Some of you may know I just got back from a quick kid-free trip to Beijing. The rest of you probably didn’t even realized I left because our trip was that quick. We left the US on a Thursday morning and got back on Monday evening. You know, because all normal people take long weekend trips to China, right?!
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Let me explain a bit. First of all, my husband and I both have the travel bug big time. We’ve already taken our kids to five of the seven continents – don’t forget they are ages 3 and 5. We went to Spain and Morocco earlier this year and love interesting destinations. I even studied abroad in Russia before I could legally order a beer in a US bar. I fully realize for most people, a long weekend in China is ridiculous. For us, it is exciting.
I should also mention my hubby, Kurt, travels a lot for work. That means he has earned airline status and accumulated tons of miles. We can typically stay in hotels and fly for free and are lucky enough to get upgrades. This makes trips like China very affordable since we don’t have big out-of-pocket expenses for flights and hotel. Trust me when I say it isn’t easy taking care of the kids when he is on the road, but that story is for another day. Therefore, I like to think of trips like this one as a reward for all our hard work. We were able to fly business class with the amazing lie flat seats, which makes those long flights actually enjoyable.
After landing on Friday afternoon (China time given the 15 hour time difference), we grabbed some dinner and made plans for the rest of the weekend. We decided to do a tour of Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven on Saturday. Since we didn’t exactly have time to mess around, we hired a tour guide to show us the highlights. We are typically the type that like to tour around on our own, but our complete inability to speak or understand Mandarin made it hard on this particular trip.
Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven were all built over 600 years ago for the Chinese emperors, their families and their staff. The Forbidden City got its name since no one else was allowed inside the palace walls. I was completely shocked by the vast size of it all, the amazing architecture and the colors. It was also incredible to hear the stories and see first-hand how well these pieces of history were maintained.
Outfit details: gingham peplum top, 7 for all Mankind jeans, mongram initial necklace (all C/O Evereve through their awesome personalized styling service called Trendsend), boots, Marc Jacobs bag, grey puffy jacket
The photos above are all from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. After touring those, we stopped at the cutest Chinese tea house for a tea ceremony. Our tour guide recommended it (probably because she got a cut of whatever we bought), and it was such a nice break to the day. Our host served us 6 different types of tea and told us all about the Chinese tea traditions. We definitely walked out with overpriced tea in our hands, but the experience was priceless.
Following the tea ceremony, we walked around the Temple of Heaven. This was also built over 600 years ago as the emperors place of worship. I tell you, I have no clue how these people knew how to build something so spectacular that many years ago. The colors and attention to detail were just remarkable.
After the tour, we felt pretty good and were determined not to waste a minute. We decided to go to a Chinese acrobat show, which had so many moments where I caught myself holding my breath. Sadly, photos weren’t allowed inside. After the show, we then headed over to a restaurant which the locals call a “hot pot”.
At a hot pot, you cook meat in boiling pots of broth. You order whatever meat you’d like and the servers bring it to you to cook yourself. Of course, the menu was entirely in Mandarin so we ordered what we thought were beef dishes based on the photos. I’m usually partial to chicken, but let’s just say the photos of the potential chicken didn’t look anything like the chicken breasts I buy at my local grocery store. We thought beef was safe, but I’m pretty sure we ended up with some sort of kidneys and liver. The experience was fun, the fruit was amazing, and my giant Hoegaarden beer was delicious as always. However, I don’t think I’ll be hitting up a hot pot the next time I’m in China. At least not without a native speaking person to help us order. LOL.
We woke up on Sunday and headed off to our guided tour of the Great Wall of China. I expected amazing things and it totally surpassed my expectations. I still don’t understand how the wall was built that far up in the mountains over 2,000 years ago. It was absolutely massive and had 15 feet wide walking paths throughout. The wall was originally constructed to prevent the Chinese states against attacks from different foreign groups. The paths were used to transport goods through China, which almost seems impossible because the steps were ginormous. I personally loved the giant watch towers which were constructed every quarter of a mile or so.
It was freezing up in the mountains so we were all bundled up in hats, scarves and gloves. I was very, very happy I decided to pack my giant puffy coat for this trip. I was also thrilled I went with my sneakers instead of my cute boots I originally considered wearing. There were steps everywhere and I’ll admit, I was winded countless times throughout the tour. We even took a cable car up to the wall! No clue how the ancient Chinese did it.
After we returned to the city of Beijing, we went past the Bird’s Nest, which was the stadium build for the 2008 Summer Olympics. We also took a rickshaw tour through the hutongs, which are ancient homes, some 700 years old, that people still live in today. Several of them don’t even have bathrooms and the residents use public facilities. Can you even imagine?
On Sunday night, we got the most painful massages at this little spa down the street before heading out to dinner. It was one of those massages that hurt, but felt so good as soon as it was over. And no, we didn’t go back to the hot pot.
We woke up on Monday, packed our bags and headed off to do a little shopping before going to the airport. The Pearl Market contained 5 floors of China’s finest knock-offs. Let’s be clear, I absolutely support designers and don’t think it is right to flat out copy designs, but when in China…
And 72 hours after we landed in China, we headed home. If you asked me to go back again for a weekend, I’d say YES in a second. I love the fact it is such a modern city with so much ancient history. The communist government had some interesting rules (all social media and Google sites are banned), but I find different ways of living fascinating. For me, travel has truly broadened my understanding of the world and helped me see there is no right or wrong way to live. After all, it would be so boring if we all were the same.
In case you were wondering, my chenille sweatshirt is now my new go-to traveling top. So dang comfy.
Anyone been to China before? Would you travel that far for a long weekend?