Visting Chengdu’s Giant Panda Base

When I decided to book a trip to China last year, seeing giant pandas was on my must do list, along with visiting the Great Wall!

So much so that despite reading a lot about China being super difficult to travel alone, I decided to forgo an organised tour so that I could tick both of those things off within the short time I had.

Disclaimer: China is not that difficult to travel around independently and it’s really safe for female travellers.

Read my tips for your first trip to China here.

The majority of tours that I came across didn’t include Chengdu and the city doesn’t seem to be that high on the list for tourists. If you’re planning to travel around China, I’d highly recommend adding Chengdu to your itinerary.

And I mean, who doesn’t want to see giant pandas in their home country?! The city has so much more to offer too, but I’ll save that for another blog post.

 

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Now, I’m not a fan of zoos and am very conscious about the ethics of animals for entertainment etc. but after carrying out substantial of research before my trip, it seemed to me that Chengdu Panda Base is ethical, and has a positive impact.

I generally don’t agree with keeping wild animals in captivity but felt that Chengdu’s base does a lot of work to help these beautiful animals by carrying out research and working to preserve pandas.

I still hold that belief after visiting the centre, and am all for the work the centre does to breed pandas and ensure that we don’t lose these amazing creatures.

In this post, I’ll cover a what the current situation is for pandas, what the base is trying to do to help and some practical information about visiting the centre. There are plenty of cute pictures too!

 

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What’s the current situation?

Although giant pandas are no longer on the “Endangered list”, they are still classed as “Vulnerable” by WWF, with just over 1,800 left in the wild.

There are a number of reasons why there aren’t many pandas left in the world but the main driver is loss of habitat. Humans have cleared many bamboo forests, and pandas are unable to adapt to new habitats where there is no bamboo, as it is their only source of food.

They also have some trouble reproducing, and where a panda gives birth to twins, only one will survive in the wild, stacking the odds against them even further.

With that in mind, it seems like a degree of human intervention, especially when the species was classed as Endangered, was require to stop giant pandas dying out. That’s where research centres like the one in Chengdu come in.

 

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How is the Chengdu Research Base of giant panda Breeding trying to help?

Chengdu Panda Base, as it’s known by its short, informal name, is a not for profit centre geared towards the research and breeding of Giant Pandas. It was established in 1987 and it’s goal is “to be a world-class research facility, conservation education centre, and international educational tourism destination”.

The base has essentially created a natural habitat for giant pandas and red pandas. I’m by no means an expert but I felt that the enclosures were large and well-maintained, with plenty of space for these beautiful creatures to roam (not that they like to move around much haha!).

They aim to encourage breeding and ensure the survival of both cubs when a panda gives birth to twins.

 

 

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What’s the best time to visit?

You can visit the centre year-round but September is a good time in general to visit Chengdu (and most of China), plus you’ll likely see newborn pandas in nursery!

In terms of time of day, arrive at the centre as early as possible. The pandas are most active early on, and you’ll also miss some of the crowds that appear later on.

 

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How do I get to the centre?

Hotels and hostels offer tours to the centre. I went with my hostel and we were essentially driven there, left to roam around and then driven back, which was ideal.

Visting the centre through your accommodation is very convenient, but it is also the most expensive option.

You can travel there via bus or metro, details below:

By bus

1. Take bus 87, 198, 198a, or 655 to Xiongmao Jidi ( Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding) Station.

2. Take bus 9, 18, 25, 32, 64, 64 Express, 70, 85, 87, 99, 146, 150, 156a, 156b, 166, 193, 527, 650, 1030 or 1035 and get off at Dong Wu Yuan (Chengdu Zoo) Bus Station. Then, change to bus 198 or 198a to the base.

3. Take bus 60 or 87, and get off at Longqing Road Shulong Crossing. Then, walk along the Xiongmao Avenue for about 15 minutes to the base.

By metro

Take Metro Line 3 and get off at Dong Wu Yuan Station. Get out from Exit B and then take bus 198 or 198a direct to the base.
Or you can take the same metro to Panda Avenue, and then take bus d025 to the base.

 

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What should I expect when I visit?

There are several different enclosures to see, and each has facts about specific pandas, with quite a few funny and almost insulting lines included. Be sure to read them!

There’s also a room where you can view a video about the centre, which is really informative.

If you do visit when there are newborns, make sure you swing by the nursery. Swing by being the operative word- you really are only allowed a glimpse before being moved along by staff!

