The last of the four ancient great capitals of China and home to Seven UNESCO world heritage site - Beijing is a perfect blend of the culturally rich and urbanized city.
Beijing was our gateway to china, the first stop from where we started our backpacking journey. We had a flight in the evening from Manila which we were on the verge of missing for standing in the wrong queue and were the last people to board the Flight. We reached Beijing at midnight and thankfully Our friend Ayesha, Gince and Little Adam were waiting for us. After a good night sleep ,the next morning Ayesha helped us to get a Sim card and install VPN so that we don’t get lost and she took an extra step of explaining to the taxi driver to drop us at the forbidden city.
We got off near NCPA (National Centre for The Performing Arts), NCPA which is an art/opera house, beautifully constructed in to a shape of Half – Egg and encircled by a lake. One thing I wanted to highlight and appreciate about the Chinese is that, they don’t take tips or extra money. It can be a taxi or a Motor Pedi Cab. They will always charge you exactly what is there in the meter not even 0.10 yuan also called Jiao.Not so curious to visit NCPA, we took few photographs and walked to Tiananmen square which was hardly a 500 meter walk from NCPA. While traveling in China, I would suggest you guys to start early morning as majority of the places operate between 9:00 am -5:00 pm.We being late missed the Flag Hosting ceremony at the Tiananmen square.
Tiananmen square is a huge city square with beautiful gardens, a tall monument called monument of the people heroes, The National Museum of China and The Mao Museum, who was the founding father of Modern China.
After spending sometime in Tiananmen square,we took the underground passage and reached in front of the Gate of heavenly peace, the entrance of the forbidden city and here we were ready to explore the city, which was banned for the common folks for about 500 years. It is the largest old palace in the world and now serves as a museum. The name of the gates and the halls like The Gate of Heavenly Peace, The Imperial Palace, The Gate of Divine Might, The Gate of Supreme Harmony,The Palace of Heavenly Purity definitely matches the way everything is created inside beautiful, huge and marvelous.
As we crossed the threshold of the gate of Heavenly Peace/Tiananmen Tower there was a whole new world waiting for us to Explore. Happy and Excited we bought our tickets from the ticket booth and started walking and exploring foyers consists of old artifacts, old Chinese ceramics like pots, bowls and plates, thrones and the praying places of the king.
All the foyers are converted in to a museum which has one or the other thing to offer. We kept on hopping from one foyer to another,there is a very attractive garden called Imperial Garden which they claim to have trees which are hundreds of years old, we came through the gate of Divine Might to see the next attraction which was Jingshan Park.
It is a public park which was used by the kings for their private gatherings. It consists of a man made hill or peak which was constructed by the old kings to keep the evil spirits away from the Forbidden City. After our long walk in the forbidden city, there was a Fresh glance of small concrete water bodies with lotus flowers in it. There were beautiful bonsai plants around and we started climbing stairs to reach the peak of the Jiangshan park with a refreshed mind. Exhausted by the steep climbed we took some rest and relished the home cooked south indian specialty Dosa with Curry and Pickle made by our friend Ayesha as she was worried, I being a vegetarian won't be able to find something to eat on our first day.
After climbing the staircase, we reached the higher pergola which has a Buddhist temple and from where you can have a bird eye view of forbidden city. I was mesmerized by the view and couldn’t take my eyes off for a very long time. we had some ice creams while coming back.
We got a call from Ayesha to meet up at Hou-Hai Lake . Hou–hai Lake is another jewel of Beijing, it is a man-made lake with a beautiful lane of bars with live music, street food and old alleys. We perambulated the whole lane, and all I was thinking, if I can find something from the street food to eat,while waiting for Ayesha and the family. When they arrived, we headed to a restaurant to perceive the Chinese tea ceremony - where the host will come with a wooden tray, the tea pot and the ceramic cups. She will pass around the tea leaves to examine the quality and aroma of tea which she is going to serve. The lady explained the whole ceremony in Chinese and Gince translated it for us. It was quiet an interesting thing to see, as we Indians are also tea lovers, but it something different than the way we serve the Tea. We had a good vegetarian pizza and refreshing orange juice for the dinner and we headed back home. The first day of our adventure has come to an end and I was thinking there, lying on my bed dreaming about the next day what will be in store for us.
