A Second Impression of Beijing

My first impression of Beijing wasn’t very good. I was very strapped for cash because I didn’t have access to my bank account during my visit there. Having about $30 after covering a taxi from the airport and my hostel accommodation didn’t leave a lot of money to spend on fun things. Basically, it meant that I had to pick one thing that I wanted to do — and that was eat Peking Duck. Other than that I was limited to free or very low cost activities for the entirety of my stay. Well, that and the Great Wall hike that I was able to pay for with a credit card.

So, I didn’t have a bad time on my first visit to Beijing necessarily, but I didn’t have a great time either. Having that little cash left me pretty stressed out for the whole visit there. After I left I knew that I would eventually have to go back and give Beijing a second chance, and I was given that opportunity when a $462 round-trip business class fare presented itself.

My second trip to Beijing was also a short one. I would have loved to plan something a little bit longer and explored more of China, but that wasn’t in the cards this time. I was going to be spending about 36 hours in Beijing.

Let me start off by saying, I’m so glad I gave Beijing a second chance. My second impression was much better than my first. Without having to worry about whether or not I was going to be able to pay for food, I was able to enjoy myself quite a bit more. I visited both the Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven, I made a new friend who was flying on the same mistake fare, and we ate delicious food at all hours of the day and night (a 36 hour trip will definitely confuse you as to what hour of the day it is)!

The Summer Palace was probably the highlight of the trip for me. I think I could have spent a whole day walking around and relaxing in the park and around the lake. It was absolutely beautiful. [I wasn’t very good with taking photos on this trip because I was playing around with taking video instead — watch out for my video experimentations as soon as I figure out how to rotate the video mid-clip!] In terms of food — my highlight was definitely the pork buns we went to eat at 4:30 am because we were both awake and hungry… 10 pork buns for about $2! And they were so good! For the record — we stayed at the Park Plaza Beijing Science Park, and the place with the pork buns was in the direction of the subway station, but then we turned right along that first road and walked for probably 3 minutes. If you’re in the area, check them out! Though, I’m also sure there are good pork buns a ton of places in Beijing.

We also used Uber a few times while we were in Beijing. If we were able to find the car we had called, it was great. Uber was cheaper than a regular cab or rickshaw, and also left us less likely to be scammed. Which we were the one time we took a rickshaw… (the equivalent of $18 USD for a 3 mile ride after having agreed to half that price, which was still ridiculous!). The main problem with using Uber, however was that google maps doesn’t work the greatest, so it was hard to figure out where we were and where the Uber was. Pair that with not being able to make phone calls and not speaking Chinese, lead to two cancellations that I was charged for. Granted, even considering the cancellation charges, it was still less expensive than it would have been to do it any other way.

All in all, my quick trip to Beijing was a good one. I’m glad I went back, and I’m glad that I now have a 10-year visa for China. I’m sure that I will be visiting China at least a couple times in that 10-year period.

5 Comments

  1. just a quick note…all non-Chinese navigation systems are inaccurate in China. They will consistently have you 250 to 400m away from your actual location. This is a national security item that prevents foreigners from causing mischief. A Chinese purchased device with a Chinese SIM card works perfectly.
    In my last three visits in Dec 14, and Jan, Feb of this year, Google wasn’t working at all. Even Google search wouldn’t work without a VPN. I’ll be in Shanghai the week after next for the Auto Show so I can report back if it’s better along with a list of apps my Chinese friends use.
    Just a side note…If you think you were frustrated, think about all those poor folks trying to use Tindr. Probably ready to lose their minds.

  2. Hi, can you comment on the seats on the AA business class that you took? (777-200 v.1 I believe?) Were they comfortable? Did you feel like you were sliding down every minute? Was the power socket the “car cigarette lighter type”? How was the service? I am taking the same flight in 2 weeks (same fare). Thanks!

    1. Hey there —

      So, I actually flew business class on the outbound and first on the inbound… It was an interesting comparison. I actually found the business class seat to be more comfortable both for sleeping and sitting. It was a bit softer than the first class seat, imo. It is angled flat, but the way I sleep (kind of curled up), I didn’t find slipping to be a problem. I have previously flown Lufthansa’s old biz product, where I did notice it quite a lot more. The power socket in both business and first was the car cigarette lighter type. I had the same crew flying both directions (36 hour turn), and thought that the business class crew was actually a lot more friendly/warm than the first class crew. Enjoy your trip!

  3. Thanks for your quick response! Sorry for bombarding you with questions. Any thoughts on the hotel that you stayed at? I haven’t made any reservations yet (not into “the hobby” yet, no points, no miles, nada). The hotel looks great and the price is very reasonable. Location-wise, seems a little far from the action, but am I right to assume that as long as I’m near any subway stop I’ll be ok? Again, thanks for the insight.

    1. The hotel is about a 2 minute walk from the subway, so you can get just about anywhere in the city in 45 minutes or so I would say. If you’re going to be doing big trips out for the day, the location is probably fine, but if you’ll want to stop back between activities you might want to find something closer to what you are interested in doing. Beijing is a sprawling city and there are things to do all over, so it’s hard to find a hotel with a perfect location, imo. It’s a sufficient hotel for the price though. The staff is as helpful as they can be, though I found that for the most part their English skills were a little less than some nicer hotels. The hotel was clean though and everything in my room worked properly. I would definitely consider staying there again.

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