Beijing Birthday

Imagine the surprise of discovering only when at the airport that my birthday will be spent in Beijing…

As one of the largest and most populous cities in the world, Beijing is a marvellous destination, even if it’s just for a fleeting 9-day birthday getaway.

Forbidden City, Beijing, China, Asia

Why Beijing?

I had no idea that I would spend a special clocking of a decade (not letting on which decade) in Beijing – a total surprise. To those that say I’m spoilt, I say, totally agree with you…but, I’m worth it! πŸ˜‰

How the birthday surprise transpired…

My partner decides that this special birthday is going to be a surprise – did I mention that I’m not big on surprises?

I’m one of those painful people that relentlessly tries to find out what the surprise is before the actual day.

My passport is taken from me for a visa. The plot thickens. I have absolutely no idea where in the world I’m going to land for the 9-day birthday getaway.

For several months beforehand, my partner secretly beavered away organising visas, flights, accommodation, researching activities – absolutely everything. Did I mention he makes a fantastic travel coordinator? Think he missed his calling in life. All I needed to do was submit holiday leave from full-time work.

What to pack when you don’t know where you’re going?

So, what do I pack? Eagerly ask trying to glean just a vague clue, a hint to work with, but it’s hopeless.

The secret won’t be revealed. Tight-lipped. A firmly shut book.

Not a single clue is divulged. Instead, to my frustration: Pack clothes for all types of weather.

The surprise won’t be spoilt by my constant prodding, asking questions, or trying to best guess, but still finding out nada about the surprise getaway.

Brisbane International Airport

So, the day finally arrives, and I’m charged. Although still have no clue of where the destination for the next 9 days will be…

At Brisbane’s International Airport, we wander around slowly, almost aimlessly, to a few counters. A trick to put me off the scent, but it’s useless as I still don’t have any idea.

Finally, we stop at a check-in counter. The board displays Beijing – I’m ecstatic and so excited!

Brisbane airport during COVID-19, Queensland, Australia, Oceania
Not the flight

I’m handed a brand-new copy of the Lonely Planet Guide on Beijing – double-thrilled. I’ve never visited Beijing, or anywhere in China for that matter.

Seriously, I had absolutely no idea what’s been hatching for the past several months. Think my partner was trying to top his previous surprise birthday present of a couple of years ago in 2010, with an incredible 25-minute Jet Fighter Top Gun Mission flight.

After getting over the surprise and excitement of finally finding out about the Beijing destination, it’s a wait to be called for the first leg of the flight.

Getting there

Absolutely everything is pre-planned and pre-organised. All I have to do is to sit back and enjoy the ride.

From Australia’s east coast, Brisbane, a Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong takes around 9 hours.

Still on a high after finding out about this amazing destination after all these months of secrecy, slowly calmed down. Sinking into the small set for the long flight, enjoy the airplane’s rhythm with a couple of movies.

Brisbane to Hong Kong map, Australia, China, Oceania

With a transit wait of around 3 hours in Hong Kong airport, what is one to do? Feast on some delicious but expensive traditional handmade noodles. All airports throughout the world are expensive, aren’t they?

Wander around the pristine airport to stretch the old legs and search for some unusual photos to capture.

Hong Kong Airport, China, Asia

What else is there to do at airports but wait, watch, and eat.

Hong Kong to Beijing map, China, Asia

The Dragonair (rebranded as Cathay Dragon in 2016) flight from Hong Kong to Beijing is totally crammed. At least the flight is on time.

This is a relatively short flight of around 3.5 hours, so not too long to endure the squeezy airline seats not built for foreigners. For an Airbus 330, the seats are even smaller than Cathay Pacific’s seats.

Landing in Beijing

Arriving at Beijing Capital International Airport in the evening, Immigration isn’t too onerous, and Customs doesn’t even blink an eyelid. So, it’s straight through to find the legitimate taxi rank, which is the one to use so you’re not ripped off.

