadium plus a chance to walk over its rooftop for a closer look at its interesting architecture and a 360 view of Beijing skyline.
It was a little bit terrifying at first but the city lights will calm you down. The lights show was just okay to be honest.
The Bird’s Nest is illuminated with changing colors at night and can be beautifully photographed from different points in the park.
The Great Wall of China
This is it! The day we’ve all been waiting for. We will finally get to see The Great Wall of China.
The most popular sections of the great wall that can be accessed from Beijing are Mutianyu, Badaling and Jinshanling each with its pros and cons. Badaling has well preserved and renovated walls but can be very crowded while Mutianyu is very raw and a little bit touristy too. Jinshanling features both raw and restored sections but is 2 hours away from the city center. The distance makes all the difference and you are almost always assured of no crowds. After all the stress we experienced from the crowded attractions, our China trip promises to redeem itself with Jinshanling so we went with this one.
We reached the wall’s starting point after a riding a bus, a shuttle and a cable car. You can hike your way to the wall if you’re in for some more adventure but with the summer heat that day, the cable car was the logical choice. I remember touching the wall’s first tower and whispered to myself “We made it.”
The Great Wall was everything we imagined and more. You will never run out of amazing views as each tower, each turn, whether left or right, provides an equally scenic frame.
However, traversing over the wall is nothing like a walk in the park. Uphill climbs, deep pits, tight spaces, oversized stair steps and the heat make this trip quite a workout. But it’s all worth it as there are no annoying tourists blocking your view, pushing you towards the line or chatting loudly in your ears. It’s just me, the lush green hills, and the mighty wall.
We got to the start of the raw section after conquering 4 or 5 towers and at this point, we are about to give up. The bricks on this section have mostly crumbled down but still has the charm. It is also the highest point we’ve reached thus far and we can see from here that we only covered a very small section. The wall just keeps going and going with no end in the horizon. There are no words to describe this once in a lifetime experience.
Our expenses include CNY 50.00 for the bus ride to Jinshanling, CNY 65.00 for the entrance fee, CNY 10.00 for the shuttle ride and CNY 60.00 for the roundtrip cable car ride.
We decided to just rest in the hotel on our last day and cancel our plans to visit Temple of Heaven since it was drizzling.
We went out quickly to do some pasalubong shopping in Beijing New World Shopping Mall for some local snacks and Hong Qiao Pearl Market for some souvenirs.
Most of the places we visited in Beijing were not only beautiful but are also historically and culturally significant. The stress brought by hundreds of tour groups that flock these sights somehow overshadowed the experience. I wish we had more time to discover Beijing and I will revisit these places on a weekday for less crowds.
However, I still consider this trip a success and one of the most memorable as I was able to finally conquer The Great Wall. I still can’t believe that I was able to see, feel and walk over one of the world’s greatest wonders, a dream come true straight from history books.
Another highlight is our visit to the Bird’s Nest. I am big Olympics fan so being inside one of the venues of the 2008 games is surreal and probably the closest I can get to attend an Olympic event. I was able to disprove the stereotype that most Chinese from the mainland are rude and ill mannered. Generally, the people we interacted with in Beijing are warm, friendly and cheerful. I would love to go back to China in the future and discover other places such as the modern city of Shanghai or historic Xian.
The Daily Phil on YouTube
We made a Beijing Travel Vlog on our YouTube channel, The Daily Phil. Make sure to check it out and get an up close preview of what the city has to offer.
This is The Daily Phil, conquering the world, one country at a time, using a Filipino passport.
Until next time, Travel Now, Bills Later!