The Beauty of Beijing, by Carol Whelen

“How will you cope living in such a crowded city?” “Are you going to be ok in the smog?” “How are you going to cope living day to day without knowing the language?” These were the main concerns from my family and friends when I said I was moving to Beijing for a year. Having travelled before, moving to China was going to be a huge challenge due to the language barrier and cultural differences. However four months later I have seen the beauty of Beijing and found I have settled in quite well. I have taken advantage of the lovely summer days in August to go explore the city and even though it is difficult to so in the winter, I’m trying to make the effort.

I love to go explore on my days off, bringing with me nothing more than my travel card and my camera. The amazing Yuan Ming Yuan Park is a fantastic place to visit when you have a spare day. The park is massive and there is a mixture of busy trails and quiet ones. I spent a majority of my day here and it’s easily accessible by subway with the park being located directly opposite the station entrance.

One of my favourite places I have visited has to be the Summer Palace. We went late August and there was a lot of smog around the city. Some of my favourite photos were taken when I was there. The smog added a different atmosphere to the area, it seemed more fairy-tale like and now I find I will go out and explore more often on those smoggy days. The Summer Palace has a lot to offer and is a great starting point for your list while you are in Beijing. Not as expansive as Yuan Ming Yuan but still just as stunning. It is a lot busier though and going on a weekend day you may have to battle your way through the crowds. It is undeniably worth a visit.

Lastly I have to say living in the Shijingshan area is remarkable. You are close to the city, and far enough away to find some peace and quiet. There are many little parks and recreation areas dotted around. Laoshan Park is great to take a break away from the hustle and bustle of the area. It’s a small park located near the Bajiao subway station. It has an old Olympic mountain bike track which you can walk around and some fantastic viewpoints of the Shijingshan area.

It really is the case of don’t judge a book by its cover. All we hear about is the smog, the crowds, our differences etc. When you actually arrive here in Beijing, it is really astonishing how quickly it feels like home. Take advantage of days off and where your located, there are many wonderful sights in Beijing and I’m looking forward to exploring the rest of what this incredible city has to offer.

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