Taking your life into your hands during the one-hour taxi ride to the hotel experiencing Beijing’s traffic congestion and crazy drivers, finally arrive at the hotel quite late but relieved.

Where to sleep

Shichahai Shadow Art Performance Hotel

Along No.24 Song Shu Jie, Xicheng District, the Shichahai Shadow Art Performance Hotel in old Beijing is a wonderful choice for a short or long stay. This 4-Star hotel offers everything in the room’s price including a delicious buffet breakfast, and the service is excellent.

The hotel in the heart of Beijing hosts traditional live music and fabulously unusual shadow art performances. The captivating shadow art is made at the hotel, and you can indulge in lessons on how to create shadow art, which always divulges an ancient story.

Shichahai Shadow Art Performance Hotel, Beijing, China
Larger than-life bird

Positioned only a 10-15minute walk to the metro station the hotel is close to famous surrounding sites.

What to see

How much can you pack into a 9-day getaway? Does Beijing hold much to explore?

The answer is loads! You won’t have enough time.

The more you wander through this incredibly intriguing city, the more you realise the plethora of experiences Beijing offers and that 9 days in the city is just not enough. So, I’ll publish another couple of posts on what you really can’t miss on your trip to Beijing.

Great Wall of China, Beijing, China, Asia
Great Wall of China

If you’re anything like me, then when you land somewhere you’ll want to explore everything on offer. But when time is tight, you need to be selective and make sure that you don’t waste precious time fumbling around deciding what to see…

Zhonghai Lake, Beijing, China, Asia
Zhonghai Lake

The incredible and expansive Great Wall of China is a must. Learn about the secrets of the Forbidden City. But don’t forget, the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, then escape the hordes of people while visiting beautiful tranquil Houhai and Zhonghai Lakes. Tian’anmen Square is a must as is the Haidian Gaoliang Bridge. For a good taste of local haggling, venture to the Panjiayuan Antique Market.

Forbidden City, Beijing, China, Asia
Forbidden City

So, check back here for part two of this incredible surprise birthday, discovering just a few of the amazing sights in and around Beijing.

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts at Image Earth Travel.

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30 responses to “Beijing Birthday”

  1. 100 Country Trek Avatar

    Happy belated Birthday. Beijing was such an amazing site we explored. Anita

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Anita but this was a surprise present back in 2012 – I’m catching up with my travel articles and still have a few to write about intriguing Beijing.

  2. Neil Lintern Avatar

    Another great blog!!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you, Neil.

  3. JaniceO Avatar

    My other life that pays the bills inserted itself quite rudely and my art took a long back seat. Still with Fotomerchant though working on something else to replace. I see you are on wordpress. For some reason Ive never got on with it. For a start, I’m sick of having to login every time I want to comment, lol. Still playing with joomla which does my head in but been with it for so long so will probably build myself something with it. πŸ˜€

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Tell me about it, I have one of those other lives also and find it hard to keep this site ( and my Nilla’s Photography site (self-hosted but on platform) updated. With Full-time work and long hours, there just isn’t any time. I still haven’t got my WooCommerce eCart connected for drop-shipping and self-fulfillment. πŸ™
      Really, you need to log in each time to this site each time to comment? Ah, I think it’s because you need to sign up to WP once, then you won’t need to keep signing in to leave a comment (I believe).
      I haven’t used Joomla or Drupal since uni days. Good luck with it all as it can be a rabbit hole…

  4. Christie Avatar

    Happy belated Birthday Nilla! What a wonderful surprise, good job NeilπŸ™‚

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Christie
      Thank you but this exceptional surprise was in 2012. Felt like the event definitely needed writing about, it’s just taken me a while to get around to it… πŸ˜‰

      1. Christie Avatar

        Well, sometimes I feel like celebrating it everydayπŸ˜‰

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        A great attitude to have! πŸ˜‰

  5. equinoxio21 Avatar

    What a wonderful surprise… πŸ‘πŸ»

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It was Brian and I am very spoilt. πŸ˜‰

