While booking a flight to Manila, Philippines, the most affordable routes were offered by Air China. With Air China, there was a long layover in Beijing before heading to our destination (Manila). Due to the long delays that run rampant with Air China, one has the choice of either spending your time at the airport and relaxing, possibly catching up on work or a quick shut eye; or you can spend it exploring the area (Beijing). We chose the latter.
Leaving Bejing, China Airport:
China now offers a 72-hour pass for 53 countries for access outside the airport without the need of a travel visa. For U.S. passport holders, all you need to show is an itinerary on what you are doing in China, a valid passport, a plane ticket that displays confirmed seats for your connecting flight, and a completed arrival/departure form (which can be filled out at the airport).
Qualified Countries for a 72-hour pass:
(24 Schengen Agreement Countries) Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, (15 Other European Countries) Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia (FYROM), Albania, Belarus, Monaco, (6 American Countries) United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, (2 Oceania Countries) Australia, New Zealand, (6 Asian Countries) Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar
Explorable Areas Permitted in China: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Harbin, Shenyang, Dalian, Xian, Guilin, Kunming, Wuhan, Xiamen, Tianjin, Nanjing, Qingdao, Changsha and Hangzhou
10 HOUR LAYOVER: PART 1
MUTIANYU GREAT WALL + SUMMER PALACE
During our Beijing, China layover from Hawaii en route to Manila, we booked a private tour with Beijing Layover Tour. The private tour comes with a private vehicle and our very own tour guide. We went with Beijing Layover Tour due to many positive reviews on Trip Advisor with an even more detailed description on their website.
Upon arriving at the airport and going through customs, we headed to Starbucks where our tour guide met us promptly at 7 am. Herbie, our well-spoken, in English, tour guide, and was friendly! He helped carry our bags to the vehicle (a Mercedes van) and explained the itinerary and where we were headed first. During our drive, he also gave us a brief history of China and made sure he was entertaining the kids as well.
Our first stop was Mutianyu Great Wall, where we took a cable car up to the Great Wall and explored the area for approximately 2 hours. Then we took a toboggan ride back down – A MUST if you’re visiting the Mutianyu section of The Great Wall!
The Great Wall of China
After exploring the Great Wall, we had lunch and tasted authentic Chinese food, for the first time. It was not as satisfying as I thought it would be.
The following, final, tour for the day was visiting Summer Palace. It boasts itself as the best preserved imperial garden in the world and the largest of its kind. It was easy to spend a couple of hours at the Summer Palace due to the vast property filled with beautiful gardens, options to go boating on the lake or check out some the promenades, decorated corridors for viewing, and breezeways that led to amazing views and scenery.
10 HOUR LAYOVER: PART 2
FORBIDDEN CITY + TEMPLE OF HEAVEN
Heading home to Hawaii from Manila, we had another 10-hour layover in Beijing, China. We booked with the same tour company as mention before, Beijing Layover Tour, and got picked up at the same time with the same tour guide, Herbie. This time, we had a different itinerary for the day and focused more in the city of Beijing. Although, we wanted to go back to the Great Wall just to do the toboggan ride again!
Straight from the airport, we headed to the Forbidden City also known as the Palace Museum. Consisting of 980 buildings over the expanse of 160 acres, The Palace Museum is a world heritage site and the most visited art museum in the world. We spent a couple of hours exploring this place. There were many older people playing cards around the area as it’s free for them to enter. It has become a sort of hang-out place since it’s quite breezy throughout the area.
After the first stop, we headed to a restaurant. It was way better than the first restaurant during our first layover. But again, authentic Chinese food was lacking taste, to me. It was very bland which came as a shock to us. We were told that the restaurant was one of the finest ones around Beijing. It looked attractive enough with a full building but just not up to our standards, it seemed, to our taste buds.
Last stop of our tour was Temple of Heaven. It is the largest and most representative existing masterpiece among China’s ancient sacrificial buildings.
After the tour, Herbie and the driver dropped us off at the airport where we had time to shower before our flight. China airport has an hourly washroom and even offers a hotel area to rent while you’re at the airport. We took FULL advantage of the hourly (much needed) showers and freshened up before our next flight.
For more information on Beijing Layover Tour, visit here.