Be prepared for huge crowds, this is China after all. Although not as bad as in some other tourist sites in the country, I found that there was still a bit of pushing and shoving as people try to get the best views and photos.

 

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Is there anything else I should know?

  • Wear comfortable shoes- the centre was relatively hilly and there’s quite a lot of ground to cover once you’re inside.
  • Photography is allowed but make sure the flash is turned off.
  • The centre is open daily 7.30am to 6pm. As I said, be sure to to get there early; at opening time if possible.

 

Things to do in Dubai for Solo Travellers

Today’s post is a little different, as it’s my first ever written by a guest! It’s brought to you by Neha Singh from Dubai Wikia.

An avid trekker, explorer and a true foodie; Neha finds happiness in small endeavours of life and loves to pen them down as a cherished memory. A firm believer that “we have just one life to live and so much to do”, Neha lives every moment to the fullest.

The Middle East is somewhere that I haven’t yet had chance to explore, so it’s great to have Neha to share some of the great things for Solo Travellers to do in Dubai!

 

1. Visit The Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU)

Before you sign up for any Dubai tour or start on your own, it’s a good thing to learn more about the city. Visit SMCCU to understand the local culture, customs and religion. We recommend that you book the lunch-time tour, which includes a full Emirati meal as well.

It’s a great way to get introduced to the region’s indigenous cuisine. Ask your questions of
the friendly team at SMCCU and they’ll help you understand how a fishing village turned
into one of the wealthiest cities in the world.

 

Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding

 

2. Half-day City Sightseeing Tour

After the cultural understanding lesson, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the city. Sign up for a half-day sightseeing tour.

You’ll be taken to see many landmarks in a comfortable minivan or coach along with others. Be sure to keep your camera ready to snap pictures of the magnificent Burj Khalifa, the Burj al Arab, the Palm Islands and other landmarks. The tour includes a ride in a water taxi across the Dubai Creek.

Your tour will take you into the AlBastikaya District, which is Dubai’s oldest area and full of traditional character. A visit to the city’s spectacular Gold Souq and the Deira Spice Souq ends your half-day tour.

 

Dubai Sightseeing

 

3. Burj Khalifa At The Top Experience

The next, absolute-must activity in your solo traveller list should be the At The Top Burj
Khalifa experience. You’ll have to ride a 65-meter (213-foot) moving sidewalk, watching a
fabulous multimedia presentation that provides the history of the Burj Khalifa.

After this, you’ll ride one of the world’s fastest elevators to the 124th floor. At the observation deck, take in the unbelievable vistas below you. Grab one of the many powerful digital telescopes in the space and focus on the landmarks you want to see more clearly.

The observation deck is surrounded by ceiling to floor windows. There’s also a parapet outside which you can walk on if you dare.

 

Burj Khalifa at the Top

 

4. RIB Tour

Sign up for a tour of the Persian Gulf on a RIB (rigid inflatable boat). Board the boat from
Dubai Marina and enjoy the speed of the vessel and the waves that crash behind you.

You’ll get up close to the royal palaces, Dubai Lagoon, Burj AI-Arab, Palm Jumeirah, Hotel Atlantis and the World Islands during the cruise. Each boat can hold 10 people, so you’ll get a chance to make friends as well.

 

RIB Tour Dubai

 

5. Helicopter Ride

If you are the adventurous type, then sign up for a helicopter ride over Dubai to experience some spectacular views from above. Up to five passengers can enjoy a helicopter ride at a time.

Your pilot will hover over major landmarks so that you can get some good shots and
videos of them. Be sure to carry a good-quality video camera with telephoto lens with you!

 

Helicopter Tour Dubai

 

6. Zipline Down The Burj Khalifa

Many solo travellers look for adventure and Dubai has plenty of it.

Why not try ziplining down the Burj Khalifa? The building stands at 829 metres tall, and the XDubai zipline takes 40 seconds to descend from the top of the Burj Khalifa to the top of the Dubai Mall, at speeds of 80kph.

However, you’ll have to be chosen for this thrill – only 30 people are
chosen in a week from social media.

 

7. Drinks at Cirque Le Soir

Solo travellers need to mingle with other solos and travellers to share notes. It’s an essential part of travel education.

Meet other like-minded people at the Cirque Le Soir club, which is kitted out like a circus. Dancers gyrate on the many podiums that are scattered about, and various circus performers do their tricks.

