“Great souls have wills, feeble ones have only wishes.” – Chinese Proverb
Great Wall of China is one of the places on my travel bucketlist, but I always put it aside from my holiday choices when I was still living in Singapore, I thought it’s just nearby I can just visit it some other time when I ran out of options. Until I moved to Dubai, and it just made my wish quite difficult to achieve.
Well I guess for me it is, because the last time I was in Southeast Asia was 3 years ago, and since then, my husband and I have our holiday plans some place else. When my sister gave birth to my lovely niece, my husband thought of visiting them in Phuket as his birthday gift to me. And that gave me the idea of staying for another week more in Asia, then thought of visiting Bagan (Myanmar) or Beijing! I chose the latter because of ease of traveling alone and of course – the Great Wall of China!
Great Wall of China as many of us know is the only man-made structure that is visible from outer space. It looks like a dragon lying along the mountainous regions of China. It stretches out from a lot of provinces of China, making it possible to visit from many places. However, the less ruined or most restored sections are closely located in Beijing – the capital of China.
Beijing being the most populous city in the world is also the cultural, political and historical centre of China, so many tourists visit Beijing not just for Great Wall. I’ve only known the history of China when I was still in my 2nd year in high school, so coming to China and seeing the places and reading a bit of its history once again, brought me back to our little classroom before, and how I appreciate travelling more, because everything you’ve learned from the past are just making sense to you all of a sudden.
I only have 3 days set for Beijing so I didn’t really plan much but for Great Wall of China only. I spent one day resting, one day at Great Wall in Mutianyu, and one day to see the city. I am glad that my Singaporean friend, Chris Peh, is based in Beijing now so he showed me a little bit of the night scene in the city on one of my nights.
The places I’ve been to are:
1. Forbidden City
It’s the most important palace in Beijing, it is the Imperial court of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, as also seen in the movie “The Last Emperor” hehe (the only film allowed to film inside). It’s so huge that I did not intend to visit the wing palaces anymore. It is also important to get an audio guide if you didn’t go here with a tour guide, otherwise every time you go to another palace courtyard, you will just think it as repetitive and meaningless. But as we all know, Chinese are not just superstitious and feng shui believers, but every single detail they put will definitely have its meaning and purpose.
- Tiananmen Square
This is considered as the centre of Beijing where the cityscape was based, it’s the innermost ring, and the farter the ring the “least” important the place is. It is said that this is world’s largest public square, it’s very wide and intimidating, surrounded by the most important historical buildings in Beijing. It is located just outside Forbidden City, my friend told me that it’s the “gate” to the Forbidden City.
- Qianmen Road (Hutongs)
It’s just few steps from Tiananmen Square. I went here because they said I can find lots of souvenir shops here, so I was thinking to buy my snowglobes here. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any snowglobes or just even a fridge magnet to hundreds of shops in here. The souvenirs I’ve found apart from food and chongsams (Chinese traditional clothes) were those China-made products you will see on Dollar Shops outside China. Though the place is very interesting! The hutongs were used to be houses of the aristocrats before Communists took over.
- Da Dong Roasted Peking Duck Restaurant
Roasted Peking Duck is a famous specialty of Beijing. And my friend Chris took me here at Da Dong to try it as this is one of the best authentic restaurant in Beijing that serves Peking Duck. It’s considered as high-end restaurant, but consider that food and restaurants in Beijing are quite cheap from outsiders like us. We had one whole Peking duck for us plus other food and the Pu’er Tea for $50 each! Actually, it’s the Pu’er tea that is expensive! Almost the same price as the whole duck already! We didn’t know that, so perhaps we would pay less if we just had an ordinary Chinese tea :P
5. San Li Tun (Bar Street)
This is the centre of Beijing nightlife! We took too much time with our dinner so by the time we arrived Sanlitun the malls and shops were already closed, some bars were closed too because it was a weekday after Chinese holiday. There were still bars that were open, so we just grabbed a bottle of Tsing Tao quickly and called it a night :)
- Ming Tombs and the Underground Palace
It was part of the Mutianyu Great Wall tour and was a letdown for me. There’s nothing much to see unless you are a Chinese culture fanatic I guess. Everything that I saw that interests me in these places were all “imitation”! Our guide said the originals were in the museum >.<
- Jade Factory and Silk Factory
These 2 places are the places I will NOT see if I’m doing a DIY tour! I am not into Jade or any jewelries, and I am not into silk as well. Plus, I hate shopping. Full stop.
But I regret not buying the snowglobes and fridge magnets I saw because I thought it’s a tourist trap price. But I didn’t know that I cannot find this kind of souvenirs around the shops in the city (or maybe I was just unlucky not to know where to get it) so I ended up buying my snowglobes and souvenirs at the airport which are 4x more expensive :(
- Lastly, The Great Wall of China!!!
I chose to visit the Mutianyu section based on the reviews I’ve read that it’s the less touristy but easily accessible through arranged group tours. I don’t want to be too adventurous and have a DIY tour as I only have 3 days to spend, I can’t afford to get lost haha! We took the cable car going to Tower 14, and you have 2 options, to go Tower 1 which is longer and steeper according to our guide, or go Tower 23 which is easier trek but with a so-so view.
It rained that morning so it was very foggy, so I chose to go to Tower 1 instead because it wasn’t as foggy as going to Tower 23. My purpose of going there is to have a photo, so it’s useless to have a photo with just fog right? Lol! So no matter how difficult and slippery going to Tower 1, I chose to take that, and I was successful to reach the end! Wopeeeee!!!
Going back, we still have like 30minutes more to spend, and I regret that I just sit there with our group, I should have gone to see the other side going to Tower 23 just even at the entry only.
It was a very short trip yet very fulfilling because I can now tick Great Wall of China off my travel bucket list! I have encountered ridiculous security checkpoints upon entering China on which I’d rather not write about it because it was ugly, but in the end, it was all worth it! I am very happy that I have accomplished something – GREAT!
I am blessed to have a very loving and supportive husband who allowed me to fulfill my dreams on my own. He was worried that I will be alone but he knows me that I can handle it alone. I have strong-willed soul when it comes to doing what I love and in this case, travelling. And because of his trust, I know that even if I am married now, I will still be courageous enough to make my wishes come into reality. I will keep remembering that, it is better to try and fail than to only wish you had tried.