25. October 2016
China - Beijing
Beijing is a huge and modern city. Once you arrive at the airport, the terminal we were in was not the most modern one. After filling out Arrival card and getting a 72-hour Transit Free Visa, we were straight out to pick a taxi. You need to be well prepared to get hustled as in any other country so pre-open Google maps on your phone and load some maps so that you can point the taxi driver in correct direction. It is amazing how they do not speak English (not that they have to), but with few words and Google Translate (again pre-loaded offline Chinese dictionary) will get you far. Overall the road culture is to the level of this part of the world (where they make a 3 lane motorway on 2 lanes, etc.).
The cultural shock was really less severe than expected. Stores are well stocked, Subway is funny cheap and modern, trains are great, hotel of 4 stars is really luxurious (and cheap), and we could take you even further. What was amazing was that 80% of security personnel anywhere is women. Also there are a lot of female soldiers guarding various government/official buildings which is probably what surprised me the most (in that view gender equality is much higher than in Europe or USA).
This was the most attractive point of whole trip. Make sure you reserve a whole day for this as you will be waiting for entrance, for ticket purchase, for museum/park entrance. The crowds there are amazing and as European you really stand out. There are plenty of hustlers that want to drive you around the city (not where you want to go), so make sure you learn to constantly reply Mei Jouw (no), if they are asking you something. They also know a bit of English, but not to any useful level.
Once you enter area of Forbidden city your mobile data connection will go blank. Even when you leave the area there is a problem with data connection until you restart your phone. No idea what has happened, but you are leaving privacy behind when you enter China (that is for sure). Also usage of VPN is a must, if you want to check your e-mail or pre-load Google Maps with current day trip. Also be aware that Google Maps is extremely outdated (but Baidu Maps is also not to what I would call up-to-date).