I am currently in Mongolia trying to think about my time in Beijing. I was there about a week ago but a lot has happened in a week. I was in in Beijing for nine nights (January 31st to February 9th) and I am scrolling through my camera roll trying to remember my time there.
My time in Beijing was different than I expected. It was less “touristy” which is fine by me. I didn’t accomplish everything on my list but it doesn’t bother me at all. I know I will come back someday and they will still be there. There was a lot of practical things to get done like a buy a SIM card, get a train ticket to Mongolia, and exchange money. And being China most of those things took longer than need be.
Another factor was that I was working many of my evenings. To make matters even more complicated, the network was too slow at my hostel so I got to commute to work for a few days. This took away some fun time but I have to make money! I haven’t had to commute to work since I lived in NYC so it was an unique experience to get to try it for a few days in Beijing.
In addition, I was recovering from an illness so it took a few days for me to feel better and ready to explore.
Yes, I saw the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City which was great and all but some of the highlights were just getting a drink and a cheeseburger with my coworkers or grabbing hot pot with a local or getting tapas with Americans and Argentinians. After an isolating time in Chuzhou it felt nice to be able to socialize. Plus, I found a cute cafe near where I was staying that reminded me of NYC and made me feel at home. There was also a great dumping place next to the hostel so I was a happy camper. Give me good food and I will be all good!
I stayed at the Beijing Drum Tower Youth Hostel which specializes in “pods and capsules.” I know, its sound really sci-fi like but its really just a small room. I stayed in a capsule which allowed me to “enjoy an independent space with bed price.” The ceiling was extremely low. Really low. I am 5’5″ and they was just a few inches between me and the ceiling and it was like this in my bathroom too. If you are on the taller side I wouldn’t recommend it but they did have a shower with a normal height ceiling on the floor too. The room was small but there was enough space for me and all my luggage. The shower had incredible water pressure and burning hot water so I was basically in heaven. On my first day there I used half a bottle of conditioner and my hair looked amazing. I hadn’t had a good hair day in a while so there was lots of selfies involved. Plus, being the city I felt inspired to play with my makeup and I had fun trying some new things.
The highlight of my time in Beijing was celebrating the Lunar New Year. I was going to grab some dinner before meeting up with my coworkers when a worker at the hostel asked, “Would you like to make dumplings?” Well, I have been wanting to learn how to make dumplings since I have been in China so I of course said yes! I learned it pretty hard to make dumplings but I tried. I am better at eating dumplings than making them. I thought I was just making dumplings but I ended up getting a whole delicious meal with the staff that included wine and beer! The owner, Mr. Joe, said we were part of the family. During the dinner I met two other solo travelers, a Canadian and an American.
At midnight the fireworks began and it just an incredible experience. The sky was just full of them. It was unbelievable. Everyone watched in the street. I am glad I didn’t bring my fancy camera as I took a few short videos and just enjoyed the experience.
I thought I wouldn’t like Beijing but during my time there I could actually see myself living there. I really would of had the experience in China that I wanted. As one of my coworkers explained you can really choose your own adventure. You can pick both an Eastern and Western lifestyle. Visiting during the New Year was great too cause everyone was in a great mood (and millions of people weren’t in the city!). The fireworks in the street were an unforgettable experience.
This trip wasn’t what I expected it to be but it was just what I needed. I have realized with traveling all you need to have truly planned is a place to stay and maybe a few ideas of what you want to do or. The rest of of it will take care of itself. And if it doesn’t just be open to new opportunities.
I know someday I will come back to Beijing to see more of the sights of perhaps live there for a year. Who know what will happen.
Have you ever visited Beijing? Have you ever visited Beijing during the Lunar New Year? Have you had a trip go different than you thought it would?