#CatTravels: 67 hours in Beijing


This trip has already been, well, a trip.

Awhile back, Hawaiian Airlines invited me on its inaugural flight to Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world. The airlines is starting this new route Wednesday morning, with a departure just after midnight.

I had months to prepare for this — and I was preparing. Fellow blogger — and one of my favorite travel partners — Melissa Chang (@melissa808) and I had started mapping out a 10-day trip to China, which included a stop in Shanghai to visit her niece.

But then I got sick.

And then I was hospitalized.

And then three doctors advised me not to travel to China anytime soon.

So here I was, with a coveted invitation to travel on this landmark flight to a mysterious city I really know nothing about.

I’ll be honest, Beijing wasn’t high on my list of Places to Visit Before I Die. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t have its allure.

The fact that there are more than 21 million people living in this uber-metropolis is reason enough to go. But it’s also the hub of all things Chinese, from its politics to its culture.

This is the site of Tiananmen Square, the focal point of pro-demoncracy protests in 1989 that ended with the declaration of martial law in Beijing and the death of hundreds of people.

It’s also where you can access the Great Wall of China, which stretches for more than 13,000 miles.

There’s the Beijing Zoo, the Forbidden City, the Ming Tombs and the various hutongs (or small streets lined with shops and restaurants), not to mention the venues built for the 2008 Summer Olympics, which the city hosted.

So there’s a lot to see and do.

But I was sick — and the healthcare system, air quality (@BeijingAir) and overall cleanliness of China are all suspect, especially to first-time visitors like me.

But that’s not the only reason this trip almost never happened.

I didn’t get a visa in time.

This may sound dire, maybe even downright crazy, but here’s the thing: According to one travel agent I spoke to and a dozens of sites online, China instituted a visa-free transit policy in 2013, which allows passengers with passports from certain countries — U.S. included — to stay for up to 72 hours without a visa if entering and exiting Beijing (and a few other airports).

I had three people — the travel agent, a Hawaiian Air rep, and my CPA friend — to calculate the exact number of hours I’d be in China.


I would just make it.

And if, by some reason, I don’t, I’ll be stuck in China for at least another week — or I might have to start learning Mandarin. (Melissa did promise to bust me out of a Chinese prison, so I’m counting on that.)

So stay tuned! Follow me on Twitter (@thedailydish), Instagram (@catherinetoth) and on YouTube to see what happens to me!

Special thanks to Hawaiian Airlines who graciously invited me on its inaugural flight to Beijing! Learn more about Beijing here.

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21 Responses to “#CatTravels: 67 hours in Beijing”

  1. HiCDS Chairnan April 15, 2014 at 6:55 am #

    Have an awesome time in Beijing, be sure to go to Wanfujing for the night market experience!

    Jealous, jealous, jealous! :)

    • Catherine Toth April 15, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

      I’m worried about eating street food in China. I’ve been advised against it…

      • Eric April 15, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

        Not a good idea. A friend says that they wash dishes in a bucket along side the food carts.

  2. Melissa April 15, 2014 at 7:17 am #

    I didn’t promise! Not to mention Parkrat & Crystal said to throw you under the bus!

    • Catherine Toth April 15, 2014 at 8:35 am #

      Wait — they BOTH said that?!? Oh, guess who’s getting mercury-laced omiyage……

  3. M April 15, 2014 at 7:25 am #

    Hello Cat!
    Lucky you! Safe travels and don’t get sick. I can’t wait to read about your trip.

    • Catherine Toth April 15, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

      I’m excited, too! It’s definitely going to be a first for me!

  4. DJ April 15, 2014 at 7:34 am #

    Think you are making a BIG mistake ..just being on an airplane puts you in a bad environment.No free trip to China is worth risking your health for.

    • Catherine Toth April 15, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

      That’s exactly what my doc said, actually, that I’d likely get sick just being on the plane…

  5. Annoddah Dave April 15, 2014 at 10:14 am #

    CAT: Looking forward to your bathroom pix! Here’s a tip, wear a mask on the flight and in crowded places. It really helps.

    • Catherine Toth April 15, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

      Melissa has already provided me with the mask. I shall provide you with the bathroom pics. :)

  6. dbjack April 15, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    Actually Cat the Great Wall is a bit of a haul to the north, more than an hour. Take along the masks for days where the Gobi blows into the city and for high smog days. Also, food safety is pretty good now especially if you eat at one of the bazillion western restaurants in the city. You should be OK and I would say the least safe air to breath is on the plane. I’d love to be your tour guide on this trip. Beijing is an incredible city and a place to see more than once.

    • Catherine Toth April 15, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

      I’m excited. I’m hoping Beijing ignites a desire to see the rest of China. Frankly, I’m a skeptic about it. So we’ll see. Anywhere I go, I tend to have fun anyway. And doubly so with Melissa. So it should be a good time all the way around.

      As long as I can get back in the U.S.!

  7. ParkRat April 15, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

    Melissa is forbidden from trying to bust you out of Chinese prison! I refuse to be left here alone with Crystal for longer than necessary.

  8. Old Man April 15, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

    Just one mask? Better take more girl, and Have a good trip.

  9. M April 16, 2014 at 5:11 am #

    Hello Cat,
    I heard, it’s all guud. Better than getting stuck over there.

  10. Makiki April 16, 2014 at 6:25 am #

    Very sad! You and Melissa in China would have been epic!

  11. M April 16, 2014 at 6:33 am #

    Cat, someones looking out for you and keeping you safe and out of danger. Everything happens for a reason.

  12. Dennis April 16, 2014 at 6:53 am #

    I’ve been to China twice with the Narcissus Queen and court. Don’t drink the water! Bottle water at the various sight seeing area can also be bad. Bring your own safe drinks. My second trip to China was terrible and I was sick for one day (Ate some food at the street vendors- it looked great!). The Fried field mouse was delicious as well as the fried scorpions. Have a great trip! There are McDonalds in Bejing!

  13. Colleen K April 16, 2014 at 8:07 am #

    Just be sure that you’re transiting to a different city than your origin. For example, HNL – PEK – HKG – HNL. You aren’t considered “transiting” if you are returning to Honolulu.

    Have fun!


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