Home » Travel » Beijing: Beauty and Beast part 2

Beijing: Beauty and Beast part 2

In my previous post I talked about the Beauty that is Beijing, the Great Wall. Walking on the wall and climbing the steps of history and feeling the crumbling bricks knowing that thousands of hands poured their blood and sweat into this structure really touched me. It was something I would do again if given the chance. As I alluded to in the previous post, this happened after a rather less than happy day in the city. I’m about to address the Beast.

Arriving in Beijing felt like for the first time really being in China. Like this is the real deal. I travelled to Hong Kong in January and it didn’t feel like China. It felt like the Asian Cape Town. If you only travel to Cape Town and think you’ve experienced South Africa than you’d be a little misguided.

And boy was I misguided.

Beijing to me is a veneer of modernity, culture and friendliness. Scratch a little deeper and you’ll find a Beast hiding in the smog waiting to pounce. This is the first city I’ve been to where I felt no connection. I left feeling like it was a business transaction that went sour and I was the sucker.

This sucker doesn’t like dwelling on the negative, so here are a few tips should you find yourself facing the Beast:

  1. Know your directions, as in North, South, East & West. Because when a map says walk North, it helps to know if that would be straight ahead, behind you, left or to the right of you.
  2. If approached by a friendly man who says he is studying English, RUN. If you ask him to point out a good restaurant and he says he’ll take you there, RUN. If he says he is an Art student and wants to show you his calligraphy studio, RUN. If he says his friend is having an acrobatic show and he wants to take you there, RUN. It’s a scam.
  3. Do not buy anything from any shop anywhere near any tourist site. You’ll end up paying double or triple what it’s worth.
  4. Cheap = bad, bad quality (Galvin Klein is a good example)
  5. If the traffic light turns green for you to walk across the street, this actually means that it may or may not be safe for you to walk. Cars have right of way in all instances.
  6. If using the subway, your bags will be scanned at the entrance, this includes all water bottles as well. (Kinda like going through airport security just on the subway) Airport Express Line: 25RMB Subway: 2RMB
  7. Using the bus is very easy and cheap. Cost 1RMB.
  8. If you have asthma or suffer from any allergies or sinus problems, be brave. You may find it a little difficult to breathe especially at night.
  9. What you see is not what you get.

Be safe but most importantly be a little streetwise. Hussle is the game.

OMG, we’re staying in the hood:

Old school check-in at Kelly’s Courtyard (great traditional accommodation)

A courtyard in a Chinese hood:

The Spaza shop (with a direct connection to the head of state {spot the red phone}):

Tiananmen Square:

Masses entering the Forbidden City:

The opposite to how I was feeling:

For a die-hard Coca-cola fan, the best thing about the day:

Having some chicken and veg with our oil:

A more edible meal:

Finding the Hulk’s resting place:

High stakes poker:

My friend Marelize: Faking it till you make it at 6am

Our host contemplating checking into one of those “finding peace of mind” places after having to deal with us:


2 thoughts on “Beijing: Beauty and Beast part 2

  1. OMG, OMG, OMG!!! I’ve heard some hair raising stories from hubby’s family as well…eeeek….like the public showers that have no doors or curtains!

    • lol yeah Livi, I should have added an extra tip about not using public toilets EVER. I had a lovely experience at the Great Wall. It’s a difficult thing trying to use the loo and not puke at the same time. Not recommended.

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