That's right we are quickly closing in on my milage/EQM run to Beijing, China. While much of the reason for this trip is to help make my push to Executive Platinum status a reality, there is no reason one can't enjoy the visit to a brand new country. In true milage run fashion though, my time on the ground is very limited, only 1 full day to explore the city and enjoy my first time to China.
In order to make the trip a success, and make sure that I can see as much as possible in the one day available, planning is king here. First off we have to remember that preparing for a trip always starts with the visa, no where moore improtantly that with China. While China does have a visa waiver program for transit passangers, you must be going on to a third country to take advantage of the waiver. Transiting from Chicago to Beijing to Chicago doesn't count, so I needed a visa. Luckily China offers 10 year visa's and I took advantage. For cases like this, a visa service is indepensable. China requires that your passport be delivered to a consulate in person so they can place the visa in your passport. In this case, Allied Passport and Visa services was extremely helpful, turning around the passport in a matter of days when had to sneak in the visa approval between two international trips.
Now that this is out of the way we need too moove on to the planning of the trip. Choosing a hotel is pretty straight forward, just make sure it's within a decent range of where you want to be for the day and the airport. A few quick subway rides for me and I'm home free.
Subways bring up another good topic, know the country you are visiting. To amke a successful trip beaware of the nature of the country. Doing some research ahead of time can be a life saver. China is well known for a very restrictive internet and as such Google Maps can be out of date or even connecting to them can be unreliable. While many people seem to use them, having a backup plan can be important. While I looked for soome good maps of China for the mobile phone, it seems that Chinese regulations have really limited good English language maps. I'll be using Chinese map maker Baidu maps, but I'll have to compare the two maps prior to leaving int he morning to make sure I know where to go on the Chinese maps, my Chinese language skills are non-existant.
What to do while there? There are many guides on the internet on how to do a one day visit, or a two day visit to different cities. My strategy is to pull from the one day and substitue in items from the other multiple day iteraries in an effort to get what I'm actually interested in. The way I visit places is very fast paced compared to most people and I run a museum way faster than most people I know. I love museums, but I get burned out on a single thing quickly. My plan for Beijing is to visit the Forbidden Temple, Tian'anmen Square and the surrounding grounds and museums. If time is left, head north to the Olympic grounds to check out all the cool buildings for the olympics in Beijing.... birds nest anyone.
Lastly, use your plan as a guie but don't stick to it rigidly. This point may go without saying and it may not apply to you. For me, these plans serve as a basis and someplace to start. These give me a launching point and if things change or I come across something more interesting, I have no issue changing mid stream. Use your plans to give you something to do, but be flexible to incorporate the unexpected.
This is much the same strategy for all the places I visit. South Korea had a well thought out plan to it, I followed maybe half of my itinerary, and definately not in the order I had planned them. outh Korea was also very similar in that their local laws made maps very unreliable from Google, but know this in advance and adapt.