Enjoy the international-level performances put on by sword swallowers, fire-eaters, stilt walkers and magicians all night.

 

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8. Visit Dubai Mall

Be sure to visit the world’s largest shopping center, Dubai Mall. It’s as large as 50 football
fields, and has over 1,200 retail outlets.

If you’re not keen on shopping, then check out the Emirates A380 in the mall. You can sit in the pilot’s seat and enjoy a 30-minute simulated flight.

If you love games, don’t miss a visit to the VR Park, where you can play a zillion virtual
reality games, including one where you fall off the Burj Khalifa.

 

Dubai Mall

 

9. Dubai Desert Safari

Include a desert safari experience into your solo travel Dubai list. Get acquainted with the mystery and beauty of the Dubai desert in a cosy 4×4.

If you like, you can participate in desert sports such as dune bashing and sand boarding. Experience what it’s like to ride a moody camel on the shifting desert sands. If you sign up for an evening desert safari, you’ll get to see a magnificent desert sun set as well.

Plus, there’ll be a lovely buffet meal, with a henna artist tattooing your hands and legs. Watch the belly dancer gyrate around the campfire to exotic Arabian tunes. Call it a night under the brilliant desert stars that shine just for you.

 

Desert Safari Dubai

 

10. Hit the beach

Kite Beach is a public beach which has all the amenities usually present at a private beach in Dubai.

Here you’ll find great food trucks and cafes lining the beach front, turquoise blue waters, lifeguards, lounges, towels and everything else you need. Being free, Kite Beach is visited by almost everyone in Dubai.

 

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11. Explore Dubai’s Souqs

Be sure to visit the spice, textile and gold souqs of Deira and Bur Dubai. It’s a great way to
get into touch with the UAE market culture. Eat at one of the local cafes in either Bur Dubai or Deira.

Take a look at the biggest ring in the world displayed at a Deira store. Be awed at
the sheer amount of gold in the souqs. Exploring these traditional souqs is one of the best
things to do in Dubai for solo traveller.

 

Dubai Souqs

 
Conclusion

If you are a solo female traveller, you need to know that Dubai is one of the safest cities in the world. All the same, be sure to make plenty of friends and let people know where you are. Also, try to dress modestly especially when you visit the cultural center and mosques.

 

You can see more from Neha here.

A Guide to Spending a Weekend in Basel, Switzerland as a Solo Traveller

I’ve wanted to visit Switzerland for a while but the cost of doing so had put me off booking a trip until the end of last year, when I came across some cheap flights to Basel (£50 return from Manchester) and managed to find a reasonably priced hotel.

I didn’t know much about Basel, except for what I’d read in a few posts from travel bloggers that I follow, but once I started looking in to it, I decided that I needed to book a trip! The pretty cobbled streets and gorgeous buildings were exactly what I imagined a Swiss city to be, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed when I saw them in real life.

 

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Basel sits on the Rhine river in the north west of Switzerland, right by the French and German borders. It’s the third biggest city in Switzerland and is well-known for its art and culture.

I only visited for the weekend, so am by no means an expert, but still wanted to share my tips on visiting the city, with some extra recommendations for solo travellers!

 

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Getting there

Basel (Mulhouse Freiburg) airport is a funny one in that it serves three countries; France, Germany and Switzerland. Make sure you follow signs for Switzerland when leaving the airport, otherwise you could end up in the wrong country haha!

I flew with Easyjet from Manchester but there are quite a few options from around the UK and in Europe.

 

Travelling from the airport to the city

As always, you can jump in a taxi outside the airport but this will be your most expensive option.

Public transport in Basel is straightforward and inexpensive, so I’d recommend making use of one of the buses from the airport. I took a bus then a tram, and it took less than 30 minutes to get to my hotel. A quick look on Google maps will tell you the best route.

 

Getting around

There is an extensive tram system operating in Basel, which makes it super easy to get around. If you’re staying in a hotel in the city, you will be given a Basel Pass, which entitles you to free public transport for the duration of your stay, as well as discounted entrance to a number of museums and attractions. Not bad for free!

The city is also really walkable as it’s quite small and it’s definitely the kind of place where you’ll want to just wander and get lost down the pretty cobbled streets.

 

Accommodation

Switzerland is notoriously expensive and although there’s plenty of accommodation choice in Basel, it can be quite pricey. I stayed at the Dorint De Masse hotel as it was cheap but I wouldn’t particularly recommend it to be honest. The staff were friendly and the location was ok but the beds were uncomfortable and it was a bit of a faceless, corporate place.

