We recently took a trip out to Beijing to see the sights and sounds the city had to offer. As it was not a long break, we had to decide what we wanted to do and see, and make a list of priorities. I was content with seeing Tianamen, the Forbidden Palace and the Great Wall (of course)! Coming to China would be incomplete without seeing the Great Wall. Now… onto seeing the other sight that is visible from the moon – the Great Barrier Reef! (one day!)
We arrived in the afternoon and boy what a change it was! It looked overcast and was far colder than the temperate climate we were used to in Yunnan.
The haze was something we were warned about and came prepared with 3M’s 9002V face masks (the ones with little vents). And almost immediately, we had to use them. It was like fog, but there was a distinct smell, like a mix between exhaust fumes and something burnt. Not a super strong odour, but definitely present.
It was actually really nice to experience cold weather. Autumn is my favourite season and it was very pretty.
On the 2nd day, we headed to Mao’s Mausoleum, Tianamen Square and the Forbidden Palace (all walkable distance from each other). It was a day for walking and we were both so sore afterwards. The haze had not lifted so all my photos turned out a little lifeless and grey. A bit depressing. Also, it did drizzle a little here and there.
We didn’t go in…. super crowded and we weren’t that interested at seeing his resting place. Outside was fine.
The following day, we decided to go to the Summer Palace. This was where the Royal families would come to retreat from the main palace. It was absolutely massive (290 ha). We caught the subway there to Bei Gong Men stop on Line 4. Even though this is the back entrance to the Palace area, it is a downhill journey from there to the lake.
One must pause here to dedicate a few words to the subway system in Beijing. One of the best underground railway systems I’ve experienced. Easy to navigate, English signs and easy ticketing system. 2 RMB from any one stop to the other (no matter how far you travel), aside from the Airport Express Line (which costs 25 RMB). Even the automated ticket machines were relatively easy to use. Super convenient and we didn’t get hassled at the airport with taxi drivers. Well done Beijing, well done.
Back to the Palace… It was originally built in 1750 to celebrate Emperor Qian Long’s mother’s birthday. The gardens are so peaceful and the lake (Kunming lake) is huge, taking up about half the garden area. If you visit here, I suggest you get those walking shoes on, because we made the mistake of thinking we could hire bikes inside the palace to ride around (read on Tripadvisor somewhere), but were mislead.
While sitting at this spot, overlooking the lake, I was sketching in my sketchbook. This young boy, probably around 4, came and snuggled next to me (it was cold) and watched me sketch. He told me how he enjoyed drawing, and encouraged me whilst I was drawing. His embarrassed parents kept calling to him to leave, but he stayed for quite awhile. Such a cutie! Made my day for sure.
The following day, we took it a little easier as the day after would be the Great Wall. So we visited San Li Tun village (Soho) and spotted the biggest Uniqlo I’ve seen.
And there were foreigners everywhere. Almost more than locals. To be honest, it wasn’t really our scene. Too modern and ‘high-roller’ for us. I thought when it was ‘village’ that it would be vintage with old buildings, but that was definitely not the case.
The Birds Nest Stadium was actually a bit difficult to get to. Due to the APEC summit in Beijing occurring during the time we were there, many of the main roads were blocked off. We couldn’t physically get to stand infront of the Stadium and Water Cube (Aquatics Center). We even climbed a raised highway area (like around 60 other people) to get the shot below. It was ridiculous.
My favourite and most amazingly blessed day was definitely the Monday we went to the Great Wall. We hired a private driver who was recommended by a friend. We requested we go to the Mutianyu part of the wall. The Badaling wall section is supposedly more crowded, tour bus – ridden and expensive. I’m so glad we went to the Mutianyu section. It was such a great experience.
We went to the right side. And ventured even past the end of this map. It was great. There were hardly any people around. We didn’t arrive super early, around 11am. The walk/climb wasn’t too bad. I was expecting worse. There were some hairy bits where I felt like the wall was in my face as I climbed (almost vertical).
It was lovely just being able to sit at one of the crumbling turrets on the unrestored part of the Great Wall and look out over 3 large sections that split off. It was amazing. I was able to sit there and sketch 3 points of view of the scenery. It was amazing. I loved the rolling, fading, misty hills, the crisp, but sunny weather and the contrast between the restored and ‘nature-reclaimed’ wall sections. We spent a few hours just up there. I sketched, whilst hubby went for a walk on the old section and ended up hiking a fair bit away. Amazing. Definitely a very memorable experience.
Also, we could see little villages settled into the hills on the ‘other side’ of the wall. I kept having the Intro Credits song from Mulan playing in my mind. It was beautiful. I tried to picture how they could have built this mammoth of a structure. Something man-made that can be seen from the Moon. WOW.
All up, this was definitely the highlight of my trip.
With all the heavy packed part of the trip over, we hit the street food that night. This is a street off Wang Fu Jing Da Jie (the main night scene street).
They sold all kinds of other delicacies on skewers – like Huntsmans, water snakes, lizards, starfish, silk work larvae, locusts, grasshoppers, beetles and seahorses. The scorpions in the picture above were 25 RMB a stick. Rip off! But… once in a lifetime for hubby – I hope! FYI, I didn’t eat them!
So all up, I really enjoyed my first taste of Beijing. I think it was a pretty enjoyable trip.
Thanks to hubby for organising the whole thing. I was very impressed by how smooth it went and all of Father’s amazing blessings along the way…. Including the 35 RMB cup of hot tea (tea bag and hot water) at the bottom of the Great Wall. o.O”
Anyway, that’s it. Leave any questions you have in the comments. Next post will be the video I made of our trip.