Love stories are for teens, let’s talk travel stories. Not too long ago, I took on an international assignment with my company and started traveling across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA); I started missing my daughter on these trips, and started bringing her along or tacking on a vacation to my work trip. When I couldn’t do it anymore, I quit the whole thing, and got a fantastic job in Houston that allows me to work four days a week, take a handful of vacations and still travel the world with my 7-year old daughter.
Back to the love story, eh, travel story. I met this hot guy on a Spring evening, went on a few dates, and we decided we liked each other enough. We had only being dating for one month when he said “you know I’m headed to China next month for vacation”. I laughed. First, who goes to China for vacation when we are only a plane ride away from all the top Caribbean destinations? And second, China isn’t exactly on the top of my list for vacation, it’s on my bucket list though; but I didn’t tell him that. I said, well, I’ve always wanted to go to China, mind if I join you? Minutes later, we were filling out my paperwork for the Chinese embassy and putting together an itinerary. Our itinerary was outstanding. Being a perfectionist, we both researched all the activities we would be interested in, and created a three-page summary of our destinations, events, meals, and transportation. Exactly three weeks later, we were on a non-stop flight to China. Our plans were to visit Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou.
At this point, we started panicking. What if we don’t get along? What if we realize we absolutely cannot stand each other? What if the entire trip sucks? Isn’t this too soon to go on such an expensive and oh-so-huge trip together? But at the end of the day, we both realized that travel brings out the best or the worst in people, and this was indeed going to be a litmus test for our relationship.
First Day in Beijing
We arrived 4am in the morning. The flight from Houston was quite eventful with thunderstorms, turbulence and lots of tight hugs because I am absolutely terrified of flights, yet I love traveling, more on that later I promise. We took a cab to our hotel at the Hilton downtown, and checked into our room, hello five-star everything! I was absolutely thrilled as soon as I saw the nice hookup. We took a quick nap and decided to start our day later in the afternoon. We were only minutes away from the Forbidden City, so naturally, that was first on our list.
The Forbidden City
First, an advice for the ladies, please wear flats or tennis shoes. There will be lots of walking, stopping, maneuvering and you will need all the energy you’ve got, don’t slow yourself and everyone else down with inappropriate footwear. I learned this the hard way. I had a relatively low wedge-sandals on, it was still inappropriate. The Forbidden City was historic, ancient, clean, beautiful, and intriguing. We learned about the Chinese dynasty, kingdoms, dragons, and war from our Chinese friend whom we met on our way there. She was an artist and spoke good english. At first, we thought she was a scammer, but we gave her a chance and learned that she was a relatively nice person. She ended up showing us around town the rest of the day.
Our first day was quite exhausting, so after the Forbidden City, we decided to grab dinner with our new Chinese friend and afterwards retired to our room. The rest of the evening was watching a movie, reviewing the rest of our itinerary and enjoying each others company.
Second Day in Beijing
The Ming Tombs and Great Wall of China
We had booked this experience online via Viator for a good price. We were promptly picked up from our hotel after breakfast and our first stop was the Ming Tombs. We stopped at various shops which left me unhappy, I did not particularly like the fact that we were being set up to purchase Chinese goods such as tea, Jade stone, etc. After lunch, we set out to see the Great Wall which was by far my realest experience in life. That was massive and intense. I love a challenge, so we climbed all the way to the top! My boyfriend was not feeling the climb but seeing how excited I was, he had no choice!
Kung Fu Opera
After an exhausting morning exploring the Ming Tombs and the Great Wall, we got ready for our evening at the Kung Fu Opera. It was so beautiful. Again, this was booked via Viator online in advance and we were pleasantly happy to be picked up by a driver directly from our hotel. He also came back right after the show for our journey back to the hotel.
Third Day in Beijing
Temple of Heaven was beautiful. We explored that, and the nearby mall, where I bought my first pair of Birkenstocks.
By dinner time, we were exhausted. Although Capital M was highly recommended by all foodie websites, we were not impressed. So, we had a highly expensive dinner that in our mind was sub-par. Or maybe we were too tired to truly enjoy the delicacies offered. All in all, it was a good experience for us. For the first time, I could see how grouchy my man was when he’s tired and hungry.
At this stage, we were done with Beijing, and got ready for our train ride to Shangai the next day