Day 3 – Beijing

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!

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How to get a Chinese visa from South Korea

Trying to obtain a visa for a country you plan to visit while you live in a country that isn’t the same country that issued your passport (are you still with me?) can prove rather complicated, as we recently found out when we tried to get Chinese visas for our English passports from South Korea.

Recent, rather frustrating, legislation means that Westerners living in Korea who plan to visit China have to get their visas through registered travel agencies, as opposed to applying directly to the Chinese embassy in South Korea. After reading various horror stories of hiked-up prices and scams I stumbled upon Soho Travel Agency which is based in Seoul and they were brilliant. Not only were they extremely helpful in answering the bazillion questions we had about the seven pages of  visa forms wanting to know our life histories, but they also replied to our emails very quickly and in perfect English.

We posted our forms, passports, alien registration cards and passport photos off, and within 5 days we had our visas. Highly recommended!