As Backyard Travel has just expanded to offer our tailor-made tours to China, we thought it pertinent to also start sharing our insider knowledge of this fantastic country with you too!
Wayne Chen is one of our newest Travel Specialists and is based in Beijing. We convinced him to give up his hot tips for where to go, what to do and when to do it! If you’re heading to China’s vast capital, have a read of Wayne’s recommendations!
When is the best time to visit and why?
Of course, it’s never a bad time to visit Beijing, but I’d say the best time is either in September / October or April / May as it’s not too hot or too cold. In some of the sightseeing areas around this time the leaves turn in red which makes a great scene for photography fans. Seeing The Great Wall covered by snow is one my favorite scenes, so if you aren’t afraid of cold weather, around December / January is also a good time to visit.
Where are the best places to stay?
The Face Hotel, located in the center of the city, is surrounded by a wall of bamboo, and provides a quiet and peaceful atmosphere. This boutique hotel is charming and stylish, tidy and clean. The rooms are decorated in traditional Chinese style while the corridors and other interior areas are tastefully decorated with bronze statues. There is a stylish restaurant and a quiet bar on the first floor, however if you want to hang out with your friends in a more lively atmosphere, Sanlitun (an area of bars) is also close by.
Where is a great place for dinner?
China Lounge, located near the Workers’ Stadium, is surrounded by trees and a small lake, and provides a serene atmosphere. Last time I had dinner there, it was the beginning of September, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the fabulous dishes we tried. There is also live music – the singer has a very beautiful voice! By the way, this restaurant also serves the world-famous Peking Roast Duck – a dish you have to try at least once!
Most romantic spot?
The classic choice is to enjoy a sunset with your love on The Great Wall of China – it’s an amazing experience. Just take a seat on the stairs, watch the sun drop down and hide behind the mountains. Truly romantic, and a moment you’ll never forget!
Must-try Chinese dishes?
Obviously, as I mentioned before, you have to try the world-famous Peking Roast Duck, but there’s a lot of other delicious dishes to try in Chinese cuisine! Visitors should also try the Yangxiezi Hot Pot. The Yangxiezi Hot Pot is made by slow-boiling the lamb, and then adding vegetables (or practically whatever you like) into the pot, depending on personal taste.
Best place to hang out with locals?
The best way to meet locals would be to try playing mahjong! If you’ve never played before it may be a little complicated to understand the rules – maybe you’ll need a teacher to help you – but it’s definitely the best way to get close to the locals. You’ll see small groups playing everywhere, down outside houses, in parks and on the street.
Survival tip for tourists:
Language can be a barrier in China and create distance with the locals. But, if you make an effort to try to say few words, or even if you ‘cheers!’ with them and maybe even buy them a beer while you’re in a restaurant, you can have an amazing experience with locals.
Additional insider tip:
Try to be open-minded. China as its own codes and culture which can sometimes seem a million miles away from what you probably know. Try your best to learn from it, and you never know – this ancient culture might just amaze you.
What to bring home:
On the weekend you can go to the amazing Panjiayuan market where you can find all kinds of paintings, antiques, cloth, stone and many others things. You’re certain to find something here to surprise your friends with when you get back home. I also recommend a traditional Chinese paper fan; they are cheap, stylish, light, and small – the perfect souvenir!
If you’re planning a trip to China then you can get in touch with Wayne at [email protected] and he’ll be happy to help you tailor a tour that’s perfect for you using his insightful insider knowledge!