One definitely needs at least 4-5 weeks to even come close to doing justice to a massive country like China. The fact that Google and Facebook are not accessible from within China was not known to me before I landed in Beijing (How did this vital piece of information escape my research???). Without Google Translate, a language-challenged person like was all at sea … In a World of Mandarin.
Tienanmen Square: A massive open square. Mausoleum of Mao Zedong is definitely worth a visit. One has to keep all belongings (E.g. Camera) in a locker and stand in pretty long queues and get through detailed security checks before getting in. While I was hanging around one afternoon enjoying the lack of crowds (After the Mausoleum closes at 11AM), one guy kept circling me and looking suspiciously at me. At the end I saw him approach a Policeman and point in my direction. The Policeman came and checked me out and left after I showed my documents. I guess my backpack and the fact that I was checking my maps Etc. might have sent some wrong signals 🙂
Forbidden City: The centerpiece of Beijing, IMHO. I went on a very hot and sunny day. Walking around with my backpack, souvenir bag, DSLR, tripod Etc. was a great workout. As with other sights in Beijing, Forbidden City is also massive and one can spent 4-5 hours (at least) here.
National Museum of China: Wonderful! I had a grand time in this museum. The only sad part was that some portions were closed for renovation. I guess for a country with over 5000 years of history, such a museum is not a huge surprise.
Great Wall of China: When I visited Petra, I had to endure the “worst snow storm in 100 years” and I was about the only 5-10 tourists in Petra that day. Other than us idiots, I guess the other smart tourists had checked the weather report :-). Similarly, when I was on top of the Great Wall (at Badaling), with my DSLR, tripod Etc. and swamped by huge crowds, it started pouring like crazy! For 2 hours, I stood on the Great Wall, along with the jam-packed crowds, feeling cold and ruing my great luck. But outside of that, the Great Wall is a wonderful place to visit. After trying to unsuccessfully locate a taxi driver who could take me to 2-3 of the Great Wall sections, I ended up booking a day tour to the Great Wall. Hopefully in future I will get to visit the other sections of the Great Wall.