I have always dreamed of going to see the Great Wall. I'm not sure exactly why, but I just knew in my heart that I would see it one day. So visiting Beijing was a trip that I was really looking forward to during our time in China. The trip was extra special because we were able to share the experience with 7 students.
Usually students don't want to spend their money on tours because they think that they are too expensive. But if you get a big enough group, the price is reasonable and the convenience is worth it! Many of the sites in Beijing are also not located close together, so having a driver and tour guide are super helpful. We had an amazing tour guide named Andy (WeChat ID: ni420193) who spoke English really well and was so knowledgeable! I HIGHLY recommend him for a tour if you are ever visiting Beijing.
We left Shanghai on Friday around 2pm, and took the bullet train to Beijing, which takes about 4.5 hours. The students bought a 2nd class ticket, and Richard and I bought a 1st class ticket. There is more room in 1st class, and it is very comfortable. Websites say that most foreigners buy 1st class tickets. There's another level of comfort in business class, but we felt that 1st class was sufficient.
We stayed in the Wangfujing area and ate at The Cheesecake Factory on Friday night. It was delicious! Our tour guide Andy and our driver picked us up from our hotel early (8am) on Saturday morning and we had a very full day visiting all the iconic sites: Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall. I was amazed by how big all the sites were! It took over an hour to drive to the Great Wall from the main city. In the evening, we walked through the Olympic Village as well.
The following morning we were picked up at our hotel again and went on a rickshaw ride through town. Then we enjoyed lunch prepared by a local family and did some shopping before heading out to the Temple of Heaven. I was impressed that we saw so much in just one weekend. We were also lucky because the air quality was fairly good and the sky was pretty clear. We didn't have to wear masks at all!
Quick tips when traveling to Beijing:
1) GET A TOUR GUIDE & DRIVER: Trust me on this one. Book a tour guide and driver. You will not be sorry! It's so convenient and truly helpful to have someone show you the way and teach you about all the sites.
2) TOBOGGAN DOWN THE WALL: I was surprised how much I enjoyed tobogganing down the Great Wall. It was so fun! They take a picture of you on the way down, and it's only $5 so we bought it. It captured the Wall behind us - so fun!
3) SPEND AT LEAST A WEEKEND THERE: I was really surprised that you could see all the iconic sites in Beijing in one weekend! I think there would be plenty to do if we stayed longer, but it might be good to know that you can do so much in one weekend.