5-Day DIY China Itinerary

Updated July 6, 2020
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Naming my blog Eat-And-Run-Dot-ASIA would be pointless if I don’t have any content from China. I got my flights prior to even starting this blog, but I knew it would not hold up to its domain until I get to travel to China.

Old lady exercising(?) at Jingshan Park
Old lady exercising(?) at Jingshan Park

Even though I booked my flights earlier this year, I knew my vacation leaves wouldn’t be enough for even a week-long trip. So I scheduled this to be a full-5-day trip, on a holiday, so I would only file for 2 days off my boring corporate life.

Day 1

  • Arrive at Shanghai Pudong International Airport via Flight 5J 678 (Midnight)
  • Take the night bus from terminal 2 bus station to East Yan’an Road
  • Check in at Phoenix Hostel
  • Wake up early, take the subway to Disney Station
  • Full day at Shanghai Disneyland

Arrival at Shanghai

Day 1 is separated in 2 parts, my flight from Manila, and the Disneyland experience. My flight was actually the night before, but I arrived at Shanghai at midnight so I considered it as part of the first day. After I passed immigration, I quickly looked for the bus station. It was hard to find details about the airport night bus online, so I had to ask some people for directions. Good thing I downloaded the English-Chinese languages of Google Translate. If it weren’t for that app, I would have been dead on a ditch that night.

My first picture of China, taken while walking to my hostel
My first picture of China, taken while walking to my hostel

I decided to book an accommodation that night, and not sleep at the airport, because I had to go to Disneyland early the next day. Plus, I’m not a super budget backpacker anymore (can you believe it). So why not book one more night and get a comfortable short sleep before walking all day at Disneyland. Read more about my Shanghai Disney experience, click here!

Mickey and Walt Disney
Mickey and Walt Disney

Day 2

  • Check out of hostel, leave bags
  • Explore Yuyuan Old Street & Yu Garden
  • The Bund
  • Shanghai People’s Park
  • Get bags at hostel, take subway to Shanghai Railway Station
  • Board an overnight train to Beijing

Around Shanghai

I initially ignored Yu Garden as part of my itinerary, but included it last minute instead of going to a town outside Shanghai. Good thing I went there because it became my favorite place in Shanghai! I didn’t expect it to be a lively complex of shops and food stalls. I got to buy some souvenirs and ate at a multi-cultural food court. It was very touristy, and I love those kind of places. Yu garden (admission of CNY 40) was amazing too! Fall foliage is still very much visible even at late November. The small, winding paths, almost like a maze, made the whole experience very exciting.

Can't pass up the opportunity to take a pic with this view!
Can’t pass up the opportunity to take a pic with this view!

The Bund was interesting. The architecture was very different from the rest of Shanghai, looking more western and european. I’m no building expert so please don’t take that too seriously. I loved it still, it’s a sight I didn’t expect to see in China. The view from The Bund, Shanghai’s skyline was great as well. There you would see what you expect to see in Shanghai. Weird but stunning structures soaring over the Huangpu River.

The Bund, with Shanhai Skyline in the background
The Bund, with Shanhai Skyline in the background

I got to Shanghai Railway Station 2 hours before my train departs for Beijing. I tried to buy a sim card at a phone shop nearby, but the process was too complicated I gave up. Apparently, I had to go to a different place to have my passport registered or something, I already got tired thinking about it. No mobile data for me for the rest of this trip I guess! Back to the station, I got KFC and some snacks, and was ready to board a 15-hour train ride.

