Get the lowdown on what to see when you're in Beijing - I've compiled all my Tripadvisor reviews for you here to get a flavour of whats worth visiting...
***** Great Wall at Mutianyu
The wall has lovely views of green and a sense of history even though it is very reconstructed. I’d definitely recommend going to a less crowded section such as Mutianyu so you have at least a chance of photos without other people. The tour guide who brought us to the wall told us a heartbreaking tale about how it got its name - but I'll leave the surprise for yourself. 2 hours really flies by up there, I could have walked much further up the wall! Note no ‘western’ toilets whilst up there (an issue for ladies) and it can be hot and tiring if you aren't that fit. One of the highlights asides clambering up the wall itself is the cable car ride up and a toboggan all the way down! The transport/tour cost 290RMB and the cable car/toboggan costs 100RMB.
***** Temple of LamaS
This was the first Buddhist temple I visited and was one of my favourites as it engaged my senses. I could burn incense (well, wood sticks that didn't actually smell of anything), see people praying, spin prayer wheels, throw coins and clamber through through building after building until I reached a huge almighty Buddha (they get bigger and bigger). Aside from the giant Buddha though, once you’ve seen one temple you’ve kind of seen them all.
**** Summer Palace
First I entered through the north gate where I stood on a bridge over a river with the most picturesque shops I'd ever seen. Further in there is a beautiful lake with dragon boats that is still etched in my memory. My favourite part was actually a big marble boat that was like a stationary yacht, I could imagine emperors having brunch there. There are some killer stairs to get the best views over the lake. The temple at the top of the apex is actually really underwhelming. I had to knock off a star for the impressively named sections of the Palace that don’t actually amount to much - for example, I got really excited about a Jade Garden that turned out to have no flowers, plants or green Jade.
*** Temple of Heaven
It was my first glimpse of that stereotypical Chinese architecture and therefore I was enchanted by the detail on the Temple and the Long Corridor. I also learned in one hall about the elaborate animal sacrifice ritual emperors went through. But what was even more captivating was people-watching as the locals enjoy the place as a park. There were many groups of retired folk dancing, playing graceful sports, playing cards and board games as well as mothers walking with children.
*** Beijing Zoo
I was thrilled to see pandas, giraffes, bengal tiger, elephants and hippos for the first time! But animal lovers may find the zoo a bit dystopian. The habitats aren’t very convincing - imagine a polar bear sweating in 30 degree heat. The visitors themselves weren't very well behaved: people banging on the glass, some even throwing rocks at the hippos, people feeding the zebras. Oh, and don't eat at the "restaurants" here, and note that the toilets are not western-style.
Next up: Shanghai!
- REVIEW: Predatory Thinking by Dave Trott