China is a big country, Beijing is a big city: we took a nibble.
We saw an amazing architecture, met amazing people, and broadened our Western-educated views of world history and culture. Immersion in Beijing was awe-inspiring, and sometimes overwhelming. While we were clearly not natives, we felt welcomed by the respect and helpfulness of the people we encountered.
A few trip planning tips:
Don’t try to do everything. You may check everything off your list, but you may miss the essence of the experience.
Be flexible and willing to adjust your schedule (daily). Prioritize and spend the time you like in a place. Allow room for the spontaneous.
Use the subway. It makes you oblivious to the traffic woes above.
Expect to make mistakes. You may get on the wrong train, get in the wrong line, misjudge a distance on the map, or just plain get lost. We spent two hours of our time in the Forbidden City waiting in line to see a special exhibit of some ancient scrolls. They were lovely, but the significance was lost on us. And it was two less hours we had to wander the nooks and crannies of the place.
Above all, bring your sense of curiosity and wonder. No matter how many times you have seen these places online, in film, and in books, there is nothing that compares to being there.