Middle and Upper Berths of each 3rd Class Cabin
Middle and Upper Berths of each 3rd Class Cabin

My Sleeper Train Experience

I got my tickets from Travel China Guide, which had the cheapest service charge I found compared to other websites. The boarding process was easy, it just seemed scary at first because the waiting area was so crowded. But once you’re on the platform, you just find your train number and bunk. Unfortunately, I got an upper berth from a 3-storey bunk bed. The vertical space was so short I couldn’t even sit straight from the bed. But it was not a big problem for me since I planned on sleeping for most of the ride. Which I did and got a satisfying 11 hour power sleep! ZzzzZZZ

Powered by 12Go system

Day 3

  • Arrive at Beijing Railway Station
  • Check in at Peking Yard Hostel
  • Tiananmen Square
  • Forbidden City
  • Jingshan Park
  • Beihai Park
  • Take Bus 103 to Wangfujing Street
  • Explore Wangfujing area

Arrival at Beijing

Arriving that morning in Beijing was an instant greeting of winter. It was cold enough to have a bit of smoke come out of my mouth when I talk. The distance between Shanghai and Beijing is so apparent that I actually experienced two different seasons within this trip.

A very busy morning at Beijing Railway Station
A very busy morning at Beijing Railway Station

Upon checking in at Peking Yard Hostel, I caught up a bit on social media, and went on to have a lunch at a small restaurant nearby. Obviously I had to eat something hot, so I got a beef noodle soup. Their serving was too much for me, as with any other restaurant outside the Philippines. I guess I’m just used to little servings that we have here. Anyway, I didn’t finish all the noodles, but the food tasted really good though!! Just the right amount savory beef flavor, and a great texture for the noodles.

Beef Noodle Soup
Beef Noodle Soup

Beijing Temples and Palaces Part 1

The rest of the day was full of temples and palaces, from Tiananmen Square to Beihai Park. It was super tiring, especially the hill at Jingshan Park. But the view was rewarding, giving you a high perspective of the Forbidden City. After Beihai Park, I took Bus 103 to go to Wangfujing. The street was full of branded stores, but I stayed the longest at Wangfujing Snack Street. I tried a bunch of street food and bought snacks for souvenirs. Again, another very touristy place for me to love.

Forbidden City
Forbidden City
Me on top of the hill at Jingshan Park
Me on top of the hill at Jingshan Park

Day 4

  • Take subway to Dongzhimen Station
  • Ride Bus 916 to Huairou
  • Commission a driver (round-trip) to Mutianyu Great Wall
  • Take the cableway going up
  • Explore the Mutianyu part of the Great Wall of China
  • Take the toboggan/sled going back to the ticket area
  • Take the same taxi back to Huairou
  • Ride Bus 916 back to Dongzhimen Station
  • Subway to Olympic Green Station
  • Explore the Olympic Park

Commute to the Great Wall

There are 2 sections of the Great Wall that are the easiest to go to, Badaling and Mutianyu. Based on my online readings, Badaling is the most preserved but attracts most of the crowd as well. So I decided to go to Mutianyu. Not just to avoid a lot of people, but I wouldn’t wanna see a too perfect Great Wall. I mean, yeah it’s still the same thing, but I just assumed it would look like an amusement park attraction after all of its renovations. Unfair judgement on my part, to be honest, but the crowd factor was enough reason not to choose Badaling. Mutianyu was more complicated to go to though.

I decided to go there by myself to have control of my own time. It took more than 2 hours public transport, but it’s all part of the adventure. I was supposed to take a bus from Huairou to Mutianyu but I couldn’t find them there, so I commissioned a driver that approached me after I got off the bus. He even followed me while I was searching for the next bus I was supposed to ride on. I got a round-trip service, just me in his rusty old van (not sketchy at all), for CNY 60. He would take me to Mutianyu, wait for me, and take me back to Huairou. Just be careful though if you’re gonna take this route as well. For ultimate security, better to take a tour package from your hotel.

Me and my driver on the way to Mutianyu
Me and my driver on the way to Mutianyu

My Great Wall Experience!

I got my tickets (CNY 180 total including: Great Wall Entrance, Shuttle Service, Cableway, and Toboggan Slide) and went for the shuttle service. The ticket center was still pretty far from the entrance so a ride is recommended. Make sure to not get confused between the Cableway (an open seat) and the Cable Car (a closed vehicle). They’re two different companies, with the Cableway operating a toboggan slide as a return option. I got on my seat and was soon hanging up my way to the mountains.