Booking.com and Expedia have loads of options. I wouldn’t worry too much about spending loads to stay right by the old town, as I said the city is really compact and its super easy to get around.

 

How long to stay

To be honest, one day would be fine; two is definitely enough. Given the size of the city, you can cover the main sights easily in a day or two. I was there for just under 48 hours and I did struggle to fill my second day a little bit. If you’re heading there in summer, two days would be perfect as you can spend plenty of time outside (it was January and very cold when I visited!).

Things to see and do

Marktplatz and Rathaus (Basel Town Hall)

Basel’s market place is dominated by the impressive Town Hall, known as Rathaus. The striking red/brown coloured building is 100 years old and the name Rathaus literally translates as “council house”.

It’s well worth seeing; it’s certainly one of the most impressive Town Halls I’ve ever seen!

I wandered inside to have a nosey after admiring the façade but you can take a guided tour for just under £4 per person. The tour is in German most of the time, you’ll need to take the Saturday tour if you require it to be English speaking. More information here.

 The market square itself is bustling and there was a really cool market on when I visited on a Saturday.

 

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Basel Munster

The beautiful Munster (cathedral) seems to be the main focal point of the old town. It’s open all week and entry is free. Be sure to exit at the back of the building for some amazing views over the Rhine and Basel.

 

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Get lost in the Old Town

One of my favourite things about visiting European cities are the Old Towns, you can’t beat them for just wandering around and admiring your surroundings. Basel’s Old Town is super pretty, I spent quite a while just wandering the cobbled streets taking photos and just enjoying the views.

I visited in January and I have to say that I was shocked by how little people there were, especially in the mornings! It was so nice to explore without crowds and crowds of other tourists.

Be sure to include the Spalentor City Gate on your walk around the Old Town.

 

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Walk along the Rhine

Another part of European city breaks I really enjoy is wandering along a river and taking in the views. Wander along the Rhine for wonderful views; especially across from the Old Town on the opposite side of the river.

My Swiss Alps have put together a great walking route, you can check it out here.

 

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Visit one of Basel’s many museums

For such a compact city, Basel has a lot of museums. Almost 40 to be precise!

I visited Kunstmuseum, which houses the largest collection of art in Switzerland. There’s lots of interesting art and admission was really affordable, at just 8 CHF (around £6) with your Basel Card.

 

Check out some street art

I have to say that when I planned my trip to Basel, seeing street art did not spring to mind. In fact, I hadn’t realised that Basel had street art and it was only when I was wandering in the city centre that I came across Gerbergasslein, one of the best know street art installations in the city (apparently!).

Commissioned by nearby bar L’ Unique, the installation is pretty amazing, with everything from sea creatures to famous musicians.

 

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Where to eat and drink

As with pretty much everything else, food is pretty expensive in Basel but there are some great places to eat and grab a cocktail. I only visited a few places but so this list isn’t exhaustive, but hopefully it’ll be a good start for a weekend break in the city.

 

Klara

An indoor street food market and bar, Klara is a great place to grab a bite to eat. There’s a number of different food stalls, delicious cocktails and plenty of seating. The vibe’s really cool too, and I’d highly recommend it for solo travellers, as I didn’t feel at all out of place there on my own.

Prices aren’t cheap, in fact I was a little surprised but the food is great. I opted for the dumplings at Mister Momo and they were so delicious!

 

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Tibits

I’d highly recommend Tibits, a vegetarian restaurant, even if you’re a meat eater. It’s essentially a high quality buffet and you pay for your food by weight, which helps stop you overeating.

I really enjoyed the plate of food I had for lunch and washed it down with a delicious Mint Lemonade.

Bread’s free/doesn’t get weighed, so pile it up if you’re really hungry. There’s a brunch option too!

This is also a good choice for solo travellers, as there’s many different types of tables including long benches and the atmosphere is pretty relaxed.

 

Union Diner

Right opposite Tibits, Union Diner serves amazing burgers with rosemary salted chips. Again, prices aren’t cheap and this is essentially a fast food restaurant, but the quality’s really good!

It costs around £17-£20 for a burger, fries and drink. The portions are pretty big though, so it’s definitely fill you up.

Again I felt like this was a good choice for solo travellers, as well as for couples and groups.

