When you think of travelling Asia, China rarely pops up. South East Asia yes, Japan yes, not generally China. Perhaps this is due to the visa restrictions, I’ve heard of multiple of my co-workers’ family and friends being rejected a visa. Perhaps the political situation or just how far away it is. They say for how many expats there are in China, two thirds of them live in Shanghai. During my visit, I saw the most foreigners out of everywhere I’ve been in China that’s for sure.
Then the next question, which arises is why Beijing? I’ve asked a group of expats and travellers, the consensus seems either they studied Chinese at university and always wanted to see what it was really like or they just ended up here. The opportunity arose and they jumped on it and here they are. I would fall into the second category, I never really thought about it until I got six months in and decided to start this blog. I survived the sub-zero winter and am just about surviving the scorching summer, which apparently is going to get worse. Imagine!
That said, I love it! The dramatic difference in the seasons. In the UK we have seasons, which are essentially differentiated by the amount of leaves on the trees. But here, everything changes. The transformation in style go from wearing floor length puffy coats, resembling duvets to shorts and scrappy tops, unless . Can you imagine the size of their wardrobe! Perhaps this is an excuse I can use for the amount I’ve bought while I’ve been here? hmmm…
The winter really was truly beautiful though, all the lakes froze over allowing people to ice skate across them. The winters get so cold that the government controls the heating, making it free for people. It all turns on and off at the same time across the city. It may be cold but it is so dry that it never rains, which I particularly enjoyed. I think I preferred winter here without the rain than a more temperate but wet winter. What do you think?
So, when is the best time to visit?I moved here just before the winter so once I’d settled in, I was ready to get around the tourist sites. I was shocked by the lack of people. Everyone has heard about the population problem in Beijing, people everywhere. Perhaps even seen photos of the subways during rush hour. Imagine wandering around the Forbidden City to yourself or the Summer Palace. This was me, in December.
Though with the temperature drop, comes the pollution, it’s obvious. All the extra heating used, cars, etc, will cause bad pollution. I remember two red warnings, which advises people to stay home. Perhaps, a bad health decision but I used these days off to explore the city some more. Another aspect of winter is the day light becomes shorter so a lot of the tourist sites, restaurants and bars actually close early.
The winter lasted into March when it started to get warmer since the end of April it’s been 30 degrees. As soon as the sun came out I noticed there were more foreigners in the city. It’s funny because I would have never used the word ‘foreigner’ until I heard all the Chinese using it. But yes, there was a huge increase in tourists all over the city. I’ve recently gone back to a number of the tourist sites and the amount of people is astonishingly different to over the winter but it is still so beautiful. I’m really glad I’ve managed to see both aspects to the city because it shows its utter beauty.
Obviously, it helps with a tan, everything looks better with a bronzed glow. All the restaurants have opened outside now, with seating and umbrellas complete with much needed fans. Roof top bars have emerged from no where, serving great summer cocktails.
Beijing is not near the coast so doesn’t have a beach or area to cool off. A way the city has tried to make up for it, is by having public pools, where for a small fee you can bathe and chill. In Chaoyang park there is also a fake beach with sun loungers and a big kids’ play pool. The public pools open the beginning of June but Chaoyang Park is only open for July and August.
So I guess the verdict is what do you prefer? The icy, tranquil wonderland or the buzzing, summer vibes. Leave a comment let me know what you think ♥