24 Hours in Beijing

China has always been a bit of a mystery to us as we haven’t explored much of Asia, and it is so vast and different from what we are used to. We started our Thanksgiving 2017 Asia discovery trip with 24 hours in Beijing, exactly the amount of time we were allowed to stay in China without a special visa. The almost 14 hour flight from Chicago to Beijing (check out our itinerary here) was not even long enough for us to enjoy all the free-flowing drinks and food, watch all of the movies we wanted, and get a decent night’s sleep. The presentation of the food was more than we were expecting as was the genuine care of our flight attendant.


We were greeted with a choice of drinks and some warm nut mix, which Bettina ate for us both.


Welcome drinks and nuts on Hainan Airlines Business Class flight.


After take-off, we were served some amuse-bouche and more drinks, followed by the starter - smoked salmon and roasted duck, served with your very own bread basket and rose shaped butter.


Amuse-bouche on Hainan Airlines business class flight.


Rose smoked salmon and champagne on Hainan Airlines business class flight


Rose shaped butter and bread basket on Hainan Airlines business class flight


As a main course, we had a choice of Western or Chinese meal. Guess which one we went for!


Main course of Kung Pao Chicken on Hainan Airlines business class flight


For those who are interested, we picked the braised sea cucumber, Kung Pao chicken, and baby bok choy with rice. Last but not least was dessert - cheesecake with strawberry coulis! However, we were too full to fully appreciate it at that point.


Cheesecake and port wine on Hainan Airlines business class flight


Luckily for us, the flight arrived in the evening so even if you are not able to sleep too much on the plane, you can sleep in a proper hotel bed shortly after arrival to combat the jetlag.  That’s what we had planned to do. What we did not plan was for Hainan to put us up in a hotel for the night. Of course, when you are offered a free hotel room you don’t say no, so we graciously accepted. The only problem was we had already booked a hotel months before for our layover, not knowing that one would be provided. It was 6:10pm local time, and quickly pulling up our reservation showed that we could cancel free of charge up to 6:00pm day of arrival. We frantically tried to find the correct phone number, and after being transferred around a few times to someone who could speak English, we successfully cancelled our room for a full refund and were off for a good night’s sleep.


After a successful 12 hours of sleeping, we awoke to a frost-covered Beijing airport hotel construction area. The hotel itself was nice, though the surrounding area was less than appealing. We had until 5:25PM for our next flight to Phuket, so wasting no time we grabbed a taxi and set off into Beijing! The thing about cabs in China is that most cab drivers don’t speak English and they also don’t read addresses. So we asked the hotel to order us a taxi to the Forbidden City. We had no idea where we were going and just looked out the window, hoping we would be taken to the right place! Sure enough, we were dropped close to the entrance and were able to enter and purchase tickets fairly quickly before the crowds arrived for the day.


Entrance and red gate to the forbidden city in Beijing


We knew the Forbidden City complex was big but didn’t quite realize how big it was. Consisting of 980 buildings over 180 acres, we had some ground to cover! Fortunately, there were (relatively) blue skies and sun as we explored the many gates, halls, and palaces.


Empty cobble stone square in the forbidden city Beijing


Palace and orange rooves in the distance showcasing the size of the forbidden city palace complex in Beijing


Kyle and Bettina in front of an imperial guardian lion at the forbidden city in Beijing


Bettina walking the cobble stones with sun reflection in the forbidden city, Beijing.


Shop Bettina's Look

The attention to detail we found throughout the whole complex was incredible.


Colourful and detailed palace in the forbidden city, Beijing


Yellow dragon on the roof of a colourful palace in the forbidden city, Beijing


Roof of a colourful palace in the forbidden city, Beijing


Close-up of paint and decoration of palaces in the forbidden city, Beijing


Close-up of colourful paint and decoration of palaces in the forbidden city, Beijing


After struggling to find the exit (it took us an hour to get to the right exit after we had tried to leave the complex where we had entered), we proceeded to walk in the wrong direction to reach Tiananmen Square.


Bettina similing in front of the forbidden city, Beijing


Kyle jumping in front of a palace in the forbidden city, Beijing


While learning about the history of the square is humbling, it is not overly picturesque so we continued on our self-made walking tour to Wangfujing Street for a quick bite to eat before grabbing a taxi back to our hotel and on to the next flight.  It was a quick few hours in Beijing, but with great weather and was well worth it!


Almost empty Tiananmen Square and blue skies in Beijing


We made it back to the airport for our flight to Phuket with plenty of time to spare and were surprised how much you can see in 24 hours.



Keep Me Posted!

To read about our next trip at an inbox near you, sign up below.

Which Newsletter Do You Want To Subscribe To?

I have read and agree to the Terms & Conditions



  1. Great blog post- I’m enjoying your blog!! I had the same problem, I couldn’t find the Forbidden City exit, either! Hope you guys are doing well!

    • Hi Kori,

      Thank you so much for your feedback! It means the world!

      To be honest, we walked around for hours trying to find it and were seriously considering sneaking out through the entrance. However, there was staff standing at the entrance making sure nobody gets out that way and we didn’t want to push our luck breaking the rules. 🙂 How long were you in China for?

  2. These photos are so beautiful! I should’ve been in Beijing in February but of course our trip was cancelled. Still hoping to go sometime this year though! I’ll save this post for whenever I’m able to make it there

Leave a Reply

You have to agree to the comment policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.