So Beijing was the destination of choice for our Easter break. Originally we planned to get the train but due to various complications we went Air China both ways. My thoughts were mixed about this holiday. After Hong Kong we were taking the children, yet again, on a city break, in fact to one of the world’s biggest. I was excited to be exploring somewhere new but concerned that the children would once again feel hemmed in and show it through their behaviour. Until 2 days before I wasn’t even certain where we would stay, I had booked various hotels along the way thanks to Booking.com but none quite fulfilled all of my picky criteria. The two conditions of the hotel were that it must be central and the package must include breakfast – 2 things we didn’t do in Hong Kong. 2 days before we arrived I finally settled on a hotel, pricey but looked lovely, had good reviews, was central and included breakfast.
By the time we boarded the plane I was ready to relax but as those of you with children know that isn’t always possible. I was sat with Erin – got the easy job I thought – but she was mysteriously quiet and confessed that she felt sick about 10 minutes into the flight. She refused the trio of sandwiches they brought round – to be honest I don’t blame her – and didn’t even drink her Pepsi. With about half an hour to go she went to the toilet. After 10 minutes she refused to open the door for Daddy so Mummy had the pleasure of seeing the sight of her standing in a pool of her own sick on the toilet floor – cleverly she avoided getting any on herself so she stepped out of her shoes into the aisle and went back to her seat leaving me to sort the offending shoes. I cleaned them as best I could when the plane is not having a completely smooth journey and technically I should have been belted in my seat as it was starting its descent. Throughout the descent we could smell vomit and as I kept glancing back I could see it seeping out of the toilet door – I pitied the poor cleaning crew that would board when we arrived.
As we approached passport control I asked Erin to try and make sure she wasn’t sick at this point. We had already successfully passed through the temperature checkpoint no questions asked. She managed it and our first plan of going on the metro to the hotel changed to ‘let’s get a taxi’ which turned into ‘let’s pay more than Lonely Planet say to get a very comfy 7 seater’. Erin is a bit like me when it comes to getting ill. It doesn’t happen very often and when it does the less fuss made about it the better. Armed with hidden sick bags from the plane we smiled at the taxi driver and inquired as to how long it might take – about 40 minutes. Half way through the journey Erin was sick again but in true Erin style she was so quiet the driver didn’t even notice – all that was left for me to do was to hold the airline sick bag for the last 20 minutes of the journey! Not how I pictured my first few moments in Beijing but you can’t predict anything with children around.
The hotel on arrival was better than the pictures and immediately I felt that we’d made the right choice. The next 5 days were filled with just the right amount of sightseeing, relaxing, sleeping in an ‘oh so comfy bed’ (the ones in our apartment in Mongolia are really hard), and just generally having a great family time together. Each day over breakfast we would decide what to do and we managed to hire a driver on day 3 to take us to the Great Wall. We thought there would be queues at a lot of the main sights that we went to but these were short and very efficiently managed. Naively, I expected Beijing to be noisy, dirty, busy, difficult to get around and just generally a bit manic. The Beijing I’ve just spent 5 days in was not the city I envisaged. It was clean, efficient, and most of it was pretty chilled. We didn’t feel rushed to do anything, ok, so some of the markets were in your face, a shop at one of the temples charged a ridiculous amount for some postcards but Pete and I failed to currency convert correctly and didn’t realise until too late, we resorted to lots of Western food and played it safe and at times the novelty to the Chinese of taking a photo of a white Western family got on my nerves but it was a great holiday. The children were really tolerant of some of the long walks back to the hotel, they seemed to take in their stride some of the more distressing scenes of beggars that you can’t avoid in big cities and best of all, there were no tantrums from them or me. I would love to return to Beijing one day but with so many other places to visit I’m not sure when it will be. Hopefully next year we may manage to visit on the train and you never know we may be brave enough to try a scorpion on a stick.
Day 1 – Beihei Park – pedalo boat around the lake
Day 2 – The Zoo – pandas, elephants, rhinos, a great aquarium and that other rare sight – the Nortons – take photos and selfies with us as much as you like as you many never encounter us again and Wanfujing Street – snack street!
Day 3 – Great Wall – cable car up, best toboggan ride ever down and sunset flag lowering ceremony at Tianammen Square
Day 4 – Temple of Heaven
Day 5 – The Forbidden City – amazing, literally a city within a city, oh and more sightings of the lesser known Nortons – take photos and selfies with us as much as you like until I get fed up with it! Sneaky tuc-tuc (sort of ) ride back to hotel. Beijing Duck for dinner tonight – delicious, super end to a super holiday.