Up to now I have always been reluctant to write about my husband’s business travel. Some people make the mistake of thinking it’s glamorous and that couldn’t be further from the truth. My husband Mr F. travels a lot for his work. It’s very erratic and often at short notice. The working week often starts at 4am on a Sunday with a taxi to the airport, and we never get that lost weekend time back. He likes his job but the travel is a bit of a slog. Perks are rare.
On a long trip, he once had a middle Sunday free when he was staying in Beijing. That was a very different kind of a day off than usual! It’s difficult to know what to do for one day in Beijing, such a vast historic city. It would be nice to make the most of it and book a luxury holiday or a long haul holiday deal. One day in Beijing isn’t long, but if it’s all you have, try these tips.
Getting around Beijing
There are high speed trains to cover long distances in China but within Beijing itself there’s an awful lot of heavy traffic. There is a local version of Uber but traffic may prevent your cab from collecting you. To see the highlights of Beijing it may be ideal to allow one day for each district, because of the issues with traffic and travel. The subway has a good reputation and it does have signs in English, if you’re happy to give that a go.
The Great Wall of China
Beijing is about a 90 minute drive from the Great Wall of China. An organised day trip can be booked with transport, guide and lunch. Most hotel front desks will be able to connect you with a service. A day trip to the Great Wall will take the whole of your one day in Beijing.
Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City
These two great sights are adjacent to each other, although both are very large and you will use up some significant shoe leather to get around it all.
A visit to the Forbidden City imposes on you a sense of space and grandeur, along with the journey through repeated courtyards and palaces. This moated royal city was forbidden to the common people in the days of the Emperors, but nowadays the crowds are immense. Heads will bob in the foreground of every photo.
This park is beyond the Forbidden city to the north, with views from the high pagoda over the Forbidden City and much of Beijing.
Authentic Peking Duck
A restaurant sitting of this iconic dish is a long process. The entire duck will be served, bit by bit. The middle part of the meal is familiar but other servings may be mysterious. Don’t be surprised if the meal ends with the head of the duck split in half so you can eat the brain with chopsticks. With luck you’ll be full by this point!
Beijing Photography Tips
If smog is a problem on your one day in Beijing, then it may cloud your photos. The Chinese authorities are working hard on reducing the smog now. If you visit any city with smog or dust cloud problems then I recommend taking a polarising lens for your camera. Smog and dust reflect and diffuse light, but a polariser will cut out some of these wavelengths and should make your images sharper. You can read about how I used this trick in the forest fires of Yosemite. In editing you can improve smoggy images by increasing “clarity” or “structure” sliders.
If there are big crowds in the way of your photo you can try to make a feature of the people by using them to frame the edges of your image. Try to get a moment of interaction between people to one side of your image, or find someone in bright white or red and frame them on the third line of your image (see “rule of thirds”).
More than one day in Beijing
Mr F tells me his one day in Beijing was visually and culturally extremely different and interesting. He felt China is somewhere he would like to visit for a proper holiday, although he did warn me that he often had no idea what he was eating. There is very little English spoken and he was particularly glad to have a guide. How many days would you ideally like to have in Beijing? Let me know in the comments.
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