3 Sep 2011
Our locomotive limped into Beijing West Railway Station at 8:30 in the morning after completing the 13 hour overnight journey from Xian…probably the most draining experience so far, mainly because the big fella in the bunk opposite me snored louder than any of the intermittent noises coming from the actual train. To say it was a joke is an understatement because I am sure if there was an Olympics this dude would be taking home the gold medal every time!
Checked into the Lama Temple Hostel, which was amazingly conveniently located next to the Beixinqaio Metro station on Line 4. An incredibly central location and it should be mentioned “well done to Fudgie” for this find! I have been booking all the other hostels, but Deborah managed to reserve this little beauty! Well done :)
Because we had almost no sleep we decided to take it easy and recharge the batteries, so inevitably we ended up doing not much for the rest of the day!
4 Sep 2011
The next morning we caught the unbelievably cheap metro (2 Yuan anywhere on the metro map, so basically you can travel up to 45 minutes away for just under 20 pence) to a stop near the Beijing South Railway Station. After purchasing our “Shanghai high speed train tickets” (travels up to 310 km/hour and makes the circa 1,500km trip in around 5 hours) we spent the rest of the morning at a park. What is amazing is how clean and well maintained the parks are considering how many people use them. Even the streets are remarkably clean!
By midday we had made our way to the “Temple of Heaven” which is located just south of Tiananmen Square. The Temple of Heaven is the place where the Ming and Qing Dynasties worshipped during the annual ceremonies for the prayers to Heaven for good harvest. Most of the structures were constructed during the early 1400s. There are many Taoist temples throughout the grounds and definitely well worth a visit for at least 2 plus hours. You could spend half a day walking around the grounds and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere!
Later on in the afternoon we visited Tiananmen Square, which is a vast area next to one of the entrance gates to The Forbidden City. There are many tributes, including several statues, to the Heroes of the Country. There are many Chinese tourists who visit this area.
5 Sep 2011
The next day we rose early and headed to The Forbidden City, which was the imperial palace for 24 Emperors during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It was first built throughout 14 years during the reign of Emperor Chengzu in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It was forbidden to enter without special permission of the Emperor, hence its name 'Forbidden City’. It is the world's largest palace complex and covers 74 hectares. This was a truly amazing place and was definitely well worth the visit!
That afternoon we caught the Metro about 15 stops (about 30 minutes) to the Summer Palace which was second last stop on the green line – all that distance for a mere 2 Yuan (about US 30 cents). We didn’t really know much about the Summer Palace apart from the fact it was on the top 10 things to do in Beijing…Basically, with no expectations, we were absolutely blown away by the most beautiful expanse of gardens, lakes, temples and structures that date back hundreds of years. Covering nearly 3 square kilometers this place is so well maintained, not only the grounds but all the buildings (except for one) are in such great condition considering their age. It gave us the feeling that we were really not giving it our full attention and appreciation by only being able to visit for less than 3 hours that afternoon. We really should have dedicated an entire day to this little wonder of Beijing!
Around 6pm we rushed off to meet our date for the night. Our friend Bobby Minty in Jersey put us in touch with one of his colleagues in Beijing and we were off to meet Luna at one of Beijing’s most impressive Peking Duck (a must in old Peking) dining houses called Dadong. Again the Chinese really do know how to eat – plates were coming out left, right and centre and they were just devouring them with complete ease! Astonishing! It must be said this was one of the best meals we had in all of China.
6 Sep 2011
THE GREAT WALL of China…..
The day had arrived for our walk of The Great Wall of China…it indeed arrived early, in fact 6:30am to be precise! We were collected by the tour guide and whisked into our waiting van for the 3 hour journey to the Jingshangling to Simatai section of the wall (one of the most demanding sections we have been told!). Soon after taking off we were passed two brown bags, which contained the “included breakfast” on the tour! The ham McMuffin and quality-filtered coffee from McDonalds for breakfast certainly hit the spot for me, but I was certain that this diet would not meet Deborah’s satisfaction. This was confirmed but nevertheless breakfast was consumed by both of us.
We reached the Jingshangling section at 10:30am and after a few pointers from our guide, we headed off in the direction of the wall. Whilst many took the chairlift up to the main starting point of the wall, we decided along with our new friends from the UK (we met Beth and Shane on the bus journey to the wall) that we would walk to the top of the wall, which took about 20 minutes in the end. After reaching the wall proper, we then walked for about 4 hours on some of the most demanding sections of the wall. The up and down (and when I say up and down it was almost vertigo on some sections) was more than well worth it as the landscape is out of this world and probably the most humbling thoughts are how did man manage to build this masterpiece in such undulating terrain?
Walking The Great Wall of China was definitely THE HIGHLIGHT of our time so far in China!
7 Sep 2011
As we were leaving later in the afternoon we decided we would get up in the morning and head out to the Beijing Olympic Stadium – The Bird’s Nest!
The Olympic complex was indeed massive as expected, but apart from the Bird’s Nest and Aquatic Centre, it was relatively run down which was surprising considering the Olympics were only 3 years ago. Nevertheless the Bird’s Nest was a masterpiece of a structure and no doubt probably one of the most unique Olympic Stadiums of all time. We took the mandatory photos of the stadium including the 100m-start line and track. Great experience and really happy that we made it to the stadium.
So it is 4pm now and we are on the high-speed train from Beijing to Shanghai – 1,500km trip to be completed in just under 5 hours! It was quite an exhilarating experience sitting on 310km/hr for most of the journey!