After our overnight train trip from Xi’an, we had expected to arrive in Beijing early morning, at around 7am. Thus giving ourselves an extra full day in Beijing, unfortunately the weather had different ideas.
Torrential rain had washed out part of the train tracks so we had come to a stand still in the early hours of the morning until they were cleared. This turned our 11 hour overnight train trip into a 23 hour one. Despite being the only Westerners on the train we were lucky enough to have a cabin next to a Chinese family, of which some of them could speak English, so they were kind enough to keep us updated with new information when it came through.
By the time we arrived at our Airbnb accommodation (read review here), in excess of 40km east of Beijing centre in the area of Zaolincun, it was after 9.00pm.
Our Airbnb host had kindly assisted us in organising a driver to take us to the Mutianya section of the Great Wall, 75kms north, so the following morning we set off early at 6.00am. Unfortunately we had not seen the last of the rain and almost as soon as we arrived at the ticket entrance the rain started pouring down. Hoping it was going to be a passing shower we sat and tried to wait it out for an hour or so. It was soon evident however that we would have to brave the weather. So after a quick purchase of some (extremely overpriced – 200 CNY/$44 NZD) water gear, we set off on our way. The Great Wall tickets, including a shuttle bus ride, cost a total of 160 CNY$35 NZD for our family. The shuttle bus only takes you a short distance up the hill to the bottom of the stairs, leaving you with a good 30 minute or so hike up. Despite all our excitement of getting to the wall the rain definitely put a damper on our mood as we dragged ourselves up to the top. Shortly after arriving at the top, the weather cleared and we managed to enjoy the wall and walk along the top of it, stopping at many of the picture perfect spots. The boys loved to pretend they were archers defending the walls from the invading Mongolian armies of the north.With the rain stopped, the next issue we had to contend with was fog, which soon enough covered the wall and the surrounding hills. The weather would come and go over the next couple of hours while we walked the top of the wall, but it definitely did not take anything away from what a spectacle and amazing place it is. Both Paula and I would have loved to visit different areas of the wall which have not been remade for the hordes of tourists which visit each and every day, but they were located just a little too far away for us on our short trip. Before long it was time for us to head back down to our waiting driver and of course, as soon as we arrived at the bottom the sun came out and with it, the best weather we had seen all day.During our first day in Beijing we had planned to visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, however as we were not able to do this due to our delayed train, we decided to check out of our Airbnb early and head into the central city where they are located. Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City are next to one another and seperated by a large gate, both have lots of history that the boys were keen to hear about. So we found a shady spot behind a Police truck and spoke about the infamous 1989 Tiananmen Square protest. To be honest my knowledge of this massacre was very poor so with a little help from Professor Google we all managed to learn something new. This is yet another reason I love travelling with children, they are very inquisitive, especially when we visit these important places in history. Lots of questions are asked and more often than not both Paula and I learn something as well. I’m not sure how far we would have walked but it easily would have been in excess of 10kms. Which itself is probably not a huge distance but given the high heat, humidity and the fact we were carrying all our worldly possessions with us, it made for a tiring day. We visited the grounds of the Forbidden City but decided against paying the entrance fee into the temples and instead settled for some photographs, including one of Braxton sitting on Lincoln’s shoulders which is one of my favourite photographs that I have taken.It was still a little early to head to the train station but as we were all in need of a rest we headed towards a shopping mall where we could put our bags down and enjoy some dinner (along with some air-conditioning) before heading towards the train station and our last overnight train travel in China. Crossing our fingers that this trip would be incident free and we would arrive on time.
For me, Beijing was a blink and you missed it stop, we managed to visit the amazing Great Wall and Tiananmen Square but very little else. It goes without saying that there is so much more to see and do here and one day we might return and hopefully have a little longer to enjoy ourselves without having the feeling of being so rushed.
Average Daily Spend for 2 weeks in China – $266.65 NZD ($94.15 over budget per day) Overnight train travel is pretty expensive here!! Without our two overnight train trips our average daily spend would have been $167.00 NZD ($5.50 under budget per day).