A “Great” way to spend a layover

I’ve been little behind with my blogging… opps! So sorry I’m about to hit you with two or three in a row.

I flew one from Germnay on Christmas day. Flying on Christmas is cheap, but kinda sucks. No, the airline did not do anything cool because it was Christmas. However, I had 16 hour layover in Beijing and I was definitely going to leave the airport. But how? It’s China. From what I’ve been told not a lot of people speak English and because they don’t use the Roman alphabet their signs are impossible to figure out. So I set out google. It’s the one part of my winter break trip I actually researched. I read various blogs and emailed several different tour companies. The standard visa into China, for Americans, is a 10 year visa and it cost $200, however if you are there under 72 hours and have an ongoing ticket you can apply for a free visa. This seemed like that better option for my bank account. I was able to book a drive and an English-speaking tour guy who would take me to the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City.  I was stoked!

When I flew through Beijing on my way to Paris there was a huge line for this visa. I figured it was because it was later in the day (I guy I work with was on that same flight and he said it took him four hours to get through the line). I figured I’d have better luck because my flight would arrive at 4:45 am. My luck ended up being not much better.

I recommend that if you ever decided to try out this 72 hour visa you have patience. Buckets and buckets of patience. It’s a long somewhat chaotic process but don’t worry your tour guy will not leave you! (Something I was stressed about).


So I arrive at 4:45am and went straight to the line. There are two different forms you have to fill out. One is at the counter next to the line and the second you have to ask the person processing the visas for. Interrupt him/her or they will never give it to you. There were maybe 7 people in front of me, however they were holding 5-6 passports each. I didn’t think anything of this assuming one person was processing a whole family of passports. Time dragged on. An hour passed and we still hadn’t moved much because there was ONE person processing all the requests. There must have been 150 people behind me (no joke). As it started to creep towards two hours things went down hill fast. First they ran out of the appropriate paperwork. People began forming a line next to the actually line just to get the paperwork. This would have been fine, however the people in front of me needed to get their families in line when it was their turn. This started causing a lot of issues. Accusations of cutting began to fly around, cussing happened, and a third line on the other side of the real line formed where other people decided to just start cutting in. What was once a nice orderly line turned in to a mob of people pushing. It was awful! When my paperwork was finally process I had to push and shove people to get out of the line.

I would like to hope that my experience isn’t typical. I have my doubts about that. There was one person processing paperwork and it took a lot of time. People were frustrated. A gentleman told me Shanghai is much better as they have multiple people processing the paperwork. After that line you have to go the actually immigration line to get your passport stamped. This didn’t take long.

It was definitely worth the wait and stress of the whole process. Just prepare your self to be there for a while.

My tour guide, Alice, (along with at least 15 other tour guides) was waiting for me at a Starbucks in the arrival area which was really easy to find. She took be to our car and we were off to the Great Wall. On the way she gave me a brief history of the wall and soon decided I looked too tired let me take a nap instead. (Actually, I was car sick from being over tired but didn’t want to make the driver feel bad). we went to the Mutianyu part of the wall. It was rebuilt in the 80s and you can still see parts of the original wall. We arrive and took a chair lift up to the top. You can take stairs but it was freezing and I was exhausted so I opted for the easier option. When we got to the top there was barely anyone there. It was so nice!


Gondola ride up
Enter a caption



We walked to four of the tours

IMG_9418 2

Every now and again I have moments where I’m glad I’m short!
Toboggan track you take to get down
You don’t have to take the toboggan down, but it’s the most fun!

After the seeing the Great Wall we headed to Tiananmen Square (“the Square of the Gate of Heavenly Peace’).  Tiananmen square is the largest public square in the world. I was surprise with all the security around the square. Because I was with a tour guide I was able to bypass all the lines!

Mausoleum of Mae Zedong
The Great Hall of the People
The Gate of Heavenly Peace
IMG_9478 2
National Museum of China
The Great Hall of the People from farther away


We then walked under the road via a tunnel and were at the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was a palace complex for the Chinese Emperors and is now a museum. It’s beautiful and has several palaces with in it which get smaller the farther in you go. The front was repainted for the Olympics so the colors were much brighter. My tour guided pointed out how so much of it was built around the idea of feng shui.


There were lions everywhere
About to enter
The first palace with the Emperors throne.
The ceilings were amazing
The complex was so big that you could spend hours just walking around it

IMG_9528IMG_9535IMG_9542 2IMG_9543


You weren’t allowed to walk on these, but leading up to every palace were different sets of stairs and walk ways. The middle one was reserved for the Emperor. They were amazing! I can’t even imagine how long they took to carve!
Emperor’s throne
 This belonged to one of the Emperor concubines. The Emperors wife could not give him a son so when he died the aire to the throne was the concubines son.
Inside the palace
A dragon lion
You weren’t allowed to go up there but that building over looked the gardens.
The back gate
A pagoda outside the palace walls
I know this picture is blurry. These yellow bikes were everywhere. You “rent” them and leave them where ever you want when you’re done. I think my guide said it was 1 YEN an hour. 


This was my guide, Alice. She was fantastic! Great English, very knowledge able, and kept offering to take my picture with out me asking! If your going to China I recommend looking her up!



Good-bye, China!

This was probably one of the best layovers I’ve ever experienced. I highly recommend booking a driver and tour guide! China seemed like it would be hard to navigate on ones own and the Great Wall is about an hour outside the city. It was a great way to end my trip to Europe and a neat way to spend my Christmas!


Blogging is not something I’m necessarily good at and autocorrect and I have a love/hate relationship, so please ignore any typos, misspelled words, or all together wrong words. 😉

One thought on “A “Great” way to spend a layover”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s