Beauty & Fashion

Discovering China – 7 Packed Days Exploring Ancient Marvels & Modern Wonders

7-Day China Itinerary

Do you love traveling to different countries and experiencing different cultures? If so, you’re in for a real treat! Erin and her family recently embarked on a 14-day trip to Vietnam and China. Their itinerary was jam-packed with bucket list sights, culture, and unique foods.  In today’s post, we’ll break down their travel and daily discoveries specifically while they were in China. So, whether you’ve been thinking of traveling to China or you just want to follow along on their journey, we’re covering it all…and just wait until you see the photos! If you’d like to read about the details of their time in Vietnam, you can find that itinerary in this post.

If you’d love to see what Erin packed and wore on her trip, make sure you check out this post next!

Great wall of china

Great wall of chinaThere are NO other people in these pictures. The advantage of going early!

Great wall of china

Busbee family on great wall of china near beijing

Day 1- Arrive in Beijing

After 7 full and exciting days in Vietnam, the Busbee’s boarded their flight to Beijing to embark on their next adventure in China. Erin’s husband, Chris, was super excited about this portion of the trip and led the charge on their daily activities. They used Kensington Tours which they highly recommend. Kensington is pricey, but with an aggressive itinerary like they planned, Erin says it’s worth it! Since travel time from Vietnam and Danang was ~ 9 hours, they spent most of this day traveling, but did have some time to explore the streets near their hotel before having dinner.

Their first impression was just how large the city is with a population of just over 22 million people. There were a ton of surveillance cameras everywhere which definitely contributes to the safety of the city, but also that took some getting used t. Beijing was clean and very safe. They stayed at The Peninsula Beijing hotel. Erin says the rooms are newly renovated, modern and large, but that she would have preferred a more traditional hotel lobby versus the ‘high-end-shopping-mall-style’ lobby.

Day 2 – The Great Wall of China

During their first full day in Beijing, Jerry, their Chinese tour guide in Beijing, took them on a private tour of one of the 7 wonders of the world…the Great Wall of China! (All the guides gave themselves English names. Jerry said his was in honor of Jerry Seinfeld.) The Great Wall was definitely a bucket list item for the Busbee’s. They visited a small section of the wall, very early in the morning. Erin says she highly recommends going early to avoid crowds and have a much more relaxed experience. You’re also climbing tons of stairs, which would be much more precarious with hoards of people. Here are some mind-blowing facts about the wall… it’s more than 13,000 miles long (let that sink in), it’s so long and sizable, you can see it from space! The wall was built almost 3,000 years ago! As you stand there soaking it in, you can’t imagine how they built it all those years ago. It is definitely a WONDER. Wow!

Erin admits she had mixed feelings about The Great Wall, though. On one hand, you can’t help but be awestruck, but on the other hand, she realized that between 400,000 – 500,000 people lost their lives during the construction, many of them still within its walls. Erin said she felt that loss and the darkness around it, which led to the mixed emotions.

The rolling forested hills around the wall were gorgeous, but there was something missing. Erin’s son, Gage, was the first to notice the missing sounds of wildlife. We’ll touch more on that below.

what to do in Beijing China

Busbee's in Beijing ChinaA mom snapping a photo of her kids with Elizabeth.

Day 3 – Beijing  – Sightseeing

There is a lot to see in the city of Beijing. The Busbee’s visited several different sites via a walking tour with their English-speaking guide, Jerry.  They visited Tiananmen Square, which is one of the largest public squares in the world (over 100 acres!). In Tiananmen Square, there is the Tiananmen Tower, the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, and the Mao Zedong Memorial (plus, a WHOLE lot of cameras!) The Busbee’s asked Jerry about the Tiananmen Square protests and what happened exactly, and he said that everyone you ask has a different story. Erin says it was the only time Jerry didn’t really answer their question. (BTW, no question was off-limits which surprised the Busbee’s.) They also visited the Forbidden City in the heart of Beijing which is a World Heritage Site that has the largest number of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. It is also where “The Last Emperor” was filmed. Anyone remember that movie? Next, they drove to the Temple of Heaven, a serene space with expansive gardens.

Observations About China

The Busbee’s were surprised at just how few American and European tourists there were in China (and also Vietnam). Everywhere they went, people wanted to take their picture because there really wasn’t anyone else with blonde hair and light skin.

They had heard about the pollution in China, but it was an interesting thing to experience. Erin described it as looking at life through a white filter. Some tourists opt to wear masks to avoid inhaling the air.

Erin says the food was AMAZING in Beijing and that her family really enjoyed the traditional dishes, “Hot Pot” and Peking duck. They went to 1949, a Michelin Star Peking duck house, walking distance from the hotel and loved it! They carved up the duck table-side after hitting the gong. The Hot Pot is a traditional dish where you heat meat yourself by dipping a long stick in chili oil and spices. It was Elizabeth’s favorite.

