Ullan Adventures header image ≡ Menu

Day Trip to Forbidden City and Great Wall in Beijing

235

When we were booking our trip back from Chiang Mai to Washington DC, we found an itinerary that had a connection in Beijing.  Putting on our maximizing hats once again, we realized we could create a 13 hour layover – enough time to go see some of the sights.

China has a 24 hour transit visa that lets you go into the country at certain airports without a pre-approved visa, as long as you can prove that you’re leaving the country within 24 hours.   We just went through the normal foreigner immigration line, told the agent what we were doing and breezed through.  No fees, no hassle.

Once through immigration, we grabbed breakfast and met up with our guide and driver.  No way we were doing this on our own!

Here’s how our itinerary stacked up:

5:40am  Land
5:40-8:00am   Clear immigration, eat, get cash, meet up with guide
8:00-9:00am
   Drive to Forbidden City (slow this day due to morning traffic)
9:00-10:30am   Explore Forbidden City
10:30am   Drive by Tiananmen Gate and Tiananmen Square (We didn’t walk in – just a drive-by)
10:45-1:00pm  Drive to Mutianyu section of Great Wall, with stop  at McDonald’s for lunch.  Yes, it’s shameful to eat McD’s there, but it was quick and time was of the essence, plus we knew the kids would actually eat.
1:00-2:30pm  Hike the Great Wall
2:30-3:00pm   Souvenir shopping and pit stops
3:00-4:00pm   Drive back to Beijing airport
6:30pm   Fly from Beijing to Washington Dulles

This itinerary worked very well for us, especially considering the weather had temps in the 40s with a stiff breeze.  On a nicer day, we’d have liked to have more time at both locations.

Kir was super excited about seeing the Forbidden City especially since seeing the movie “The Last Emperor”.  We entered through the East Gate then walked around the moat to the South Gate.  Unfortunately the stiff breeze made it super cold and Beckett didn’t have a hat so he was miserable the entire time.  So instead of continuing quickly through the whole city and leaving through the North Gate, we opted to turn around almost halfway in and exit through the East Gate.

Moat and wall protecting the Forbidden City

Moat and wall protecting the Forbidden City

Outside the South Gate of Forbidden City

Outside the South Gate of Forbidden City

2 of the Inner Golden Water Bridges

2 of the Inner Golden Water Bridges

030

041

Hall of Supreme Harmony

Hall of Supreme Harmony

Hall of Supreme Harmony
Check out Beckett covering his ears – poor kid was so cold

Throne inside the Hall of Supreme Harmony

Throne inside the Hall of Supreme Harmony

Hall of Central Harmony

Hall of Central Harmony

Throne in the Hall of Central Harmony

Throne in the Hall of Central Harmony

Throne inside the Hall of Preserved Harmony

Throne inside the Hall of Preserved Harmony

096

I love seeing the modern city of Beijing in the distance

Gate of Heavenly Purity

Gate of Heavenly Purity

112

These metal pots stored water for firefighting, since the building interiors were mostly wood. They’d light a fire under them in winter to prevent freezing.

Inside the Palace of Heavenly Purity

Inside the Palace of Heavenly Purity

Ceiling

Ceiling

135

156159 169 171

Next stop, the hat store to get hats for both the kids so they wouldn’t freeze on the Great Wall.

All smiles while warming up after the Forbidden City

All smiles while warming up after the Forbidden City

We really enjoyed driving around Beijing.  Some things reminded us of Thailand but many others were just like you’d expect Beijing to look:

205 209200 206

A quick stop at McDonald’s for lunch.

212

213Finally, after about a 90 minute drive, we got to the Great Wall.216

Taking the chair lift up to the wall

Taking the chair lift up to the wall

224

Chair lift up, toboggan down and Great Wall in the distance

312

Outside of the wall

306 304 301 297 290 280 269 261 254 248 242 240

After about 1:15 of hiking, it was time to take the toboggans back to the bottom.  Beckett had to share a toboggan with Kirsten but sat in front and got to steer the whole way down.  Mara was next followed by Chuck.  The kids LOVED this and begged to go up so they could ride down again.313

Uh oh!  The Mongols are waiting for you at the bottom!

Uh oh! The Mongols are waiting for you at the bottom!

321 315

Overall, this really was a perfect day trip.  We had some nervousness about a number of aspects but everything worked out fine.  The kids were very cold at the Forbidden City, which was our fault for not getting them geared up correctly.  Both of them LOVED the Great Wall.  Even though our time was limited at each attraction, we were delighted to get a peek into China.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Linds January 4, 2014, 8:37 pm

    It looks like your visit to the Great Wall was much nicer than mine. I experienced fog and tons of crowds. It was a bit disappointing to the point that I am planning a long layover in Beijing on my trip home from Thailand just to go back to the Great Wall (and maybe to do a little bit of shopping, too, I confess).