What better way to spend a 12 hour layover than to take a tour of one of the biggest cities in the world! When I was booking my trip to Thailand I decided to stop off in Beijing. I simply googled "things to do on a layover in Beijing" and found Lily's Airport Tour!
Booking was easy and to the point, I paid in advance using Viator.com
Upon arrival to Beijing from Honolulu we applied for our 24 hour visas, went through customs, changed our clothes, exchanged our currency (This took us about 1.5 hours) .
Sherry, our tour guide met us outside of our terminal holding a sign with our names on it. She led us to the parking garage where our driver picked us up in a nice mini van (it even had wood floors) to begin our day.
Sherry was highly educated and shared many facts about China's history and culture. She said she spoke "Changlish" Chinese English haha and apologized for her thick accent. I loved it.
Here are some of my favorite facts I learned:
• Beijing: population 22 million.
• In the old days common people were beheaded for wearing the color yellow and using the number 9. Yellow and the number 9 were symbols of luck and royalty and were forbidden to the common people. Even if you were born on the 9th of the month, your parents would be forced to pretend it was the 10th. Whenever the number 9 came up, common people by law were supposed to skip to 10 as if 9 didnt exist!
• Chinese women are only allowed to have two children and before 2016 there was a strict one child law.
• Due to high population and pollution there are trees EVERYWHERE. Even city blocks are lined with huge magnificent beautiful green trees. Trees are farmed specifically to clean the air. In America we cut down all the trees and then print “save the trees” on paper.
• Most older places of residence do not have their own bathrooms. 2-3 families share a home and have to use a public restroom outside.
• Facebook and google are banned in China due to Chinese government information being leaked through both.
Moving on, the drive from the airport to our first stop Tiananmen Square & Forbidden City was a little over an hour. Beijing was absolutely BEAUTIFUL. Plush green trees lined even the busiest of city blocks.
When we got there, our driver gave us cold bottled water from his mini fridge in the back of his van.
We followed Sherry into Tiananmen Square where we stood in front of what she called "The Chinese White House"
The Great Hall of the People
Tinanmen square was HUGE and swarming with tourists from all over the world.
Next, Sherry led us to Forbidden city, connected to the square.
This place was packed with incredible architecture, history, and fascinating traditions. Sherry shared many interesting facts and walked FAST so we could see everything during our time crunch. She was also willing to snap many photos for us!
Next, Sherry took us to the cutest, most authentic, most DELICIOUS Chinese restaurant for lunch. Which by the way was included with the tour along with admission for all of our activities.
Always China steal my kisses
The restaurant accommodated the vegans and meat eaters in our party, I cant even express how delectable this Chinese food was. Which I suppose is just called food in this country haha..... I am forever changed!
And last but not least, we saw one of the seven wonders of the world. The Great Wall of China. More specifically, the last leg of our tour as described in the booking was
Mutianyu Great Wall.
Most people visiting this part of the wall have to park in a parking lot and take a shuttle bus to the base of the mountain. Lucky for us, Sharon had a VIP parking pass and we were able to skip the extra 30 mins and packed bus and park super close! We had to take a "chairlift" AKA a ski lift to the very top.
It was breathtaking.
And this is Graham's daughter Maya (on the left) and her best friend Hope. They are heading off to college this Fall so we decided to take them on the trip of a lifetime for their last summer before adulthood.
After we explored the wall for about an hour, we were able to take a Toboggan ride down the mountain! It reminded me of the old movie "Cool Runnings" minus the snow lol.
They were basically little individual sleds with an E brake in the middle so you could control your own speed. We sped down the mountain accidentally rear-ending each other, getting scolded for going too fast and then too slow, (we assume, because most of the employees didnt speak any english) holding on for dear life, and laughing up a storm. It was way more fun than I expected!
There was a cute little souvenir shop where we all bought shirts that said "I climbed the great wall" then we hopped in the van for our journey back to the airport.
Upon arrival to the airport she even led us into our terminal, showed us where to get in line, and spoke with TSA to let them know we were good to go!
If you ever find yourself stuck in Beijing for a long layover, book a tour to see one of the seven wonders of the world. You wont regret it.
Zai Jian - (goodbye in Chinese)