Erin did some research about wildlife in China and why you don’t see many animals or hear many birds. Reasons include: they’ve lived there for 1,000’s of years, explosive population growth and reduced habitats, not enough of an emphasis on conservation, climate change, eating unusual things as you can see from the photos.

You can see the pollution in this photo above. Making it challenging to see the small lake and surrounding buildings.

Busbee's taking pictures with Chinese

Acrobatic show in Beijing China

Day 4 – Summer Palace

The Busbee’s started the day exploring the traditional neighborhoods called “Hutongs” which were tucked behind all the modern skyscrapers. This is a maze-like grid of narrow alleyways, which they toured via a rickshaw (bicycle taxi). Erin especially loved playing a game similar to hacky sack with the locals and said it was one of the trip highlights for her. She said it was interesting to see and know how the locals live, spending mornings in the park practicing Tai Chi, playing hacky sack and socializing.

The population of Beijing is HUGE and as you might guess, that means real estate is pricey. In fact, the Busbee’s ate lunch at one of the local’s houses. (Houses are very rare.) The home was VERY rustic. It didn’t even have a working bathroom. Their guide, Jerry, later told them that the home would sell for 10 million dollars! They were shocked.

After lunch, they visited the Summer Palace which is a man-made lake and mountain community that is 5-10 degrees cooler than the city. The Dynasty of the time could escape here to their summer house to be cooler and escape the hot, busy city. They saw temples, pavilions, and gardens and sailed around Kunming Lake on a small boat.

That evening they watched an AMAZING acrobatic show which was another trip highlight! You can see one of the acts on a bicycle above (and much more including videos over on Instagram!)

Day 5 – Beijing to Chongqing

After a short flight (about ~2.5 hours), the Busbee’s made it to Chonquing, China. They had a much different impression of Chonquing during the day versus nighttime. During the day, parts of the city looked like scenes from “The Last of Us.” Buildings looked abandoned and devoid of life. But, at night, with all the lights, the city came to life! You can see the lights in some of the photos above. That afternoon they boarded the Century Cruise to set sail on the Yangtze River. On the ship, they met, “Jack,” their new guide, who would be one of the only English-speakers they would encounter for many days.

Yangtze river cruise in china

Day 6-7  – Yangtze River Cruise

The sites from the river cruise including the beautiful countryside and Three Gorges along the Yangtze River were beautiful and such a stark contrast from the very gray and almost apocalyptic setting of the city. Erin really enjoyed the views from the cruise especially the Qutang Gorge, which is famous for its beautiful rock formations. She did admit, however, that the “luxury cruise” really wasn’t super luxurious. But, it was very different and unique! The Busbee’s were happy to have outdoor decks in their rooms so they could take in the scenery. There was about 8 non-Chinese tourists on the cruise, none of which were American. (That’s part of what made this experience super interesting!) The Busbee’s definitely stood out, yet again!

Erin has never been on a traditional cruise, only smaller ships/yachts. This ship was 6 floors – the biggest yet. Her favorite parts of the cruise were: 1) their guide Jack – he was a real character, 2) the beautiful and unique scenery and 3) the UNREAL outdoor performance they saw during one of the excursions. Erin says they almost didn’t go the show, but she is SO glad they did. The whole family was blown away by it and decided if the show were in the US, it would be impossible to get tickets… because it’s just that good.

You might have noticed Erin wore some of the same pieces on repeat during her time in China. The climate was much cooler than she expected. She found herself wishing she had packed a couple more sweaters and maybe a pair of jeans. So, she just layered as much as she could to keep warm. Make sure you check out this post with more info on her packing experience for this trip.

Busbee's in Shanghai

Busbee's in Shanghai Busbee's in Shanghai
Busbee's in Shanghai

Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Shanghai

Day 8 – Shanghai

After they disembarked the cruise in the morning, the Busbee’s headed to the airport, and caught a flight from Yichang to Shanghai (~ 2 hours).  The whole family really loved Shanghai. They all felt it was a beautiful city, very clean and modern with a gorgeous, developed riverfront. Erin, Chris and Gage all remarked how they could even live there. Erin shared that the Old Town in Shanghai was very special. They visited markets there and spent the day exploring eating – including a delicious ice cream, churro combination. The Busbee’s unfortunately only had one day in Shanghai and wish they could have spent more time there.

Another lovely thing about Shanghai, not that many cars or traffic. In order to get a car in Shanghai, you have to buy a license plate which can cost around $100k USD!! If you want to drive an electric car, it’s less, but you can only obtain your permit through a lottery system with slim odds. So, there are about 6 million car total, for around 30 million people.

The Busbee’s stayed at the gorgeous Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Shanghai for just a night. The views and rooms were incredible! The next day, they started their very LONG journey back home to Telluride!

Planning a trip to Vietnam and/or China soon and have questions? Leave a comment below…we’re happy to help! Have you been to China? Please share your observations with us…

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