Cableway going up the Great Wall

I spent about 3 Hours walking up and down through the Great Wall. I think I’ve passed by about 7 watchtowers. Most of my time was just me trying to take a decent picture of myself. I used a gorilla tripod for all of my non-selfie shots.

A national treasure and the Great Wall of China! *I’m the national treasure

By the way, I wore too much layers that I actually sweat while I was there. I thought it would be much colder there since it’s on top of a mountain, but the direct sunlight helped balance the weather. So I actually took off 2 cardigans (don’t judge my overestimation) to avoid sweating.

Mutianyu section of the Great Wall
Mutianyu section of the Great Wall

There were not a lot people there, and I was surprised since I went on a Saturday. I even got shots where people are either hidden or not noticeable.

The toboggan ride down was so much fun. I didn’t have any picture because I was recording a video all throughout the ride. And since there were less tourists, I could go faster without worrying about hitting someone.

The entrance and exit of the cableway and toboggan rides
The entrance and exit of the cableway and toboggan rides

Back to Beijing

It was dark already by the time I got back to Beijing. A good time as well to explore the Olympic park. Lights lit up the complex and colorful ones are on every structure. The greatest one (at least for me), the Bird’s Nest Stadium was breathtaking. I couldn’t even comprehend how great it was. There was not much to do there really, but marvel at the architectural beauty of each building.

Bird's Nest Stadium at night
Bird’s Nest Stadium at night

Day 5

  • Check out of hostel, leave bags
  • Subway to Yonghegong Station
  • Explore Lama Temple
  • Subway to Tiantandongmen
  • Explore Temple of Heaven
  • Subway to Nanluoguxiang Station
  • Shop and explore Nanluoguxiang
  • Back to hostel to get bags
  • Subway to Dongzhimen Station
  • Take the Airport Express
  • Flight 5J673 back to Manila
Inside the complex of Yonghegong
Inside the complex of Yonghegong

Beijing Temples and Palaces Part 2

This last day itinerary was a bit laidback. I even wanted to just go on a spa, but most spas I found online were too expensive. This is kind of a part 2 of Day 3, lots of temples and palaces, and another shopping street in the evening. For shopping of food souvenirs, it’s cheaper at Wangfujing Snack Street. But Nanluoguxiang has more choices for everything from leather crafts to waffle ice creams. Expect to spend a lot on both though! I even got Chinese propaganda notebooks as souvenirs to my friends.

Me at the Temple of Heaven
Me at the Temple of Heaven
Candied fruits snacks called Tanghulu
Candied fruits snacks called Tanghulu

Breakdown of Expenses

Roundtrip Flights
PHP 1,706.78Cebu Pacific GetGo Seat Sale Promo
Shanghai DisneylandPHP 2,860.91Paid via card purchase
Phoenix Hostel (Shanghai)PHP 1,121.922 Nights
Dorm type
Peking Yard Hostel (Beijing)PHP 1,472.502 Nights
Dorm type
Sleeper Train Shanghai to BeijingPHP 2,956.283rd Class
Upper Berth
Pocket MoneyPHP 9,262.007.75 Conversion rate
TOTALPHP 19,380.39

I got my flights from a GetGo 10-Point Sale, so I only paid for the taxes and fees. My original pocket money was CNY 1,500.00 or PHP 11,625.00 but I already deducted my leftover cash after the trip plus my payment at my Beijing accommodation to the listed amount. For the Disneyland admission, I paid for it, via card, there at the park entrance. Of course, the total amount still depends on the exchange rate. I got a decent rate from Metrobank for 7.75 Peso per Chinese Yuan.

Sunset in Huairou
Sunset in Huairou

This short solo trip to China was much more fun than I expected. I knew I was only scratching the surface of what this country has to offer so I can’t wait to go back to learn more about their culture. I hope my rambling and run-ons helped you in any way if you’re planning to go there. And if you’re not planning, then you totally should, this is the sign you’ve been waiting for.

Let me know in the comments (or in my inbox) if you have any question alright! Share this and tag your friends that you want to experience Autumn and Winter with!