A Travellerspoint blog

China – Beijing

Confucius Say – In age of tourist, forbidden is no longer.

semi-overcast 25 °C

The modern day capital of China has access to many Chinese icons, the Forbidden City, Great Wall and modern stadiums (thanks to the 2008 Olympics).

We started off having to show the taxi driver a map of where our hostel was when we arrived on the early morning train. The problem is that we don’t think Chinese have ever seen maps of their own cities before. On many occasions we have had dumbstruck taxi drivers with their magnifying glasses looking at maps upside down for 10 minutes before trying to drive in the wrong direction. We eventually got someone to write down the closest metro station so the taxi driver could just take us there.

The first site we visited after checking in, was the Temple of Heaven. More a parkland than just a temple, it had some nice quiet areas around the heaving temples.

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So this is what heaven feels like

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We saw some interesting street food on the way back to the hostel, im going to have to psych myself up for some of these

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Our plan for visiting the Great Wall was to avoid the tourist heavy area at Badaling, and instead go a bit further afield to Mutianyu as our initial plan of walking between two points was scuppered by the closure of the wall at Simatai. We looked at the ways of getting out to Mutianyu, but the busses didn’t seem completely straight forward. We didn’t want to end up with another episode like the Jingdi tomb in Xi’an, so we went with booking the hostel’s tour out there. We only booked it because they said that we would have 3 hours on the wall and there were no ‘shopping trips’ on this tour and with breakfast and lunch included, it practically paid for itself.

Out of the hostel at 7:30am we picked up some more people from another couple of sister hostels and then drove the 1.5 hours out to the wall. Emperor Quin, of terracotta fame, was also the one to build the first wall by linking up the established kingdoms defences. Since then it was rebuilt a number of times. The original sections of wall at Mutianyu date back to 1569 but the sections open to the public have been reconstructed over the last 50 years

There is a chairlift that takes you from the carpark to the actual wall, which saves 40 minutes of uphill walking and means spending more time actually walking on the wall. We first headed off to the closest end of the wall where it has the older sections. After some near vertical stairs we got to the over grown sections of the wall with signs for ‘Not for Tourists’. Ignoring the sign like everyone else, we walked along through the trees growing out of the bricks to a destroyed turret house. Definitely a cool feature of this section being able to see the wall in its true state! We were also incredibly lucky that the smog was non-existent today, we could see for miles as the wall snakes its way along the mountains and ridge lines!

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The wilder side of the wall

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Stretching into the distance

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There weren’t too many other people out at this section of the Wall, certainly less than we were expecting. With a couple of hours left to explore, we headed back to the restored wall to walk as far as we could taking in the great clear skies and views of the wall. It really is an imposing sight as it sits so clear on the landscape. It was hot work, and some steep sections to contend with, but all worthwhile.

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A cool little ride back down to the parking lot on the toboggan and then we had some lunch which was included with the tour and turned out to be much better than we were expecting. There were free dumplings (which we also made ourselves) for dinner at the hostel which we shared with our 3 Dutch roommates.

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On the final day in Beijing we started off seeing the massive expanse of space that is Tiananmen Square. One of the biggest squares in the world, it certainly felt like it, considering that we have also stood in Moscow’s famous Red Square. Then we headed over the road into the Forbidden City. This vast array of palaces, temples and halls was the domain of the Emperors from the Ming to Qing dynasties and only they and the necessary workers were allowed in its walls. Whilst it may have been forbidden to enter for the common man back then, now a days it is one of the big drawcards with thousands of people crammed through the gates on a daily basis.

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The Chinese tour group, always with a particular colour hat

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The entrance gates to the city

Whilst we enjoyed walking through the city, and it certainly is impressive when you consider the history to the place, we got a bit of temple overkill after jostling with the crowds to get a look into the various buildings. The gardens towards the back of the city gave us a slight break from the intensity and we were happy enough to exit the north gates and call it a day for the forbidden city.

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A scrum developing to look inside a temple

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We climbed up the hill that is immediately north of the Forbidden City which gives a great view over the grounds, it’s from here that you can really appreciate the scale of the city! We enjoyed a few moments peace and quiet before heading over to the Lama Temple which is one of the largest and most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the world where lots of people were offering their 3 incense sticks with each prayer.

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The final stop in Beijing was a walk around the Olympic park. Having seen the Birds Nest Stadium and swimming cube so many times during the 2008 Olympics, it was good to see it in person! There was also a rehearsal going on for some sort of TV add with drummers which was good to watch for a little while. The Olympic park was really chilled and I enjoyed walking around there more than the forbidden city to be honest.

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We got back to the hostel and had a great Peking Duck at a local restaurant as well as a peculiar sounding dish of sweet potato with toffee, but it was much better than it sounds as you dip the potato covered in hot toffee into some cold water and that solidifies the toffee into a crunchy coating! Dog meat was also on the menu, but we stayed clear of that dish. I had finally psyched myself up to have a scorpion skewer but was so full from the dinner, that i couldn’t bring myself to get it by then!

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FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – We were so lucky to get such clear conditions out at the Great Wall, I think that completed our China experience pretty nicely! Its been a challenge to travel around China, but that has probably made it even more memorable!

Tanya – There is sooo much to do in Beijing, its impossible to fit much into just a few days. But we managed to make it to the main attractions which were all amazing. Great wall has to be the highlight!

Posted by dbgomes 05:14 Archived in China Tagged china round_the_world

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