1. The pollution struggle is real.
Our home states (Washington & Oregon) are currently being ravaged by fires. Before we left we joked about how odd it was to have worse air quality at home then where we were headed. We were wrong. I’m sure you, like us, have heard about the pollution being bad. Perhaps like us you did not grasp the extremes of that notion. The air in china is, quite literally, hard to swallow. It dulls out all the beauty of old china. It hurts your throat and makes your chest feel heavy. Spending a few hours outdoors within Beijing will make your eyes burn. Jordan spent a full night up coughing and is still, in the process of recovering.
2. Crossing the road is terrifying*.
Drivers will not stop for you. The light might say it’s okay for pedestrians to cross but it is a false sense of security. Between the cars, bikes, mopeds and motorcycles, crossing the street is like playing a live version of frogger.
3. English text = expensive.
If you see a restaurant or café with English text on the sign or the menu the prices are sure to be outrageous. Our first night in Beijing we had a really delicious meal of noodles, soup, and beer. We had to point at a picture on the wall to order in attempt to bridge the language barrier. Our second night we dined at a restaurant with English text on the menu. We still had to point at pictures to order, though we at least knew what it was we were pointing at. At our second restaurant however, we choose to forgo the beer as a bottle of Budweiser** would have cost more than the total of our first meal. That trend held true throughout our trip.
4. The Great Wall is not a tourist trap!
Coming from the states we are well versed in the ratio of inflation: proximity to destination. A dive bar in a corner of Santa Ann, California will serve you a domestic beer** for $1-3. The same beer a little way away, inside the gates of Disney’s California Adventure, will cost you upwards of $12. With this knowledge, we chose to pack plenty of snacks and water with us while we scaled the mighty Mongol blockade. When we arrived to the wall we were shocked to see the cheapest price for a bottle of water we had seen yet. The food being sold was the same scenario. The snacks we packed with us were inconsequently cheaper than it would have been to purchase all the sustenance we required from venders at the wall.
5. “You should never go to Beijing” – Jordan
Unless you value the history of China more than your health you should choose a different vacation destination. I am one to say, “everything is worth trying.” Though, in this case you should try everything else first. I always romanticize history. However, I don’t hold a love or interest for Chinese history more than my normal curiosity of every ancient society. That combined with bullet point #1 above made my time attempting to get closer to and to learn about China was the most unenjoyable history hunting I have ever done. Every glimmer of ancient China wore a dark cloud of smog that with every breath I took removed years from my lifespan. I know this sounds dramatic. It is dramatic. There are hotels near The Wall. Stay there. There are many small villages. Visit them. There are many ways of seeing China and much of its culture. I am simply suggesting that you take a route that does not lead your lungs through Beijing.
*”Terrifying” is Kelsie’s way of explaining it. I (Jordan) find it to be exciting and productive. Why do we waste so much time in the States giving every pedestrian a quarter-mile buffer? During our stay in Beijing, I witnessed hundreds of cars passing pedestrians within a foot. I witnessed nobody being struck. I like those odds.
** Domestic beer was mentioned twice. I don’t think we have talked about such beer that much in the last year combined, whilst living in the micro brew capital of the US. Traveling got our pinky up brew game on the low. Lol