AsiaChinaBeijing

Beijing 2nd and 3rd December 2007

Beijing Travel Blog

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Steph freezing in the Forbidden City

We both agreed that Beijing exceeded our expectations mainly because we'd been so hectic up to this point that we hadn't really had time to form that much of an opinion as to what to expect. We stayed in a great little hostel called the Hutong Inn. Another little gem booked off of Hostel World. Arriving in China was so straight forward, we whisked right through passport control and customs where we had anticipated some delays given the copious amounts of paperwork we had to complete on the plane. Finding the right bus at the airport was really easy and the bus staff were very helpful and appreciative of our pathetic attempts at Chinese. We had to take a tube after the bus which was also really easy and only cost 2 Yuan each thats about 12.

A sign posted in the Forbidden City
5p (Ken Livingstone and TfL please take note). The super friendly staff at the Hutong Inn made us feel really welcome right away and we were very happy to be informed that every guest gets a complimentary beer each night of their stay so that was our evenings lined up. We got chatting to some of the staff over our first beer and it was very interesting to get the perspective of locals on a whole range of topics. We ended up ordering food which was incredibly cheap and really tasty too which was to become the pattern for subsequent nights.

The one complaint about Beijing was the cold for which we are largely unprepared as its really the only cold place we are visiting. We ventured out on our first morning practically wearing all the clothes we've brought with us which is a really flattering look and might have accounted for some of the stares we were getting.

Entrance to the Forbidden City
Even with all that we were both freezing cold! Our first day itinerary was mostly outside which didn't help matters.

First stop was Jingshan Park which we decided to walk to from the Hostel, about 2km away. The park was great lots of locals going through their morning rituals excercising, stretching and doing a range of activities from Tennis to Tai Chi and a large group of women in the 60+ bracket doing aerobics to a blaring Aqua soundtrack (Boom Boom Boom I wanna get you in my room!!!!) The park has a large man made hill which is apparantly the earth that was dug to form the moat surrounding the Forbidden City which has a temple and other buildings at the top which gives great views of Beijing. If the photo's are a bit blurred it's because we were shivering as the wind was whipping right through us.

Temple of Heaven

Next on to the Forbidden City where we passed up the offers of guides and made our own way through, unfortunately it seems that as we many places we were to find that the authorities in Beijing are obviously undertaking a great deal of work in preparation for the olympics and many of the buildings in the palace were under renovation. It didn't detract from the awesome magnificence of the place but it was a shame as some of the best photo ops were affected. You could easily while away three or four hours there subject to the weather but the crowds were bad enough in the cold we dare not think what it must be like in the summer.

Beijing is served by a mass of modern buses which seem to run every few minutes only problem is that it's impossible to get hold of a route map and the stops are only in Chinese so using them as an ignorant tourist is pretty daunting unless you like the randomness of getting lost.

Adam standing on the centre stone at the Temple of Heaven
We navigated them fairly successfully by asking locals at the stops and pointing to our destinations on maps but they really need to sort it out for next year. As they do with the tourist information centres which are only interested in booking tours, when we asked for a bus map we were told to ask at a newstand!! Very helpful.

So still on foot and by this time having walked about 7km we came into Tiananmen Square. Given the history, which is a taboo subject here, the security presence in the square was overwhelming. There was a uniform guard of one service or another every 20 or 30 feet, probably several plain clothes officers there too. The square is vast and we strolled around for a bit then headed off in the hunt for a veggie restaurant which after much hunting we discovered had been demolished as part of the spruce up.

Luckily the search had taken us near to the Wan Shang acrobatics theatre so we decided to check it and booked tickets for the early evening performance. In the meantime we were only about a mile away from the Temple of Heaven park so off we trotted and caught that just as the sun was setting. It was lovely. By this time the cold was really beginning to bite so by the time we got back to the theatre we were more than ready for some warmth as well as a nice sit down. The Beijing Acrobatics troup is basically composed of children from about 10 years old up to maybe 20 or so. We were actually the only westerners at the show as most people book through their hotels and tend to come to later shows or different theatres. We got special treatment and were escorted to the very front row even though we paid the cheapest seat price. The feats they performed were outstanding and really have to be seen to be believed, the things they do with their bodies and the strength they exhibit is mind blowing. During an interval we both felt a bit torn as to whether the training they must have to undergo amounts to child abuse. In the end we applied the 'wrong to judge by our social norms' rule and enjoyed the performance a great deal.

We've been wearing a pedometer throughout the trip just to see how far we walk and by the time we returned to the hostel in the evening we had walked a crazy total of 30km!!!  Beer please! 

LeighTravelClub says:
Wonderful blog.
Posted on: Dec 20, 2007
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Steph freezing in the Forbidden Ci…
Steph freezing in the Forbidden C…
A sign posted in the Forbidden City
A sign posted in the Forbidden City
Entrance to the Forbidden City
Entrance to the Forbidden City
Temple of Heaven
Temple of Heaven
Adam standing on the centre stone …
Adam standing on the centre stone…
Beijing
photo by: Deats