There is a possibility to get a free visa to Beijing (and some other Chines cities) for 72h while on transit. We decided to use this opportunity to explore a bit of Beijing for free before entering Canada.
On our first day we walked around Houhai lake. We saw a lot of people fishing and swimming there despite all the signs saying you shouldn’t swim or fish. Houhai lake is a nice are (a bit touristy maybe), but it’s good for an evening stroll. It’s very peaceful In the evening we ate some local food and prepared for the next days.
The second day we visited the Tiananmen square and the National museum of China. Tiananmen square was very hard to get to. They had closed a couple of the underground entrances, so we had to go all around the massive square, find pedestrian crossings and find this one and only entrance to this square. There were guards, fences and tourists everywhere. Everything was very controlled by the guards/police and surveillance cameras.
On our last day we went to the Great Wall of China. We decided to take the train there as it was cheaper and more scenic than the bus. We arrived at the station and wanted to buy tickets, but saw that there was a sign saying that they are all sold out. Christophe was very resourceful (as always ) and saw online that if you have the GO card for the trains, you can get into the train anyway. We quickly ran to the other platform, got ourselves the GO cards, ran back to the station and joined the humongous queue of people taking the train. Once the platform doors opened, people ran to the train.
The Great Wall was quite impressive to see. Edda thought it would have looked a bit more old and wide though. The nature around the wall was spectacular (see photos). There were quite some tourists, but if you walked on the North side a bit more, you could have the place for yourself.
The train back was also overbooked and full of people. When we got back, we went hunting for chinese smartphones. Christophe got himself a Meizu and Edda got Xiaomi. :D
The overall impression of Beijing was pretty cool. Although there are a lot of people, it doesn’t seem to be that cramped. There is a lot of space and the buildings are big. The cleanliness level is good and the food is delicious Wouldn’t mind coming back someday!