To be honest, I’ve always had my inhibitions with visiting China. For one, visiting evokes a sense of fear with the government in control of almost all aspects of the citizens’ lives: from education, health, to telecommunication services. Also, the country is incredibly huge with an equally incredibly huge history that can be too much to take in for a first-time visitor. I like reading up on a bit of history before I visit a country, but with China, I feel like even one year is not enough.

Since there was too much information to take in, I decided to just go with Beijing as my base. I thought it would be a good starting point for China since it is my first time here, and Beijing is the country’s main hub for train travel to Mongolia. Plus, I was also traveling with my family and having too many people moving around can be a logistical nightmare.

The tips below will only focus on Beijing since I only got to visit this city.

Some Tips on Visiting China (with a focus on Beijing):

  • Philippine citizens need to apply for a visa, and I would say it’s even more difficult to apply for a Chinese than a US visa. The process is quite stringent, and the embassy is very strict with bank documents. There’s even a minimum deposit required depending on your profession. You can check out the process on the embassy’s official website.
  • We stayed at Beijing 161 Wangfujing Hotel and it’s in a pretty good area. It’s located along a hutong which made it feel like we were in one of those chasing fight scenes in kung-fu movies. Although breakfast is not included, there are so many breakfast and lunch eateries nearby that you can choose from.
  • The hotel provided us with a phone registered in Hong Kong. This way, we got to use Facebook, Google, Instagram, Skype, Viber, YouTube… Basically every site that’s blocked in China. It felt incredibly frustrating to be locked out of these sites that became almost second nature for us to use. It was an interesting experience, though.
  • For a first-time visitor, I highly recommend visiting the following: Great Wall of China, Palace Museum, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, Olympics Stadium, and Wangfujing Street. When visiting historical places, please don’t forget to bring your passport. You will not be allowed to enter without it!

So much respect for this 375-year old architectural marvel (Photo credit: Ren Albano)

  • It’s been said that China wouldn’t be the cultural superpower that it is today without the discovery of silk. That’s why I recommend visiting a silk factory in the country where it all started. We went to Yuanhou Silk Factory since it’s the one nearest to our hotel.
  • If you have an evening to spare, I also recommend watching the Legend of Kung Fu at the Red Theater, the longest running kung fu and acrobatic show in Beijing. You can book your tickets on site or on Red Theater’s official website.
  • Why I want to go back: There’s so, so, so much more to see in the fourth biggest country on this planet. I also wish to use my limited Mandarin the next time I visit to see if locals can understand me 😛
  • As with any country in the world: Do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | take good care of your valuables | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in the local language, culture, and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut ❤

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