From Hong Kong to our final destination. China! The main purpose of our visit to Beijing was to visit the Great Wall of China, one of my life TO DOs!
We caught a cab to our hotel from Beijing airport. It took nearly three hours! This weekend was the Chinese May Day holiday and so the streets were jammed! When we arrived at the hotel we sat back and watched some of the Royal Wedding.
Our first day in Beijing. It was quite chilly too! We were used to the hot temperatures of South East Asia and now the cold Siberian wind made it colder than we were used to. It turned out only to be this day though, the rest of the week would be warm and sunny!
We walked for an hour to a bar owned by an Australian called Zef who Mark, the guide on our tour, recommended we spoke to so we could find out where and what to do in the city. He wasn’t around today as he was returning from a wedding in Bangkok. The street the bar was on, although busy with Chinese tourists, was actually very nice with hostels, bars, restaurants, shops and local take away food e.g. Squid Ball things!
It was interesting being in Beijing to say the least. As we were used to being in touristy areas this was completely different. Hardly anyone speaks English and lots of things aren’t written in English so it makes it a bit more difficult doing simple tasks like choosing food from a menu or finding directions to places.
The Chinese seem friendly. As you walk the streets most people stare at you as if they haven’t seen a Westerner before. One funny chinese boy came up to us shouting “I am friendly, I am friendly, I want photo” and promtly positioned his girlfriend in between us and took a photo.
One habit of Chinese culture we haven’t yet come to understand though is the constant honking in the street by both men and women clearing their throats before gobbing a big greeny on the floor. Nice.
Beijing is really laid back, modern and very very big!! As of writing, we’ve walked miles and miles. The metro is awesome though and very cheap…only 20p to go anywhere on the system! The huge wide avenues stretch as far as the eye can see and are flanked by big office blocks, hotels, shops and restaurants.
We visited a beautiful park called BeiHai today. A huge central lake filled with enthusiastic chinese people on pedalos and rowing boats was sorrounded by a nice walkway and a massive temple like structure. We walked all the way around and then walked for miles to our venue for the evening, DaDong Restaurant.
When you come to Beijing you have to eat Peking Duck. Zef had recommended a couple of places and we chose DaDong as it was meant to be one of the best. When we finally found it we got a ticket and waited for about an hour for our table. It looked quite classy and we were in our travelling clothes, oh well!
When we finally got seated we were given a huge catalogue which was the menu. All we wanted was duck though but we weren’t sure even after we’d ordered whether the waitress understood our order. It all turned out well, very well! A chef came our with a whole roasted duck and began carving it before our very eyes. It was beautifully golden and this restaurant was famous for serving lean duck without lots of the fat that duck usually has.
The pankakes and condiments came out just as the chef finished carving our meat. The meal was delicious!!! A great experience!
Today we visited the Temple of Heaven, a park which contains different temples used by the Chinese Emperors of the past for sacrificial purposes. The huge park and different temples were really nice and it was a very relaxing afternoon spent in the warm sunshine.
In the evening we visited Ghost Street, which is literally a street full of restaurants. We ate some really spicy Chinese dishes but they were tasty nonetheless.
A three hour bus ride and we were at the Great Wall of China. We had booked a tour with a youth hostel to a section of the wall recommended to us by Zef and ex tour leader Mark. The tour included two guides, entrance fees and a 7km hike along the Great Wall from Jin Shan Ling to Si Ma Tai.
It was unbeliavable and lived up to my expectations!! The Wall is so amazing. It’s incredible to think that this wall stretches for so many thousands of miles (5,500.3 miles to be exact).
Our tour group was left to walk this challenging stretch at our own pace. We walked up and down the steep then shallow steps passing 22 of the wall’s towers in total. Most of this stretch of the wall is in its original conditions so parts were crumbling away and you had to be careful walking across it.
The views were stunning!! In the distance was the wall snaking its way across the mountain ranges. In any other direction were the green hills and mountains rolling into the distance. It was unforgettable!
