5.1.1: Beijing

Day 189: Nanning to Beijing

I got a minibus to the airport this morning to catch a plane to Beijing. I arrived in Beijing at about 13:00 and got the metro to Fuchengmen station, which was close to the hostel. I stayed at the Chinese Box Hostel which was located in the hutong to the north west of the Forbidden City. The hostel is run by two Chinese guys called Joe and Dadong who were very friendly and really helpful throughout my time there. In the early evening I went for a walk past the Forbidden City down to Tiananmen Square. The square is huge as there is very tight security even to get on it with x-ray machines for all baggage. Security is tight all around Beijing with x-ray machines in the metro stations as well.

189.1. First views of the Forbidden City as I walk to Tiananmen Square.

189.2. Communist worker’s statue (L) and the monument to Chairman Mao (R).

On the square I met two Chinese girls from Shandong called Wei and Li. They invited me to go for a drink with them and we went to a place where they had ridiculously expensive tea. I had a beer that was still expensive for China. I still don’t know if they were trying to scam me but in the end I only paid for my beer.

Day 190: Beijing

This morning I took the bus to the Forbidden City and got off near to the north gate. There were some nice gardens and things near the north gate but the most impressive buildings were to the south near to the Tiananmen Square gate. The buildings all had wonderful names like ‘The Hall of Supreme Harmony’ and the ‘Earthly Tranquility Palace’. I also liked the ‘Gate of Divine Military Genius’ and the ‘Palace of Perpetual Happiness’ – which burnt down in the 19th Century. There was a lot to see: the place is huge and there were many little museum style bits as well as all the buildings.

190.1. The gardens near the North Gate of the Forbidden City and a ceiling mural.

190.2. Dragon and Lion statues in the Forbidden City.

190.3. The gates of the Forbidden City.

190.4. Mao presides over the Tiananmen Gates of the Forbidden City.

Once I’d had enough I walked south to the park of the Temple of Heaven. It was quite a long walk; Beijing is a very big city. I didn’t actually go into the temple as it cost extra so I just walked around the park. I then headed back to the hostel and had a big dinner at a nearby restaurant as I’d had no lunch.

190.5. The Palace of the Temple of Heaven.

190.6. The wonderful tourist notice outside the Temple of Heaven.

Day 191: Beijing

I was planning to go and visit the Great Wall this morning but I had a bit of a cold so I rested this morning and later went to the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace is located in the north of Beijing and is quite far from my hostel so I got a bus from nearby and it took an hour and a half to get there. You could really appreciate the vast size of Beijing on this bus trip. The Summer Palace was very beautiful. It has many temples and pavilions around the large Kunming Lake and many more buildings on the hill to the north of the grounds. I walked along a path around the lake which was lined with willow trees and cherry blossoms and crossed a series of bridges with ornate gatehouses. The weather was grey and a bit cold but it gave the park a very serene atmosphere that would have been more so if it weren’t for the hordes of package tours. I completed the circuit of the lake and then explored the hill for a bit before getting a bus back to the hostel.

191.1. Cherry blossom and bridges at the Summer Palace.

191.2. Serene reflections under the willows at the Summer Palace.

191.3. Some of the boats on Kunming Lake.

191.4. Xiaomei likes to drink from the fish bowl at the Chinese Box Hostel.

Day 192: Beijing

This morning I went to visit the Great Wall. There are several sections that you can get to on a day trip from Beijing. I tried to get to a section of the wall called Huanghua, known as the ‘Wild Wall’, which Joey had recommended to me before. I got the metro to Dongzhimen bus station and then got a bus to Huairou. When I arrived in Huairou a taxi driver approached and told me that restoration works were being done at Huanghua and as such you were unable to walk along the wall. He offered to take me to a section called Mutianyu instead and I agreed to go with him for 160 RMB for the return journey. He said he would wait for me at the car park at the bottom while I went up. The Wall was spectacular but obviously heavily restored and there were a fair amount of tourists. The surrounding mountains were very beautiful and the weather was perfect; clear blue sky and very clear so you could see well into the distance. I walked to the end of the stretch that you could go along in one direction and then walked in the other direction before walking back. I was up there for a couple of hours or so.

192.1. Views over the Mutianyu Great Wall.

192.3. … and the spectacular surrounding mountain scenery.

When I came down I met the taxi driver at the car park and he took me to Huairou bus station. In the evening I went for Peking duck at the Quanjude duck restaurant near Tiananmen Square. I didn’t go to the actual restaurant because it looked quite expensive but instead went to the snack bar around the corner where you could get a meal for quite cheap. I got slices of duck with scallions and sauce and pancakes and you can make little wraps.

192.4. Tiananmen Square at dusk and the Tiananmen Quanjude duck restaurant.