Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I was going to be done with the vaca pics...I really was.  Then I got some questions about China visa regs so though I'd pass on the good news. 

You can leave the airport if you have a long layover in Beijing.  
You can leave the airport if you have a long layover in Beijing. 

That may not sound as exciting the first or second time you read that, but let me share a few more details on how fantastic this really is. 

When I was planning my trip to Cambodia and Thailand, I found out that the travel agent booked me on Air China with a 15 hour layover in Beijing.  Fifteen long and brutal hours when all you want is to be home, is torture. 

I looked into all kinds of tours to pass my 15 hours in Beijing and every scenario ended up with the same conclusion...I needed a visa.  Needing a visa was one thing, but needing a visa for China where someone must show up in person to apply was a whole 'nother thing.  The closest embassy is in Chicago and there was no way I was flying there or paying a law firm to show up there for me and apply.  Nope, not for 15 hours. 

Fast forward to my actual layover.  I saw a line for visitors without visas.  I thought I'd try my luck and found out that China began allowing 72 hour visa free entry into the country just two weeks before-- for situations just like mine.  Love, love, love. 

The airport hasn't quite gauged the demand yet and had only one tour daily which I missed by 15 minutes.  Not one to be deterred by such things reasonable caution or limitations, I worked with the tourist desk to hire a private car and a personal translator and tour guide.  A little spendy? Yes, but how often was I going to be in China?  

I spent a very lovely day walking on the Great Wall.  In all of photos I've seen of the Great Wall, I've never connected that the rolling ups and downs  of the wall would equate to lots of incline and decline hiking with crazy amounts of stairs thrown in.  Duh right?  

Visiting China also completed goal 24 on my 101 in 1001....Travel to a country not currently on my "to visit" list.

This gentleman sold me a bottle of water for six times what the airport charged for water.  Well played Mr. China Wall water vendor. I asked him pose for a picture as a compromise. 

After the wall we headed to visit a cloisonne "factory" tour.  It was really more of a production shop where a few individuals created the most artful and painstakingly tedious cloisonne pieces.  The metal is rolled and attached to metal vases and then hand painted and filled with colors before being fired.  I didn't pick up any pieces as it wasn't really my style, but it was fascinating to watch the process. 

This is the Bird Nest, aka Beijing National Stadium from the Olympics.  What struck me most while traveling through Beijing was how very western it felt.  Bangkok and Seoul have very western elements but you never for a second forget you are in an asian country.  In China, if I ignored the Chinese characters on signs, I'd have sworn I was in Philadelphia.  Don't ask me why I thought of Philly over other cities, but I stand by that comparison. 

Yes, very western indeed. 


Ellie said...

That's so cool and so good to know about China. It's not like I ever have a layover there but still good to file away for my dream vacation.

Ellie said...

Oh and Ikea!!! Yeah!

Julie said...

So glad to see a picture with you on the blog. It seems like you very rarely make an appearance on your own blog! :) Great Wall of China is on my bucket list!

Amy said...

My mother in law loves Cloissane and collects vases. I never realized that they are filled in with paint rather than just a single layer of paint. It does look like a lot of work. I"m sure she'll appreciate her collection even more. How cool to be able to see it being made!

I would not have anticipated all of the ups and downs and steps either even though it makes sense when you see pictures of it.

Sara said...

I love the picture of the man who sold you water, he looks pretty proud of himself! :)

This looks like a once in a lifetime opportunity, so of course you have to take advantage!

Monica said...

You are so adventurous. Not sure I would be brave enough to venture out on my in a strange country with a brand new law to protect me...spendy tour guide or not. Kudos to you! Glad you got to explore...and cross another thing off your list!

Jenny said...

These are so fun! I agree that I might not be brave enough to just go out into a strange country but I wish I had the nerve to do stuff like that. It looks like it would be so rewarding!

Wendy said...

So fun! This is on my bucket list!