When I booked my flight to Beijing, many thought I was crazy. My flight was scheduled to arrive in Beijing Wednesday evening and returning home Friday morning. In other words I was flying to China in order to spend just one full day there. I had taken advantage of a mistake fare: the round trip flight, in business class, cost me only $462. Of course, that was just the beginning of my expenses. I needed a China visa (which is fortunately good for 10 years). I needed a positioning flight to get to DC, where the trip began. I needed a hotel in Beijing for two nights. I needed (wanted) a guide. And, I had to pay transportation, food, and entrance to attractions while in Beijing.
Sure, I earned a boatload of miles and got significantly closer to top tier AA status for 2016, but I actually think that the trip was worth doing anyway. It turns out that you can cram a full sightseeing trip into one day. What follows is my trip report with few words, but lots of photos…
My 30,000 miles to nowhere mission paid off. I used AA systemwide upgrade certificates to fly first class rather than business. The seats were comfortable and the crew was great. The food, though, was barely edible.
The Beijing airport was like a modern, beautiful, ghost town when we arrived. It would prove to be much more crowded on the return.
A shuttle took us from the international terminal to the main terminal where I took a taxi to the hotel.
Hilton Beijing Wangfujing
Based on recommendations from multiple readers, I used about 48,000 Hilton points per night to book a Deluxe King room at the Hilton Beijing Wangfujing. The room was gorgeous and comfortable (once I found the thermostat and turned it way down)…
My Hilton Gold status (thanks to my recently acquired Hilton Surpass card) was enough to get admitted to the hotel’s executive lounge. The breakfast spread was very nice. The evening happy hour was underwhelming.
My guide, Jason (from Beijing Tours by Coco), and a driver picked me up at 8 in the morning. The first stop was Tiananmen square. Fortunately, the expected crowds failed to appear.
Our next stop was the Forbidden City, across the street from Tiananmen square. A pedestrian subway made it easy to cross over. Again, we were very lucky. It wasn’t crowded at all.
Next, we drove to the Summer Palace. Traffic was light. And, again, we were lucky that most of the crowds stayed away. It was a hot day in Beijing, but the Summer Palace grounds were comfortable thanks to a breeze blowing across the lake.
Mutianyu Great Wall
Next, we drove away from the city to the Great Wall at Mutianyu. Along the way we stopped for a delicious lunch of authentic Chinese food. At Mutianyu, Jason and I rode the chairlift up to the wall. We had hoped to ride the toboggan run down afterwards, but that option was closed due to a light drizzle. Perhaps due to the threat of rain, we were almost completely alone on the wall! If memory serves (it probably doesn’t), I think we hiked the wall from Tower 6 to 14 and back.
On the return drive to the city, reality set in. Traffic was heavy (as is usual in Beijing, I’ve been told) and it took us 2 hours to get back to the hotel. I napped for most of the ride. And, thanks to the nap, I had energy to explore the city a bit that evening. I had hoped to eat The Best Dumplings in the World, but I couldn’t find the place that Miles to Memories wrote about in that post. I thought about texting the author (Shawn) to ask for directions but realized that it would have been around 5 in the morning his time. Rather than risk waking him up, I ate street food. The Peking Duck was good, but I’ve had better. I spent a couple of hours walking around, watching people line dancing, and avoiding women who claimed to want to practice their English with me (a known scam).
I had a great trip to Beijing! Despite having only one full day to explore, I feel like I experienced as much as many others do during much longer stays. Sure, I would have preferred a longer trip if I could have worked it out, but this was all that my schedule and the mistake fair allowed at the time. I would do it again in a heartbeat.