Beijing 

Cost: $$$ | Difficulty: 3/5 | Food: 3.5/5

Sightseeing: 5/5 | Nightlife: ? | Overall Experience: 4

  • The scale of the city is staggering. There are almost as many people living in the city of Beijing as there are in all of Australia
  • While the pace of life here appears fast, it is not as fast as Hong Kong or London
  • If you are a Westerner with blonde hair, it is very likely you will attract attention in public places – especially Tiananmen Square. Be prepared to be photographed by not one or two people, but possibly a group of 50
  • The city is steeped with historically important and impressive sites
  • The air pollution was fine on our first day. It became worse on our second day, but wasn’t as bad as the horror stories I’d heard before the trip
  • We booked a private tour for two days – easily the best choice if you want to save time and see as much as possible. It will save you from having to buy any tickets or organise lunch. Couldn’t recommend enough

Below: Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven

  • You will immediately feel the cultural distinctiveness of the people and buildings. A backdrop of impressive palaces and gardens is where Beijingers socialise. Mahjong and cards were especially popular with the older men

  • The food in Beijing is good, but it is particularly oily. Everything from your steamed greens to sweet and sour pork will be oilier than you’re accustomed to. Surprisingly, the food isn’t very spicy – you may find yourself asking for extra chilli
  • The Peking duck is, of course, delicious and a must try
  • Alcohol is very affordable – try some of the local mid-strength local beers
  • We were so busy seeing the sights and waking up early for tours we didn’t get an impression of the night life (I would recommend at least three days for Beijing)
  • And did I mention the Great Wall? It really is one of those things you have to see to believe