  6. Yetismith Avatar

    What a brilliant surprise. I’m like you, I have to find things out. Your other surprise…a ride in a jet fighter…wow. I would have loved that! The only place I saw in China (I don’t count Tibet or Hong Kong as China whatever they think) was Chengdu. I believe it has changed a great deal but in 1986 I hated it and after Tibet I was not disposed to care much for China but I know the government is not the people or the country. I know it is an amazing place with fascinating history.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It certainly was Carolyn and so unexpected, but this surprise was in 2012, so I’ve had a few birthdays since then…🀣
      What did you hate about Chengdu? The government can definitely make it hard to travel in a country. I’ve never visited Tibet and would love to go but also to Mongolia – both need a couple of months at least.

      1. Yetismith Avatar

        Mongolia is one of the places I longed to see but never got to. I don’t even know why I am so drawn. It’s something about the faces of the people. Why? I am drawn to Native Americans and I loved the Tibetans…they seem to have a connection with each other. Sometimes I wonder if the energy that is me once lived out there. Who knows. I was in Tibet in 1986 and already it had been changed by the Chinese. I think because I have always felt so strongly about Tibet that I was per-disposed to disliking China. We only stopped in Chengdu in transit for a night on our way elsewhere. Hotels in Tibet had been very basic but I could not have cared less. In Chengdu everything seemed dirty. We went to see pandas and the zoo was awful. People throwing things at an emaciated tiger. I could have wept. We had a meal in a very busy restaurant. The tablecloth was dirty, the glasses were greasy, the service almost insolent. In the middle of all this a man at a nearby table cleared his throat and spat. At that point I sort of lost it! Having said all of this, I have known many Chinese people and liked them very much. It’s not like we sre stellar examples of humanity over here.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Now I understand! Totally get the connection to some places more than others.
        That sounds dreadful but from what I’ve seen in many Asian countries, there’s not much respect for fauna or flora, and animals are treated abysmally.
        Sounds like Myanmar where restaurants have little buckets (I named spittoons) at each table – disgusting.
        I think humanity as a whole isn’t great.

  7. Janice OConnor Avatar

    How exciting!! What a great secret keeper your partner is. Mine too actually and I find it rather annoying especially when he drops silly hints that turn out to be nothing to do with the final answer.
    I cannot wait to read your next post and view the photos. I travelled the world with you.
    Happy birthday!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Janice
      Lovely to see you back here, are you still with FotoMerchant?
      Yes, definitely a great keeper of secrets and yes, those little hints to deter can be annoying but meant in good gesture, I’m sure.
      Thank you for your kind feedback. I’m trying to publish another post this or next Sunday. πŸ˜‰

  8. Angela Avatar

    Absolutely perfect gift! Happy birthday!!!πŸ₯³πŸŽ‰

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It certainly was Angela. Thank you for your comment. πŸ™‚

  9. sheetalbravon Avatar

    What an extraordinary surprise! This was something straight out of a movie. Congratulations on turning another year wiser. Can’t wait to read more.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Extraordinary is a great word to describe the surprise! It was straight of a movie although, at the time, I hadn’t thought of it that way as just wanted to know!
      Thank you for leaving me a comment. πŸ™‚

  10. popsiclesociety Avatar

    What a beautiful way to celebrate πŸ€©πŸŽ‰ Happy Birthday πŸŽ‰

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Ribana! It certainly was memorable and unexpected. πŸ™‚

      1. popsiclesociety Avatar

        That’s the best gift ever! 🎁

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        It was but this Jet fighter flight was also incredible!

  11. Stella, oh, Stella Avatar

    Congratulations to both, birthday and being spoilt! What a grand surprise!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you, Stella!
      I am very spoilt and I’m continually surprised on each birthday, but the decades ones are even more spectacular!

      1. Stella, oh, Stella Avatar

        Lucky girl, you must do something right! πŸ˜‰ πŸ™‚

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        I think so… πŸ˜‰

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