Going to China during August, Peak Season

Great Wall of China

Traveling to China in the height of August with the sun blazing, the tourists swarming and more people in one place than I’d ever thought possible, might not have amounted to a relaxing vacation, but it was definitely an experience. We decided to share some of our observations instead of going through our 12-day itinerary.

What we noticed:

– You need to have an address written in LARGE letters to show a taxi driver, they all seem to have trouble seeing.
– All the main tourist attractions are worth visiting, but if you have limited time/patience for dealing with thousands of tourists it might be better to venture off the beaten path. Or visit China in Winter.
– The Hutongs everywhere were some of the most interesting places we walked through in Beijing, definitely worth checking out before they all get torn down.
– EXPO is extremely crowded. No matter what time of day. Maybe try to pick one favorite if you’re dying to see something, but have backups, or just hit up whatever’s free. And take the bus from one end to the other.
– Be prepared to have to swat away overwhelming amounts of scammers. They are pretty easy to notice, unless you are 2 guys from NY who decided to follow pretty ladies to a 700 yuan tea ceremony.
– The Great Wall is awesome. We hiked along the Mutianyu section and it was worth taking the Cable Car up and the Tobaggen down. Try to go when the sky isn’t clouded with pollution soaked smog fog.
– A lot of times the sights and restuarants just off the beaten path are cheaper, calmer and more enticing. Some gems we found were Cafe Sambal (Malaysian) and Le Petite Saigon (Vietnamese and French)…I even tried snails.
– You can book train tickets in China exactly 9 days in advance, and a lot of tickets sell out (like from Shanghai to Xi’an, canceling our trip there) so have your hostel or someone help you book them ASAP.

Taikang Road - Shanghai

Taikang Road Art Streets - Shanghai

And in case anyone reads this who is more familiar with China, have any insight to share about these issues?

– Why is catching a taxi so frustrating? Once we’ve finally hailed a cab, after many frequently passing us, the majority would either claim to not know how to get to our address, tell us we needed to cross the street, or just flat out refuse, shooing us away with rude, vigorus gestures. What the F?
– I understand the Chinese think wearing diapers is bad for health, and they’d prefer to clothe their babies in butt-less onesies, but what happens when the baby you are carrying has to go?
– And relating to that, do adults really think it’s sanitary to pee/poop in widely public/populated areas? Like in the middle of a packed train, or out of a window on a Great Wall tower? (that last one may or may not have happened, not sure).

Bird's Nest - Beijing

Another odd thing that started happening while we were in China – I found myself comparing everything to Korea. Like – In Korea it’s easier to do this…and In Korea the people aren’t like that…and The food is like this…and In Korea, at least I can read street signs…etc, etc.  I guess a little vacation to a crazier Asian country helped me appreciate Korea a little more.

All in all we had an awesome, educational, enlightening experience and I’m so glad we got to share it with my sister and her husband.

If you want more info on Chinese history and culture, here are some books we read to try and glean some insight before traveling:  China Underground, and Out of Mao’s Shadow

For our whole photo album, in all it’s China glory, check out our flickr page.

Lama Temple - Beijing

And just for fun, I’ll leave you with dancing in the Temple of Heaven park.


2 Responses to “Going to China during August, Peak Season”


  2. Thanks for the tips, Gina! Especially regarding the Great Wall. I have been little confused about where to start my great wall adventure.

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