 

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Solo travel in Basel

I felt really safe in the city as a solo traveller, even at night time. I was approached by three different groups of religious speakers/missionaries during the day time but they weren’t at all pushy, we just had a nice chat.

Just be sure to take the usual precautions when travelling alone and you should have a straightforward and safe trip.

You could join a free walking tour. They’re always a great way to see the city, meet other travellers and just generally enjoy being in the company of others when you’re travelling solo.

 

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Other tips

  • Sunday seems to be a super quiet day in the city and all of the shops (including supermarkets and convenience stores) are closed! Be sure to do any shopping and stock up on snacks on a Saturday if you’re in Basel for the weekend.
  • There are plenty of ATMs around the city, should you need to withdraw cash to get some Swiss Francs (CHF).
  • There’s often a service charge added to bills, so you’re not required to leave a tip. If you’re really pleased with the service, you can round up to the nearest Franc to leave a little extra.

 

 

A Guide to Visiting Beijing and The Great Wall of China as a Solo Traveller

China’s capital city sometimes gets a bad rep, particularly in terms of overcrowding and pollution but I had such a great experience in Beijing as a solo traveller. There are so many interesting and beautiful places to see and you can visit the incredible Great Wall of China from the city.

I’d say that Beijing (and obviously the Great Wall) are must visits on any trip to China. There was no pollution when I was there and found the city to be clean and not very crowded. It’s such a sprawling city that I felt like there was lots of space, unlike many Asian cities that I’ve visited. In fact, I almost missed that sense of hustle and bustle I’ve come to love in that part of the world!

 

BEIJING

Getting there

Beijing is China’s major transport hub and it’s super easy to fly there from international airports. If you’re travelling to Beijing from within China, I’d highly recommend taking the train; they’re fast, reasonable priced and punctual (unlike internal flights which are more often than not delayed!).

A word of warning if you’re arriving in to Beijing railway station- the taxi queue can be extremely long, so you may want to pre-arrange one or jump on the metro in to the city.

 

Getting around

Beijing is huge and so it is difficult to explore completely on foot. I’d definitely recommend walking around as much as you can but with massive distances to cover, you’ll need to use a taxi or public transport at some point.

Taxis are pretty affordable but can be difficult to flag down. Take extra care on festival days- I tried to get a taxi to the airport during the Autumn Festival and really struggled, as many people were at home with their families and so there weren’t many taxis available.

The metro is really straightforward to use and it’s cheap too. Allow some extra time for getting through security- there are personal and baggage scanners at each station.

 

Where to stay

There are so many accommodation options in Beijing, from super fancy hotels down to budget hostels, but overall, it’s not that cheap, as you’d probably expect in a capital city.

The Wangfujing and Qianmen districts are both centrally-located and ideal for travellers to stay in. I stayed in a couple of different accommodations in Beijing and would really recommend both.

The first was a private room at Peking Station Hostel. The hostel is really nice, with helpful reception staff and a beautiful common area filled with an array of plants. Although it’s located down a bit of a dingy street, it’s a great location; with restaurants and shops close by, plus a major metro station a few minutes’ walk away.

 

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The second was a great boutique hotel, complete with rooftop bar and pool, The Emperor Qianmen. It was quite a lot more expensive but had an amazing location, really cool rooms, a delicious breakfast buffet and a free mini bar!

 

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Booking.com has plenty of options, use this link for £15 off your next stay: https://www.booking.com/s/34_6/rls10090

 

What to see and do

There are many, many things to see and do in Beijing. Lots of the attractions and areas are really spread out, so you’ll need to prioritise unless you’re in the city for an extended length of time.

I spent four days there (with one day visiting the Great Wall) and it was nowhere near enough time to do everything I wanted!

Here are some of the major things to see and do that you may want to add to your itinerary:

 

Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square

The Forbidden City is probably Beijing’s most well-known tourist attraction and it’s a must-see when visiting China’s capital. The former Chinese imperial palace is a magnificent complex made up of 980 buildings spread over 180 acres. It served as an imperial palace for 24 emperors during both the Ming and Qing dynasties.

It’s located in the centre of the city, so is easy to reach by metro, bus or on foot. It can get extremely busy, especially in the mornings. I visited in the early afternoon during September and it was really quiet as all the tour groups that arrive first thing had been and gone. Avoid weekends and Chinese holidays if you can.

Tiananmen, which translates as “Gate of Heavenly Peace”, is known for all the wrong reasons, but it’s worth seeing just to appreciate the scale of this huge city square.

