On Wednesday morning (or practically Tuesday night, as my flight departs shortly after midnight anyway), I’ll be flying to Beijing. This will be my first ever trip to China (and second trip into a country that requires Filipino citizens to apply for visas), so naturally I’m more than a little excited. While doing my research for this trip, it seems like there’s so much to do in Beijing. I don’t know if I’ll be able to see it all in just five days, but there are some things I definitely want to do while I’m actually there.

(The choice of the number 8 for this list is not an accident. 8 is an auspicious number in Chinese culture, because the word for “eight” sounds like the word for “prosper” or “wealth.”)

Walk on the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

It is perhaps the one lasting symbol for China that has endured throughout the years, and possibly the one landmark that people think of when you mention the country. It’s almost impossible not to at least want to go there when you’re in such close proximity to it. I’ll be avoiding the crowded section of Badaling, and will most likely check out either Mutianyu or Jinshanling.

Enter the Forbidden City
Another of those great symbols of Beijing, this is yet another sight which may be difficult to miss. (That it’s also pretty much in the centre of the city also helps.) I hope to experience a measure of awe and wonder as I walk in a place that had previously been verboten to a common person like me.

Eat Authentic Chinese Food

Peking Duck

Or – as the old joke goes – just “food.” Living in Southeast Asia – and Singapore, in particular – means I’m already quite exposed to Chinese food. But there’s always a difference in food quality when you try it in its country of origin, as I discovered when I tasted Thai food in Thailand. I also hope to try some Peking Duck while there; if a dish bears the name of the city, it must be good when eaten at the place it’s named after, right?

See Pandas at Beijing Zoo
People who know me in real life will know why I want to see the pandas. In any case, this will probably be the closest I’ll get to seeing pandas in China (for now), and the appeal of it is just too high for me to ignore.

Check Out Beijing’s World Heritage Sites
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m a sucker for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I even track a list of those I’ve been to on my About page. (Even when I’m not aware of that it has been inscribed into the list, I am somehow still drawn to it.) Beijing has a number of World Heritage Sites in and around the city (including The Great Wall and the Forbidden City), and I do hope to see as many as I can – like the Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace – without blowing past them after taking a couple of photos.

Visit the Olympic Stadiums

Bird's Nest

I’m a bit of a dork when it comes to the Olympics. I’m always in awe of the spectacle involved, and of course the athleticism of the participants. I was excited when I caught the Youth Olympic Games here in Singapore last year, and was in awe of the Olympic stadiums in Munich and Berlin. I was one of the many who got to watch the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and I would love to see the Bird’s Nest for myself.

Taste Something Exotic
This is probably the thing I’m least excited about. I can’t really consider myself an “adventurous” eater, but perhaps for this trip, I’ll make an exception and swallow my pride… among other things. Donghuamen Night Market apparently has its fair share of… interesting menu items. If I do decide to grab a bite, you’ll almost definitely see a video of myself enduring the whole process. Or, who knows, maybe I’ll actually like it.

Take the High-Speed Train to Shanghai

Shanghai skyline

This probably falls under “because it’s there.” The original plan was actually Shanghai in October, but work scheduling matters got in the way. In any case, Beijing ended up being more appealing from a purely tourism point of view, but the availability of high-speed trains from Beijing to Shanghai makes it quite the temptation. Apart from seeing the skyline, I know some people who are ready to show me Shanghai’s nightlife, and that’s hard to pass up.