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Chilled to the bones

Beijing Travel Blog

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Another hilarious sign! People would have thought I was a crazy lady laughing to myself while I was on the loo!
It's now Thursday night and definitely time for an update on what I've been up to.
On Sunday we had a great yum cha at a restaurant called Paradise Gardens in Jinmao Tower where Michelle's Mum Belle works for IBM. I'm pretty sure its the tallest building in China and you can see it from everywhere in Shanghai. We lunched with some of Belle's work colleagues and though the conversation was mostly in Chinese I didn't have too much trouble understanding the jist of it - I guess Zhang Laoshi's 3 years of tutelage were worth it!
At 7:14pm Mich and I caught the express train to Beijing. It was sooo luxurious. We got free food (including cakes, fruit, and a hot dish) and we would have gone for a lower class except we wouldn't have got a ticket with Chinese New Year/Spring Festival being so close.
The entrance to the Forbidden City, Beijing, with Mao's imposing portrait.
I couldn't sleep at all on the train due to the IMMENSE heat...it was about 30 degrees at least in there and in the morning I was so dried out I could barely talk! We arrived in Beijing around 7am and walked about 2km to a hostel that had been recommended in the Lonely Planet, the Saga International Youth Hostel. After walking all that way we discovered it was undergoing extensive renovations, but booked in anyway. We were to be confronted with toxic fumes, wet paint and sporadic water shut-offs throughout our short stay...
After settling in we caught the subway to Tian'anmen Square which was absolutely huge with a big portrait of Mao presiding over it all on the Gate of Heavenly Peace. A little girl wanted her photo taken with me in front of it which was quite cute.
Unfurling the Chinese flad within the Forbidden City
We entered the gate and walked through to the Forbidden City, where we purchased entrance tickets and English audio guides (commentated by none other than Roger Moore - 007 - himself!). Inside the Forbidden City I was the coldest I've ever been in my life. It even snowed a little (but not quite enough to be completely exciting!). The cold literally seeped into your bones and my talk was all slurred cos I couldn't move my jaw properly! The cold made it hard to properly appreciate the place but there were some very interesting things such as a carved ramp made of one piece of marble weighing over 200 tonnes that took 20,000 men 28 days to get to the City from the outer suburbs of Beijing. This they did by having wells regularly built along the route, and they would draw up loads of water and throw it across the street to make an icy path that they could then just slide the marble along - very clever!
The next morning we happily booked into the Beijing City Centre Youth Hostel, right opposite the main train station.
El cheapo Donghuamen Night Market, Y5 noodles!
This is the biggest and one of the best hostels I've ever seen. It's also affiliated with Intrepid's Roam China trip which I thought was quite funny, as I said to Arne (one of the Dutch guys I travelled with) in an email, Intrepid really has taken over the world! Within the hostel is a restaurant, 2 different internet cafes, a bar, 2 pool tables, a reading room, a luggage room, a TV/video/DVD room with 3 nightly screenings, a Chinese art gallery where you can try different types of Chinese tea for free, a tourist booking centre, free washer/dryer, and a huge kitchen! It's so cool. Once you're in for the night there's really no need to leave again, especially since it's so cold outside! All for less than AUD$10/night, cheap in Beijing.
During the day on Tuesday we went to the Summer Palace, outside Beijing.
Mich and I's Beijing Duck experience. Delicious!
This has been my favourite place in China so far, it was just amazing. We stayed about 5hrs but could have easily stayed more, and only left cos it was closing time. It covers 290 hectares, over 220 hectares of which is the enormous Kunming Lake, which was ENTIRELY frozen! I have never seen such a sight in my life, I was in awe over the expanse of it. It was simply immense. Mich and I went walking on at, as a lot of people were doing, and it was a surreal feeling. I really felt like I was in Europe. The Summer Palace was used mainly during the Qing Dynasty of 1644 - 1911 as a place for the emperor and empress to rest and have political activities. It was reduced to ashes during the second opium war by the Anglo-French Allied Forces in 1860 but has been magnificently restored.