Use metro stations Tiananmen East, Tiananmen West or Qianmen.

 

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Temple of Heaven Park

Constructed during the Ming dynasty in 1420, the Temple of Heaven is an imperial complex that was visited annually by emperors who prayed for good harvests.

The temple itself is insanely beautiful and unique but there’s much more to see on your visit, including a beautiful leafy park.

Again, it’s really easy to reach by public transport; just head to Tiantan Dongmen station.

 

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Summer Palace

Located in north west Beijing, around 15km outside the city centre, is the beautiful Summer Palace. It’s a Unesco World Heritage site made up of gardens, lakes and palaces.

You’ll need to at least 2-3 hours here; half a day would be ideal.

 

Stroll through the Hutongs

Hutongs are narrow streets and alleys common in China, with traditional courtyards on either side. Beijing has many of them and I’d highly recommend spending some time exploring at least one.

Nanluoguxiang is a good choice, it’s lined with cute shops and places to grab food. It’s quite touristy but well worth a visit. You can find a list of other famous Hutongs here.

 

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Wander down Wangfujing Pedestrian Street

One of the most famous shopping streets in Beijing, Wangfujing is lined with international shops and is home to the popular “snack street”, where you can try all manner of street foods.

Get off at Wangfujing metro station, which is on line 1.

 

Visit Lama Temple

Also known as the Yonghe temple, Lama is the most renowned Tibetan Buddhist temple outside of Tibet. It’s an active place of worship, where you’ll see many locals praying alongside the hordes of tourists that also visit.

It’s a beautiful temple but I did find that the crowds of people put me off a little!

The nearest metro station is Yonghegong.

 

Attend a tea ceremony

Tea is an important part of Chinese culture and tradition, with locals spending hours enjoying the drink at teahouses around the country.

There are many different teahouses to choose from but it can be tricky to enjoy the experience as a solo traveller, as these are social places where groups of people congregate and share large pots of tea.

I visited Alice’s Tea House in the Qianmen district after seeing reviews online and I loved it.

Alice is from the Fujian province in China, which is known for tea, and has studied China’s favourite drink to an extremely high level. She runs small tea ceremonies, that cost around £4 per person. I had a one on one ceremony and we tried several different teas and Alice passed on lots of her knowledge to me.

You can also buy the teas and pots if you like; I left with Pu’er and Lychee tea, both of which were unique and delicious.

I just turned up and was lucky to find Alice there, but I think it’s recommended that you email beforehand to ensure availability. There are loads of details on Trip Advisor.

Alice’s Tea House was one of the highlights of my time in Beijing and I’d urge you to check it out if you love tea!

 

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Explore the Qianmen District

Qianmen, which translates as “front gate”, is one Beijing’s most popular tourist destinations. Qianmen Street is a pedestrian street with gorgeous architecture, lined with shops and restaurants.

The area around the main street is bustling and has a really nice vibe. The buildings look lovely at night, I’d recommend experiencing the area after dark if you can.

You can reach the area by heading to Qianmen metro station.

 

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Where to eat and drink

Finding good places to eat was the part I found most challenging about visiting China. With lack of English and not as many reviews online as for other countries, it can be difficult to track down the best places to eat. Here are a couple of recommendations of what dishes to eat and where you can try them:

 

Try some Peking duck

Providing you’re a meat eater, you should definitely try Peking Duck when in Beijing, it’s so tasty. There are loads of places to try this famous dish; I went to Sijimifu. There are several branches dotted around the city, I visited the one close to Wangfujing street. The service was quite slow but the duck was delicious and the atmosphere was great. I ordered half a duck and struggled to finish it.

Quanjude is possibly the most famous place to eat duck and is renowned; here’s an article detailing plenty of other places too.

 

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Enjoy some street food 

As mentioned already, you can grab street food within the Hutongs and on snack street off Wangfujing. Meat on a stick is popular, as is fruit. There are plenty of teas and sweet snacks such as fresh fruit ice lollies and pretty ice creams to help you cool down in warm weather too.

 

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Have a drink with some fellow travellers

If like me, you’re craving Western style or vegetarian food (it’s really difficult to find meat free dishes in China!), head to Long Table in the Qianmen district.

It’s full of backpackers from all around the world, serves a yummy veggie burger and lots of alcoholic drinks to enjoy with your new companions.

