Arriving in Beijing is a full-on attack on the senses; sight, sound, smell and fashion (yes, pleather, diamante, and unfortunate typos are everywhere. – Arnami jeans anyone?). I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere quite like Beijing!
Like Seoul, the city is a fascinating mix of old and new. Old guys sit on the street playing Mahjong outside a 5-storey market bursting at the seams with designer knock-offs, rickshaws peddle alongside shiny new Mercedes, and the smog is so thick that you feel the runway beneath you before you can even see it.
We’ve definitely ticked some things off the bucket list. The Forbidden City was incredible and Tiananmen Square was an interesting if slightly eerie place. But the huge military presence on the streets and the airport-style security checks at every subway station serve as slightly uncomfortable reminders of China’s current political situation. A lot of the time we felt like human pinballs being bounced and pinged along regardless of the direction we wanted to be going in, and the constant staring and pointing got a bit too much at times. When we visited the zoo to see the giant pandas (!!) a man and his son in front of us actually turned away from the pandas, whipped their cameras out and started snapping away at us two.
Our trip to Beijing has been a fascinating, but not entirely relaxing experience. Next stop, Yangon!