Beijing, China: The New East
While many Americans opt to visit Europe for summer vacations, a handful will take the plunge and go a little further: Beijing, China. Even though this is not your usual travel destination, you will not be sorry you booked that 12 hour flight. China is home to some of the oldest civilizations in the world. This is in striking juxtaposition to their cutting edge technology that seems to be ever evolving and changing the way we live our lives. These two factors though are what makes Beijing a traveler’s dream city.
Historical Sites to Visit in Beijing
For the historically inclined, there is of course stops like the Forbidden city. Plan a whole day of your itinerary to walk through the entire thing because the size is nothing short of massive. The imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty, the 500 year span of rule from this seat influenced culture, architecture, and government in east Asia. It is now a world heritage site and under control of the Palace Museum. Nearby, there’s a park where you can stand on the exact center of Beijing and soak up an incredible view of the city.
Another historical site is Tiananmen Square. If you plan to visit this site, there’s no shortage of learning opportunities. However, it is highly controversial in Chinese politics, so being aware of that and respectful of that is a must when there.
Of course there is the Great Wall. One of the 7 wonders of the world, you cannot miss it. Some of the earliest sections of the wall date back to the 7th century, but most of the existing wall dates to the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century. Apart from being an engineering feat of strength, the wall demonstrates the vast power and organizational strength of the Chinese government for millennia. It’s truly awe-inspiring to try and conceptualize the man power it took to construct such a massive fortification. There’s a section that is very close to Beijing and accessible by bus. Once you get to the top, you can pay to luge down the Wall- certainly a fun and relaxing excursion after a great deal of uphill climbing.
Eating Out in Beijing, Not for the Faint of Heart
When it comes to dining, while you might be more comfortable eating in a place that has a bilingual menu or is catering to tourists, you’ll find the best food in places that have Chinese menus. Don’t be afraid to try street food, and try everything!
Some administrative tips for your trip are to exchange your currency, download a translator, and apply for a visa. Unlike traveling to places like France or Greece, you need a visa for any amount of time while visiting China. It’s best to get this out of the way and sorted as soon as you can to cut down on time crunch stress.
Beijing is truly a city of never-ending marvel, from history to architecture, to food and technology, Beijing offers visitors a look into a powerful society that has roots older than the Greek and Roman empires. It might take some added legwork on your part, but your trip to China will be a once in a lifetime opportunity, grab it if you have the chance.
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