As we wanted to miss the multitudes of tourist thronging summer palace, so next day we started early. We took a taxi which dropped us to the summer palace. Summer Palace was the royal palace garden for the king and his family where they used have their gatherings. It was more of a relaxing place. Where they feel one with the nature.
Summer palace is a beautiful combination of a
manmade lake called Kunming Lake,Longevity Hill and the lush green beautiful gardens, It’s a treat to your eyes if you are a nature lover.
You can spend your whole day here relaxing and watching the beautiful willow trees which cover most of the garden areas. Locals come here to spend time with the family on weekends. Again a great deal of walking, we were tired and had a coffee in one of the cafes which was facing the beautiful Kunming lake.We missed the Longevity hill as it was overcrowded and was about to close in sometime.
So after visiting the beautiful summer palace, our next destination was Beijing Olympic stadium also known as the Bird’s Nest. It was constructed for 2008 Summer Olympics and now stands as a memorial structure.It’s a great place to hang out in the evening to watch the bird’s nest, water bubble and some english movie characters. It was already late night, so we headed back home and Ayesha served us some delicious Malayali Delicacies. Another beautiful day have come to end and we were eagerly waiting for the next day as we were about to explore one of the seven wonders of the world.
The Great Wall of China
We started our 3rd day by buying tickets for the bullet train to Xian, for the next day. We got in to a bus which took us to the main bus terminal for the Great Wall Of China. Unfortunately, we got down at the wrong bus stop and don’t know what to do, we starting asking the pedestrians for the route, fortunately I was carrying a Pen and a note pad (as normal Chinese don’t speak English). She draw the route for us from where we can catch the bus again to reach the last stop to take the mini - van. We visited the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall,as it has the maximum watch towers, well maintained and less crowded than the other parts.
We bought our tickets for the shuttle bus, the cable car, and the toboggan ride. Not able to understand Chinese. We just saw the sign of the bus on the ticket and started looking for the Shuttle bus stop. We started following the direction of the crowd as they were some restaurants in between, we missed the bus station and we moved ahead. After walking for about half an hour we sat at a divider after seeing no sign of a cable car station. We even asked the open mini truck of the construction workers to give us a lift for some money. They just laughed at us and left. When we saw the shuttle buses passing by, we waved the hands but they didn’t stop. Finally, we got the idea of showing them the tickets while waving my hand and finally a bus stopped and we had a sigh of relief. We reached the cable car station and finally the great wall.
The mutianyu section of the great wall is a long stretch of 2250 meters and 22 watch towers. I was in awe to see another beautiful creation of mankind and one of the seven wonders of the world. It was a hot sunny day so we spent some time inside a watch tower as it was breezy and cool inside. We relished some banana and peaches while exploring this Gigantic huge structure. It was the time to go back and ahh the adventurous Toboggan Ride. I loved every second of it,as for the first time in my life I was riding something on my own. It took us only 5 minutes to come down all the way from that huge mountain.
Dongcheng Qu street and Donghuamen Market
It was Ria’s turn to taste the world famous peking duck of Beijing. So we went to Dongcheng Qu street, Ayesha and the family joined us there. Ayesha took us to one of the famous peking duck restaurants. I tired few pancakes and stir fried French beans.
It was our turn to go wild and we went to the famous Donghuamen Market, where you can consume any type of bugs/insects you can imagine from scorpions, crickets, beetles to bats and snakes even starfish. I think this type of market only exists in China where eating goes beyond your imagination.With these, three days of our Beijing adventure came to an end. Next day were heading to our second stop which was Xian.
Indian Alert :-
Beijing being the capital has more Indian restaurants and its local variety of cuisine will cater to Vegetarian and Indian tastes alike .You check my China Blog for further details.
How to get to Beijing :-
There are some budget airlines for Beijing from all over the world like China airlines and Cebu pacific.
If you are traveling from major Chinese cities like Shanghai, Xian and Guangzhou you can take the bullet train. Rest all cities are well connected by train .
So conserve all your energy and pack your bag for the whirlwind tour of the all the historical places in Beijing .