Arriving late afternoon to the heart of Beijing (after a missed flight & 5 extra hours of travel), we checked into our beautiful, flower obsessed hostel & headed out in search of Beijing’s most delicious dumplings.
Walking along the hidden streets of the Donghuashi district, we quickly realized we weren’t in the tourist section of Beijing anymore. Becoming a spectacle quite quickly, we stumbled into a tiny restaurant that was actually named The Dumpling Restaurant!
With only a half dozen tables and google translate to order, we were served the most delicious dumplings, pork, and beef dishes for only a few American dollars.
Waking up the next morning with Tiananmen Square in our sites, we hopped on the metro and stepped out into a sea of tourists. Making the crowds at Disney seem anything but crowded, we shifted our way through hundreds of people for a glance at the Forbidden City.
Heading next to the Summer Palace, we strollled along the incredible lakes and gardens before walking along the palace’s canal of shops.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Summer Palace is massive. Mainly dominated by Longevity Hill, the Palace grounds cover over a mile of Beijing, including Kunming Lake, a 540 acre man made lake.
To finish our first full day of Beijing sites, we opted for a tasting dinner at the Black Sesame Kitchen.
Down a tiny street in the Andingmen district, Black Sesame is an experience unlike any other. Served in the dining room of a local family’s home, guests from every edge of the earth joined us that night for a taste of Chinese cuisine. Trying everything from Mongolian beef, to pan fried pumpkin dumplings, to Chongqing chicken and more, the food was just a part of what made Black Sesame incredible.
Talking with a girl from Taiwan, Harry from London, a French and German duo, an American couple from Texas, and an Australian trio as I finished my goji berry icecream, Beijing was already a mix of surreal sights and unreal encounters.
Starting our next day in Beijing with a tour of the Temple of Heaven, day three was packed full of temples and markets. Getting lost in the Hongqiao & Panjiayuan Antique Market for hours, we picked up hand painted canvases and jade jewelry before finishing the day with Peking Duck at the legendary Dadong Duck Roast Restaurant.
Starting our last day with a tour of the Ming Tombs and a local jade factory, the anticipation reached an all time high by the time we finally reached the Great Wall of China.
Taking the cable car up to the Badaling section, we hiked along the 2,300 year old Wall, pinching ourselves a few dozen times to make sure we were actually there. Snapping a few thousand photos and amazed by where we were, it took awhile for us to realize people had actually started taking photos of us rather than the Wall!
Suddenly bombarded with requests in broken English for a photo together, we made many friends and a hilarious memory on one of the most legendary sites in the world.
Stopping quickly for a traditional tea ceremony on our way back to city center, we finished our time in Beijing at a local Chinese brewery where we met an American teacher from Indiana who now lives and works in southern China.
Sharing stories and a tuk-tuk back to our hotel, we chatted with a little Chinese boy at a red light & then packed up for our next adventure in Nepal.