Tag Archives: Beijing

Beijing: Tourist Sites, Nightlife, Shopping!

19 Aug

Original Post: August 7, 2007

Our excursion to the Great Wall took most of the morning and early afternoon, but back in Beijing we had some time to kill before dinner so we decided to take a rickshaw tour (super touristy!) of the Hutong area.  The Hutong is the old area outside of the Forbidden City and it is really run down in parts, but nicely fixed up in others – a bit of an imbalance. There’s a big lake that is surrounded with bars and at night they get all lit up with neon (surprise, surprise) and you can rent little boats and cruise around on the lake. That was super fun, so unlike anything else I’ve done while drinking…  Following the lead of some local teenagers, we loaded up on the cheapest cans of beer known to mankind at a stand just down the road from the boat rentals.  You can get a can for between 15 and 40 cents depending on the brand,  and I assume we got the Schlitz of Chinese beer because we went for 15 cent variety.  We rented our boat and set off, along with dozens of other people.  There were random vendors around the edges of the lake and you could buy fireworks and sparklers from them.  We got 10 boxes of sparklers for $1. We spent about 1 1/2 hours cruising around and watching the madness, and then headed back to shore to check out some of the land-nightlife.   There may have been karaoke, strobe lights, and John dancing on a pole…but I can’t be completely certain.

Of course, Beijing has all the traditional sights as well – The Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Tiannamen Square, Behai Park etc.  We saw all of them, but our favorites were the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven. They were both set in huge parks so you could get away from the heat if you went into the trees. Did I mention it was A MILLION DEGREES?  Really, you think I’m kidding, but I’m not.  The buildings have mostly been redone and look very sparkling new – it’s amazing how much detail some of the places have. Tiannamen Sq. looks exactly like it does in the movies. We tried to go to Mao’s Mausoleum, but it’s closed at the moment, super bummer.  We did however see some sort of military marching drill that was at once fascinating and a little scary.

You can’t take me to a city without taking me to the shopping, and Beijing was no exception.  We spent a whole afternoon at the largest outdoor market I’ve ever seen.  On the evening of our last day we went to go see a Kung Fu show. It was probably one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen – totally made for Western tourists, but super funny all the same. There were some good Kung Fu actions, but the story (about a young monk named Kong Kong who works hard to become a Kung Fu master) was absurd and the acting/dancing/costumes/effect were terrible. I am glad we went as we have some amusing photos, but overall a bit of a waste of $$ despite how much the guidebooks hype it up.

We spent 5 full days inBeijing plus a day at the Great Wall and that seemed like a good amount of time. We encountered a few local English speakers, but for the most part we got by with our minimal phrases, a lot of charades, and loads of smiling.

Beijing: Getting There & The Great Wall

12 Aug

Original Post: August 7, 2007

The Great Wall

Before we left someone told me that a lot of people don’t like Beijing, that it’s ‘too Chinese’ whatever that means.  People said, “It’s big it’s dirty, it’s old, a lot of people don’t speak English.”  Lots of places are old.  Beijing is a huge city, it’s going to be dirty, I mean, have you ever seen a truly clean city? The only clean-ish big cities I’ve ever seen were in Germany and Holland, and I’m sure there were dirty parts I just didn’t notice at the time. As for the not many people speaking English…um… it’s China, why would that be surprising?

After spending a mere 5 days there, I decided that I really liked Beijing as a city.  In fact, it is my favorite huge city in China thus far. Shanghai is fine, but it’s very modern and huge and hard to get around. Shanghai looks a bit like New York. I want to see OLD China reflected in at least some parts of an ancient city, and you do get that in many parts of Beijing. There are of course many modern buildings, especially with the preparations for the Olympics, but it still retains a feel of the old world.

We took an overnight train to Beijing from Shanghai, which I highly recommend.  We splurged and got the fancy sleeper car, still only about $50 per person.  I have always loved to travel by trains and this was no exception.  The car was comfortable and came with an electric tea pot and some nice little slippers.  It was a restful journey and we were totally refreshed upon arrival in Beijing.

We arranged for a driver to come and meet us at the train station in the morning and he drove us right out to the Great Wall.  We went to one of the sections that’s a little further out so it wouldn’t be so crowded. It’s pretty incredible, looks just like you would expect it to. Unfortunately, it was hazy so we couldn’t see for miles and miles like you imagine you will be able to.

A hazy day at the Wall

We hiked along the wall for about 4 hours though, even on some sections that seemed to be totally overgrown and forgotten.  The Wall is set on the tops of the peaks and then dips down with the hills, which means it’s basically a million stairs, and they are steep and uneven.

Big f-ing steps.

They have a marathon you can run on the Wall and it’s apparently one of the most difficult marathons in the world, which is not surprising AT ALL. Perhaps the most amusing part of this little escapade is that since the wall is way up on the mountain you can either hike up to it and then back down, or you can take a chair lift up and an alpine slide back down. We opted for the alpine slide considering the crazy heat. It was definitively cheesy, and I thought for sure there was a huge risk of catapulting off the tracks, but it was very much worth it.

Scary!

Up Next…major tourist sites, nightlife, and shopping!

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