Last August I got on what I would call, one of the most stimulating travel adventures that I have ever embarked on. Among the many and varied destinations on my travel bucket-list, China has been calling out to me for a long time. China, that country that is all over the world, represented by its people who is scattered in nearly every corner of the globe. China a land of emperors and great conquerors. A country that fascinates even the least of curious minds.
Most of the time I travel unaccompanied, but since my son is now a little older, 11. I thought it was the best age for him to start discovering the splendid life of travelling a little beyond to what he is used to. His summer school holidays are six weeks, and we usually take advantage of this to go to Colombia to visit family, but not this time, this time we wanted to explore a different culture.
My son loves reading, so the first step in the preparation for the trip was to get him a book about the history of China, which, as expected, he “devoured” within a few days. I also found very useful to generate our day to day itinerary, with descriptions and images of all the places that we were about to visit, this added more pre-trip excitement. Once the visa was granted and travel items list completed, we were ready for it.
During our trip, we experienced the rich culture of China, starting in Beijing, this huge megalopolis of 24 million people.
We arrived at Beijing airport. International Capital (PEK), which is Beijing’s main airport, located 35 km from the centre. This airport is a main connector of China with the rest of the world, it has 3 terminals, 3 runways and two control towers that work simultaneously. It handles over 95 million passengers per year!
Terminal 1: Only operates domestic flights to major Chinese cities.
Terminal 2: Operates domestic and international flights of over 35 airlines.
Terminal 3: Operates domestic and international flights, T3-C & T3-D for domestic departures and T3-E for international departures. This terminal is one of the largest terminal buildings in the world. It has 120 boarding gates which are distributed in three concourses, C, D & E.
We were privately taken and collected to the airport, but I checked on the accessibility for my readers. This airport can be accessed by Airport Shuttle bus, which runs from 4:00 until 01:00, intercity buses, private taxis and car hire. The airport capital train operates from 06:20 until 23:00 hours. Journey time 30 minutes to Dongzhimen central station, the ticket cost of 25 Yuen, (GBP3), it runs every ten minutes. This service operates only from Terminal 2 and 3. Passengers have at their disposal 24 hours inter-terminal shuttle services.
The visa-free transit: This is a policy has been implemented when taking an international transfer via Capital Airport. The policy applies to citizens from 53 countries who hold a ticket to connect travel to a third country (region) with confirmed seats and a departure time within 144 hours. This visa-free transit policy applies for British passengers as well as most European citizens.
Beijing also has now a new airport, which opened just a few days ago ( September 2019). Beijing Daxing Airport (PKX) which has now become Beijing’s second international airport operating a single-terminal style. Daxing is the largest single-terminal building airport in the world, with an area of 1,000,000 m2. That is more than double the size of London Heathrow!!!. Located 46 km from the centre of Beijing, the airport is now the main connector of northern China with the rest of the globe.
The terminal design is inspired by traditional Chinese architecture, with courtyards and using a star shape, therefore passengers do not have to walk more than 600m to reach the connecting flights’ gates. Walking distance between gates takes approximately 10 minutes.
British Airways will start landing at this airport instead of PEK later this month. This mega airport will have 7 runways in its final stage and another terminal in the future and will have a capacity of more than 100 million passengers. What a masterpiece that the Chinese have built-in here, within a remarkable time of 5 years as well. If we compare how long is taking for Heathrow 3 runway to be built, it gives us quite a lot to think.
Temple of Heaven
As soon as we landed, we head on to our first visit, The Temple of Heaven, where we were fascinated observing the Beijingers socialising joyfully while practising with camaraderie their daily exercise at the Temple of Heaven gardens. It was tiring after 13 hours journey but worth it to make the most of our time. Very impressive Beijingers doing exercise that looks more like acrobatics!
Here at the Temple of Heaven, Emperors came to pray for a good harvest, and as such was one of the most important of Beijing imperial temple. One of the best places to visit if you’re in Beijing. Here you can take time to just sit in the park and appreciate the beautiful surroundings.
Inside the Temple was crowded due to the China schools holiday season. Fortunately, we were looked after an expert local guide, Michael, who walked side by side with us to navigate the site in the most effective way to avoid the crowds. He also sorted out entrance tickets and liaised with the driver at all time to pick us up at the best spots after each walk. Despite the hot and humid weather, we really enjoyed visiting this temple, it has such beautiful wooden colourful architecture, unique history and wonderful gardens and old trees. The Temple closes at 5pm. Entrance cost 35 RMB. Audio guides are also available.
Thanks for reading and contact me if you need assistance organizing your bespoke trip to China.
Next: Great Wall of China – Forbidden City
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. …”