We really enjoyed every minute of it. We also met some friendly Kiwis, Richard and Aleisha, who are travelling like us and then finishing in London where they hope to live and find work. They got engaged in Hoi An, Vietnam, so congratulations guys!!
A great day!!
Today we visited one of Beijing’s most popular tourist attractions, The Forbidden City. This gigantic palace was home to many Chinese Emperors and with over 800 buildings and 9000 rooms, it is blinking massive!! We walked from one end to the other passing through loads of courtyards and past beautiful buildings. At the North end we strolled around the Imperial Gardens before returning via the backstreets and courtyards located at the edges of the Forbidden City. We were most imprest by the size of the place but in terms of architecture and the look and feel of the place it was very similar to the many temples and palaces we have visited in South East Asia.
We went out the entrance and a few hundred metres South until we came to Tian’anmen Square, the biggest public square in the world. And very big it is too! This square became famous in the when a load of student protesters ended up fighting against the authorities and many were shot by the police.
In the evening we walked a short walk to Donghuamen Night Market which is a street food market that sells all sorts of typical Chinese snacks like squid, scorpions, shrimp, dumplings etc etc We had some delicious meat bun thing and delicious pork noodle wrap. For desert we had these incredible strawberries on a stick that had been caramelised. They were so juice and amazing!
Remember the Beijing Olympics in 2008? Of course you do. Today we met up with Richard and Aleisha (from the Wall) and visited the Olympic venues. WOW!! The area it covers is ginourmous!! They must have demolished a quarter of the city to make way for this area. It consists of one very very very long strip with a huge green park at one end and a few enourmous stadiums in between.
We first visited the National Aquatic Centre more commonly known as The Water Cube. It’s a beautiful building which looks like a huge cell with its membrane exterior. Inside was a cool water park which looked great fun. Some of the slides weren’t working though so we decided not to go to it. The main 50m pool and diving boards where the Olympic events took place was beautiful!
Next we visited The Nest. The main stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies took place as well as the Atheltics events. From the outside it looks superb with an amazing nest like structure. When we went inside, although impressive, it looked a bit worn mainly due to concert rigging which was being dismantled in the middle of the stadium. Even so it was a great experience to see it.
After that we walked North along the strip passing many parks and experimental architecture which were all eerily quiet (maybe because it was a weekday). This area must have been amazing during the Games with a buzzing atmosphere but most of the facilities don’t get used a lot now except by tourists. I wonder how the locals feel about this area and whether London’s Olympic venue will be effectively utilised after the Games.
Overall though, we were highly impressed by this Olympic venue and it was a great experience to see locations from the Games such as the 100m track where Usain Bolt broke the 100m record and the pool where Micheal Phelpes won all those Gold medals.
In the evening we visited Ghost Street once again for yet another delicious meal in a courtyard restaurant.
Our last day travelling! Sigh!
We had a beautiful sunny day to finish off our incredible 6 months!!
We visited the Summer Palace today, a bit of a way out of central Beijing on the subway. The subways have been great to get around on. They are fast and frequent, clean and airconditioned and best of all they are so cheap as I’ve mentioned.
The Summer Palace is a huge former Royal Garden made up of gardens, temples, lakes and walkways. It was very nice strolling about at a leisurely pace in the sunshine. Like everything else in the city, it is very big and it would have taken all day to walk around the whole of it.
In the evening we had our final meal out. We discovered that there was another DaDong restaurant just yards from our hotel. Cool! So for our last meal we had more of the wonderful Peking Duck that we tried previously in the week. Once again it didn’t disappoint. It was delicious. We also got lots of free dishes that kept coming out including fruit on a bed of dry ice , some simple soup and a sorbet the flavour of which we still don’t know, but it was very nice!
And that’s it. Tomorrow is our last couple of flights back home to England via Russia! Hope to see you all soon! We hope you have enojoyed this blog and look out for our next post coming soon summarising our best bits
Heidi and Christian x x x