 

To be quite honest, I didn’t manage to find many great restaurants in Beijing and I went for sushi a couple of times, as I was craving veggie and fish dishes. I’m not a huge meat eater, so did struggle after a while. In one restaurant, I ordered braised aubergine and it arrived mixed with minced pork even though there was no mention of this on the menu!

As I’m not much help in this department, The Beijinger website has lots of great suggestions, check it out here.

 

Tips and advice for solo travellers in Beijing

  • Beijing felt really safe as a female solo traveller, even at night. As with anywhere, use common sense and you should be fine.
  • Make sure that you’ve always got plenty of cash; it’s really difficult to find banks that accept international cards, otherwise you might find yourself short and unable to draw out money.

 

VISITING THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA

Known as one of the wonders of the world, any trip to China should include a trip to the incredible Great Wall.

The original purpose of the Great Wall was to protect the Chinese Empire from the Mongolians and other invaders. Most the wall that remains was built during the Ming dynasty and it took over 2,000 year to construct fully.

It’s over 6000km long with many sections in varying states of repair. It would take around 18 months to walk the full wall, madness!

 

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There are a number of different sections, all in varying states of repair, and the most famous parts are all easily reached from Beijing.

Badaling and Mutianyu are two sections widely visited by tourists, as they’re well restored. This means big crowds and sometimes a less than authentic experience.

I visited the Jinshanling section of the wall and would highly recommend it! Although it’s mostly well-restored, there aren’t too many people there. It’s relatively challenging to hike but not too bad if you have a reasonable level of fitness.

I joined the tour run through Peking Station hostel and it was incredible- the guide was great and there was a lovely mix of travellers from all over the world. It was also really affordable, with transport to and from the Wall included.

Although you can reach the wall by public transport, I’d highly recommend joining a group tour if you’re a solo traveller. I met some lovely people and they made the experience even better. We all enjoyed a beer together on the Wall at the end of the hike, which was really cool!

 

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You can book tours from most hotels and hostels but be aware that sometimes you are also taken to shops, restaurants etc in return for commission, which can be unwanted. Research the tour you’ll be taking before you book or think about booking through a site like Viator, where you can read reviews. This is the tour I went on, although I booked directly through the hostel.

Hiking the Great Wall was undoubtedly one of my best experiences so far; it was completely breathtaking and even better than I imagined it would be. The views were out of this world.

 

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A few tips for visiting the Jinshanling section of the Wall:

  • Make sure that you’re wearing shoes with really good grip! Even in my brand new trainers, I found it difficult to get a good grip on some of the steeper parts of the wall.
  • Take drinks and snacks with you for sustenance. There are sellers along the wall where you can buy snacks and drinks but of course the prices are inflated.
  • Beware of engaging with the sellers walking the wall if you don’t want to buy souvenirs or be ripped off. A lovely old lady helped pull me up a particularly steep part of the wall and seemed to be genuinely enjoying chatting to me. Then she tried to sell me t-shirts for crazy high prices and wouldn’t leave me alone until the guys I was with pulled me away from her grip. When we got back to the bus, some other people on the tour has bought two t-shirts for about a quarter of the price the lady was trying to charge me for one!
  • Go to toilet before you hike the wall, there are some pretty decent toilets at the start and end points. Avoid using the toilets when you stop at a services en route to the Wall, the ones we stopped at were quite frankly the most disgusting place I’ve ever been to.

 

China is a fascinating country but can be difficult for travellers to navigate. If it’s your first visit, you may want to check out my guide for first-time visitors, which is packed full of tips and tricks to make your tip as smooth as possible. You can read it here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My 2019 Travel Plans

Happy new year/ feliz año nuevo!

As is now tradition, I like to kick-start the year by writing a post about my upcoming travels. I love having a nosey at other people’s travel plans post, and writing my own makes me super excited for the upcoming year, so I hope you don’t mind me indulging myself by writing this.

 

Basel, Switzerland

I like to have a trip booked for January if possible; not only does it mean I can start the year as I mean to go on, it also helps banish those post- Christmas blues!

This year, I’m heading to Basel in Switzerland on a short solo weekend trip. I’ve never visited Switzerland before so am super excited to wander and explore. Basel is also known as a bit of an art hot spot too, and as you may know, I’ve developed a bit of a late love for art since my trip to Stockholm in 2017. Read more about that here.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been on a solo city break and I’m really looking forward to starting the year off with a mini adventure.

