I know what you’re thinking, “What does that mean?”
I’ll get to that, but let’s start at the beginning. I’ve always wanted to see China, especially the Great Wall, so I invited my dad to travel with me. We applied for our visas and then set off for Beijing.
We chose the beautiful Grand Hyatt for its service, Hyatt Privé amenities and proximity to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden Palace. Around the corner, Wangfujing Street is a family-friendly pedestrian boulevard with high end designer stores. Tucked into a small side street is the quirky food street where you can find fried scorpions on a stick, seafood, duck, ice cream, and fruit.
We chose to travel with a driver and guide to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. Its higher elevation offers fantastic views when the sky is clear. Take the cable car to the top of the mountain because there is plenty of hiking when you get there. Wear sturdy shoes as there are sections with uneven steps that can be tricky to navigate.
Then we went to the Summer Palace, a former retreat for emperors, with beautiful gardens and lakes.
We took our time in the Forbidden City (former palace and estate of the emperors), where I got lost and had to ask for the exit. It’s huge with many courtyards! When we finally “escaped”, we walked through one of the traditional neighborhoods called “hutongs”.
Our final day of touring included Tiananmen Square and The Temple of Heaven, a religious complex in a huge park where emperors would pray for a good harvest. It was on this day that we walked a lot. On our way to The Temple of Heaven, a rickshaw driver offered us a ride. We hopped in, even though he would not disclose his price when asked. When we arrived, he told us we owed him CNY 300 about $44.00. Lesson learned – before you hop in, agree on the price.
After lots more walking through the Temple of Heaven, we were ready to take a taxi back to the hotel, which should have cost no more than about $3.00. We approached a taxi driver who quoted a price of around $15.00. So, we walked.
I flagged taxis on the street. No luck. Then, when my dad got to the point that he thought I was forcing him on the Bataan Death March, we found a taxi stand. Overjoyed, we presented our hotel name in Chinese. He asked for a price of about $15. For less than a 2 mile drive. No, thank you. For the record, all taxis should be on a meter.
As we haggled over the price, a young woman approached and said she could help. She spoke to the driver in Chinese and suggested he use the meter or charge the going price. He wasn’t happy that she intervened and the discussion became heated.
She retreated and offered to call a car (similar to Uber) for us on her phone. During the 20 minutes we waited for the car, I learned that she was from Naples and was in China to teach English. She was a delight and so generous with her time.
Back to the ride she called for us. The price? CNY15.
We really enjoyed our trip to Beijing, seeing historical sites, and learning about Chinese culture. While there were many enjoyable and interesting moments, one of the best was our encounter with the young lady from Naples. She added some unique sparkle to our wonderful trip to China.
Helen Jordan is the owner of Jordan Luxury Travel, an independent affiliate of Brownell Travel, a member of Virtuoso. She can be reached at email@example.com.