Beijing is a dynamic city with a rich history that spans thousands of years. And with 22 million people, it’s also the world’s 3rd largest city. It’s easier than ever to visit China thanks to increased airline routes, cheaper airfares and a recent 72 hour free transit visa. On our recent visit to Beijing, we utilized the free 72 hour transit visa to spend a total of 5 days in Beijing, passing through the country twice, while traveling from Boston to Australia. It was like getting a free trip to China and we loved experiencing the phenomenal palaces, great food, the Great Wall of China and interacting with the people of Beijing.
Beijing is a fantastic city for street food. This is highlighted well by several great open air street markets around the city, with a lot of variety to choose from. While we recommend much of it, including the Wangfujing Night Food Street, the Donghuamen Night Market is best for people and exotic food watching. There’s a lot of gimmicky items at Donghuamen like fried scorpions, sea horses, starfish and silkworm cocoons that are popular to photograph, but hardly anybody actually buys them to eat. If you want to try them, ask that they be prepared fresh in front of you, rather than taking pre-made sea horses on a stick. But unless your highly intoxicated and adventurous, stick with the good food, and the people of Beijing provide a lot of it.
Some of our favorite foods in Beijing were Peking duck at Sijiminfu, fresh noodle dishes, dumplings and sweet treats like moon pies. There’s a big variety of moon pie choices in sweet shops, with selections like bean curds, green tea and fruit flavors. If they speak English, ask for recommendations and explanations. We especially loved the coconut moon pies. We also became big fans of hawthorn fruit tea. So much so, that we recently ordered some off Amazon, which didn’t compare to the freshness of what we drank in Beijing.
The people of Beijing don’t typically speak much English, but vendors and especially those in the hospitality industry in Beijing can usually communicate basics in English. We generally found the people of Beijing to be good natured, helpful and on average, less pushy than sellers in major southeast Asian cities like Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.
The people of Beijing are enjoying more opportunities that have come with their booming economy. But this also means new challenges like overwhelming pollution. Beijing is the most smog filled city we’ve visited in our travels. Many expat children who reside in Beijing usually only go outside on rare days when the pollution index is low. But it’s still a fantastic city to visit, partly because the people of Beijing have a heck of a lot to offer.
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