On my way back to Singapore from Mongolia, my layover in Beijing was just under 60 hours, which means, I can explore Beijing and avoid paying for the visa!
3PM (hour 1) Flight lands in Beijing
I went through custom for the Transit Visa, no issues. Fortunately, I have a friend living in Beijing, who picked me up, so I didn’t have to figure out public transportation on my own.
7PM (hour 4) Food Galore
After eating flavorless potato, carrots, meat, and rice and noodles for three weeks in Mongolia, some spice and sauce was much deserved.
10PM (hour 7) Hutong
My friend’s friend actually lives in a Hutong, traditional Chinese courtyard house, so I had to visit (I may have invited myself)! I have to say, if you get a chance, find a way to visit or stay at one, do it. This is how three generations of families used to live together, sharing a common court yard, which is so different from how we live now days.
9 AM (hour 18) Great Wall of China
On my first full day, I visited the must-do, Great Wall of China. Since I was short on time, I was only able to visit the closest wall, Badaling. Badaling is about a 2 hour drive one way, and you can take Bus #877 there. Upon arrival, I stood in a long line to get the ticket. There are two types of tickets, one with a sled up to the middle of Great Wall or you can pay less and walk your way up. Be prepared for a mass amount of tourists. I felt like I was standing in line the whole time walking through the wall.
It was so crowded that after a while, I couldn’t take it anymore and just left. If you have more time, I recommend going a bit further to Mutianyu or Simatai, where you can actually take a pleasant hike.
4PM (hour 25) Summer Palace
I arrived back in Beijing with just enough time to squeeze in the Summer Palace with its glorious sunset. It’s lovely to walk around the palace and just imagine the emperor and his concubines through the halls, enjoying the lake.
7PM (hour 28) Chow time!
Another night of delicious local food, lamb skewers.
11PM (hour 32) Catch-up
Another mutual friend happened to be in Beijing at the exact same time as me and we were able to meet up and catch-up!
3PM (hour 48) Tiananmen Square
5PM (hour 50) Forbidden Palace
Also check out the view at Jianshan Park
7PM (hour 52) Hot pot dinner
9PM (hour 54) Nails and facial
11PM (hour 56) Head to airport
2AM (hour 59) Flight back to Singapore
With the USA passport, you will need a visa to visit China. To get around the very expensive visa, visit China for just 72 hours using the transit visa. There’s a special line for the transit visa. Just make sure you do your research and ensure that your flights leave within 72 hours.
*IMPORTANT* If you’re staying with a friend, like I did, you’re suppose to register with the local police, which I did not do. If they question you, make sure to say that you stayed at a hotel and stick to your story! They hassled me about it, but since I stuck to my story, they eventually let me through.
As a side note, Google (yes, this includes Gmail and Maps) and Facebook do not work in China, so be prepared. You can download the local Search and Map app, Baidu, and it helps if you can read Chinese. On the other hand, Uber is very affordable, but depending on traffic, public transportation may still be faster.