 

 

BaselPhoto credit: VVNincic, Flikr

 

Canada and Iceland

One of my closest friends recently relocated to Toronto to Canada and of course as soon as she did, I made plans to visit her! I’ve never been to Canada before and it’s been high on the list for a while, so this provided me with the perfect reason to book that flight.

I’ll be spending around four days/five nights in Toronto and the same again in Montreal. I did consider fitting in another city but I decided I want the trip to be at a slower pace, where I can really take my time to explore. In Toronto I’ll stay with my friend and in Montreal, I plan to book a small apartment as my base.

When I came to book my trip a few weeks ago, I realised that flying with Icelandair was the best way to get to Canada from Manchester, and that I could add on a free stopover in Iceland. Win win!

Iceland’s got a reputation for being mega expensive, so it’s great that I’m essentially flying there for free! I’ll be there for 2 days and nights, including my birthday. It’ll be the first time I’ve ever spent my birthday alone but I’m actually really looking forward to it!

The plan is to stay in Reykjavik and to do the main tourist things- the Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon, as well as exploring the city a little.

 

TorontoPhoto credit: Nick Harris, Flikr

 

Seljalandsfoss waterfall - Iceland - Travel photographyPhoto credit: Giuseppe Milo, Flikr

Prague, Czech Republic

On the first May bank holiday, I’m heading off on my second city break of the year; this time to Prague with a couple of friends.

Prague’s been on my to- visit list for years and I’ve never quite got round to booking it, so I’m really pleased that’s finally happening in 2019.

Exact plans are to be confirmed but I can imagine there will be plenty of sightseeing, eating and drinking!

 

PraguePhoto credit: Pedro Szekely, Flikr

 

The Algarve, Portugal

I’m at the age now where my friends are starting to get married and with that means hen dos! In June I’m jetting off to The Algarve to celebrate a lovely friend’s hen do. Unlikely that they’ll be much sightseeing haha, so it’s just as well I’ve already visited this part of Portugal!

I’m really looking forward to some relaxation and plenty of wine in the sunshine, with a great bunch of ladies.

 

AlgarvePhoto credit: Michaela Loheit, Flikr

Japan

After Portugal, I don’t have any more trips booked yet but there are a few plans taking shape. The first is a trip to Japan to visit my uncle, who lives in Tokyo, in Autumn.

I’ll be going with my Grandma, aka one of my favourite people on this earth, and I’m ridiculously excited at the prospect.

I visited Tokyo back when I was much younger, and I’m really looking forward to going back to the Land of the Rising sun now that I’ve got more of an appreciation for culture and Sushi!

We’ll probably head to a couple of other cities beside Tokyo but we don’t have any set-in stone plans just yet.

 

JapanPhoto credit: Bernard Spragg, Flikr

Exploring the UK

I tend to overlook taking trips within the UK, as I’m always keen to seek out new cultures. In 2019, I want to change that and to explore more of my home nation; there’s so many places I haven’t been to or would love to explore further.

I’d like to do a weekend somewhere at least every 2-3 months, money permitting. On the list are: Belfast, Edinburgh, Leeds and North Wales so far. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions for great places to explore in the UK!

 

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European city breaks

I’m hoping to fit in another one or two European city breaks, although I’m not sure where to yet. There are just too many great choices! In the mix so far are: Malta, Oslo, Romania and a Christmas market in Germany.

 

MaltaPhoto credit: Berit Watkin, Flikr

 

So, there you have it, there are my plans for 2019 so far. The second half of the year is definitely still quite open to change; although I’m 98% sure that my trip to Japan will happen! If it doesn’t, I’ll look to go somewhere else in Asia with a group tour, probably the Philippines or Myanmar!

One thing I will say is that I’d definitely like to travel more slowly this year, and make sure that I make time during and after my trips to produce some great blog content.

My little corner of the internet is still so unknown and not read by many but I’d love for 2019 to be the year that I reach a few more people. I’m really passionate about sharing my travel stories, tips and recommendations! I’d also like to encourage more people to travel solo and to embrace completely new cultures.

Here’s to an exciting travel-filled 2019! May you hunt down many pretty tiled walls, eat delicious food and enjoy your adventures…

 

Me

 

Have you been to any of the places I’ve mentioned or do you plan to visit them this year? Where’s on your list for 2019? As always, I’d absolutely love to hear from you 😊

 Please feel free to send over any tips or blog post links for the places I’ve talked about too, I’d love to read them.