The Great Wall, Badaling, outside Beijing, China
In one of the 6 galleries there they had an eared bronze water platter engraved with a dragon and a phoenix in the centre with 18 fishes swimming in a circle, that was from the Western Zhou dynasty - 11th century to 771BC!!! Times like that are simply incomprehensible to me, even amongst such an ancient culture. There was also a 36m long marble boat built in 1750 (don't ask me how it floats in summer!) and a 750m long corridor, the longest in the world, each metre of which had a different intricate painting on the roof.
That night we had the infamous Beijing kaoya, or Peking duck, at a restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet. Boy was it good. The service was crappy but we saw the duck being cut up right in front of us.
On Wednesday Mich and I decided to head out of Beijing for the day to a city called Tianjin, south-east of Beijing. When we arrived we headed across the frozen river (where people had cut holes and were fishing in - I felt like I was amongst the eskimos then, especially with the people wearing these crazy furry hats!) to see the Treaty Port Architecture of one of the main streets. It was okay but not overly interesting. We then headed to Keissling's Bakery for some 'lunch'. Mr Keissling was the former chef for the German Emperor William II and established the bakery in 1918...and let me tell you it was still just as yummy as back then...Mich and I each felt we had to sample about four different cakes...(visualise expanding waistline...!). Afterwards we headed to the Ancient Culture St where we visited Tianjin Tianhou Palace, a temple to Tianhou, the goddess of the sea. For dinner we stuffed ourselves full with the hostel buffet for Y39.
The next day, Thursday, I headed out to Badaling (a section of the Great Wall) and the Ming Tombs while Mich went to visit her uncle. Her Mum wouldn't let her go to the Ming Tombs as last time when she went (aged 9) her grandma fell over and broke her leg and ended up in hospital, and Mich has been blamed for it ever since, as Chinese people believe it is bad luck to visit the tombs (rather like the bad luck that befell the people who opened Tutankhamen's tomb in Egypt I suppose). I went with a young Colombian couple, a Canadian couple, a girl and 2 guys from Hong Kong, 2 guys from Korea, a guy from Holland, a girl and a guy from Sydney, and a guy from England from various HI hostels around Beijing. Surprise surprise our first stop was a jade factory...needless to say I didn't buy anything. After that we had a brief look at the Ming Tombs (needed longer to appreciate the place and explore, I personally found it not that impressive) where 13 of the 16 Ming emperors are buried - the place has the best Feng Shui in the whole of Beijing - then we had a yummy lunch at a restaurant nearby. After that, surprise surprise again, we headed to a hospital (!) where we were taken into a waiting room to wait our turn to see a doctor who would diagnose our ailments by looking at our tongue and checking the pulse on each wrist....hmm. Well, I was the only one who was healthy (meanwhile the only one with a hacking cough I guess they didn't pick up!) whereas all the others had various 'diseases' such as 'heat in the liver' diagnosed and were told to buy a box of Chinese herbal medicine for Y400. Needless to say no-one did and finally we headed to the Great Wall. This was really really fantastic and even in photos you can't appreciate the majesty of the place. While up on the Wall I met two Melbourne guys, one of whom I recognised from a pub on Brunswick St where he works...what a small world hey...Had dinner with one of the Sydneysiders then met up with Mich again.
Tomorrow we're going to try to head to Huanghua, or the 'Wild Wall' as it is commonly known, the only completely non-restored (and therefore not too touristy) section open to the public. That is, if we can get there. More on that later! Hope you are all well and are surviving the Melbourne heat - I can't wait to hit the beach when I get home - not long now!
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Another hilarious sign! People wou…
Another hilarious sign! People wo…
The entrance to the Forbidden City…
The entrance to the Forbidden Cit…
Unfurling the Chinese flad within …
Unfurling the Chinese flad within…
El cheapo Donghuamen Night Market,…
El cheapo Donghuamen Night Market…
Mich and Is Beijing Duck experien…
Mich and I's Beijing Duck experie…
The Great Wall, Badaling, outside …
The Great Wall, Badaling, outside…
Beijing
photo by: Deats