Day 1 in Beijing: first impressions, the Great Firewall and dumplings

I have arrived in Beijing, China. Who would have thought? China is one of those places that I’ve always admired from a distance, but never thought of actually visiting. Why? I don’t know. It’s probably got something to do with my childhood. HAH! Seasoned travellers all have their check list of places they want to see and things they want to do; but China has never been on mine.

And yet, here I am.


Christmas is a strange time of year to travel. It’s when everyone is travelling, but no one is actually going anywhere. Know what I mean? Most countries are at their least exciting during Christmas season. Yea, the lights are beautiful and the gifts are great, but ultimately, it’s a stay in and eat too much and drink too much kind of extravaganza. So picking a holiday destination where things are open and there’s stuff to do is always a bit of a challenge.

Last year, I chose Taiwan. This year, I chose China. The Middle Kingdom itself. I considered other destinations, but none of them were quite feasible because of practical reasons. I’ve also been a bit impulsive lately with my travel decisions and it was only after I’d booked the ticket; and a couple of days had passed that I found myself wondering what in the world I had just done. And even in the days leading up my departure, it still hadn’t clicked that I was actually going to China.

This time, I flew from Haneda instead of Narita – thank God. Whilst Narita is far from a bad airport, getting there and back is a big long song and dance that I just don’t have the patience for. The whole train journey is just too damn complicated. ANYWAYS, although there were some cheaper flight options, I decided on ANA. And as I flew out of Haneda – I was surprised to see the most amazing view of Tokyo with Mount Fuji in the background. I smiled. It’s not home…but it’s home for now.

On the flight, I watched Finding Dory. After that, I played Tetris. Throwback, baby…

Three hours later, I landed in Beijing. The skies were a little grey. Out of my airplane window, I saw many Air China planes with passengers disembarking on foot and getting ushered into buses. I’ve never been to Russia before, but there was something about Beijing that reminded me of Russia.

Formerly known as Peking, Beijing is the current capital and one of the four ancient capitals of of China. Beijing means Northern Capital – from the Chinese characters 北 for north and 京 for capital. I was surprised I managed to suss this out given my rather rudimentary reading skills. I keep reading the characters the Japanese way – it’s tripping me out that the meaning is the same and yet the two languages sound completely different.


Customs was quick and straightforward. As a Singaporean, I’m from one of the few countries where visitors don’t need a visa to travel to China. I collected my bag within minutes of arriving at the conveyor belt. And then I got a cab to my boutique hotel. I considered taking public transport, but I couldn’t be bothered. The taxi driver in the cab tried making conversation with me, but I couldn’t be bothered with that either. I was in a quiet contemplative mood. I just wanted to stare out of the window and see Beijing. The cab ride from the airport to the hotel costed 85 yuan (US$13). 

I really like the hotel I chose – it’s cozy and cute. Earthy and warm – the way I like it. I’m staying quite close to the Yonghe Lama – a Tibetan Buddhist temple. It’s in the Dongcheng District – the Old City. I’ll post pictures and write a bit more after I check out.

I’ve only been in Beijing a couple of hours, but so far, the whole experience has been a bit overwhelming. I can’t blame anyone but myself. I’m a seasoned traveller, I know – but I’m a terrible holiday planner. I’m the kind of person who likes to make things up as I go along; which means that I hadn’t made anything up before I got here.

Silly me. 

Like most travellers, I was excited about the Great Wall; but what I didn’t expect was the Great Fire Wall. I don’t have access to my Gmail, Facebook Messenger, Line, Whatsapp etc etc. Initially I thought the internet in my hotel wasn’t working – but Yahoo and Skype and WordPress are fine. So after a shitload of Yahoo-ing (is that a legitimate verb like googling?), I finally opened an Outlook account so I could send my friend in Beijing a long overdue email. Hah – can’t believe I opened a ‘hotmail’ account after some 16 years!

Nice rebranding, though…

So now I’m in my hotel room waiting for my friend to get here so we can eat some dinner. I’m currently travelling on my own so I’m a little nervous about being here by myself. Everything just feels so big and confusing right now. Although I speak decent Mandarin, the accent here is considerably different to the one that I’m used to; so I’m having a hard time understanding people. I’m also not the best with maps or navigation so let’s see what comes to pass over the next couple of days… I’m sure it’ll be err… interesting.

A tale for the grandkids!

My friend Kate and I ate lots of dumplings in the neighbourhood. It was delicious! Of course, of course.

I have more pictures but my internet is a little wonky. So for now – it’s time to hit the sack. There’s lots of sightseeing to do tomorrow. 

Till next time, goodnight. 


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