Date Saturday 28th August 2010
Cities Daegu - Seoul - Hong Kong - Beijing
Language Korean - Cantonese - Mandarin
Currency Korean Won - 850 = NZ$1, Canadian dollar in Hong Kong and Chinese Yuan
Climate airport and plane temperatures all day!
The alarm woke us at 5am! A quick shower and we were out the door to meet our cab to the airport. A day of travel was before us and all went really well. Three flights and two cab rides later we were at the hotel in Beijing. What a huge city! Looking forward to exploring it over the next few days
Date Sunday 29th August 2010
Currency Chinese Yuan 4.79Y = NZ$1.00
Climate low 21c - high 32c
We’re staying at a hotel with a mouthful of a name: ‘Holiday Inn Express Beijing Temple of Heaven’. Its comfortable digs in a great location, with breakfast supplied! We decided to have an old-fashioned walk around town today, starting with a walk up to Tiananmen Square. This was briefly postponed while we stopped and did a bit of shopping on our way there - set of clippers for Shaun to tidy up his
fast-growing facial hair!! After walking through the Qianmen gate and missing out on getting into Chairman Mao’s mausoleum which closes at 12.00 noon, we headed onto the subway heading for the Beijing Zoo to see the Giant Pandas. www.bjzoo.com.nz
We had a great time at China’s largest zoo and absolutely loved the Pandas! These guys were so awesome. Other highlights included the Golden and Spider monkeys, which were cute enough to take home! Our other highlight was taking a return trip on a one way ticket sightseeing boat tour running through the zoo- go figure! At one stage we thought we were heading for the Summer Palace miles away, but the captain skilfully did a 3 point turn during the tour (after sideswiping another sightseeing boat parked up).
We grabbed a cab for the hotel after spending the afternoon at the zoo and got ready to head out to the Tianqiao Acrobatic Theatre (97 Tianqiao Shichang Lu) for their 7.30pm show. This acrobatic theatre was one of the first to open in Beijing. Wow, this acrobatic team of around 27 absolutely blew us away! We have seen a lot of shows involving acrobatics but this far outweighed anything we
have seen before! The audience oohed and aahed its way through the 1½ hour show, with the acrobats contorting, constricting, cavorting, cart wheeling, climbing, clinging, and in short creating an amazing show called “Magical Music Box” which we highly recommend.
Date Monday 30th August 2010
Climate low 21c - high 28c
Today we decided to go and see the Temple of Heaven as it was only a short walk from the hotel. So after a good buffet breakfast we ventured out. The skies were clear and the temperature very warm. We spent most of the morning exploring the grounds and the fascinating buildings at the Temple of Heaven. After that we caught the subway to the Silk Market. A great place to pick up some good bargains. We bought a few things and generally found that we should pay well under 50% of the asking price. In fact Shaun bought a suit for 600Y and the starting price on that was 4500Y! Exhausted and hungry form the bargaining we took the escalator to the top floor where we found an all-inclusive buffet style restaurant for 78Y each - or roughly $15 each.
This included a full hot and cold buffet with dessert. It also included all drinks - even beer, wine, vodka and brandy! Great value for money and we relaxed for a couple of hours - making the most of it and observing the crazy traffic in the streets below. Once we finished at the restaurant we ventured back into the markets - much more informed and ready to do some more bargaining. This is when we did the deal on the suit. With minutes to spare before closing we took the cash from a money machine and headed for the subway. It was closed! The market closed at 9pm and the subway on-site must have had the same closing time. We strolled along the road looking for a bus that may take us in the right direction. After half an hour or so we found a subway that was open - so caught the train to a stop near the hotel, followed by a cab the rest of the route. Cabs here are so cheap. We find that the first 10Y is at the start of the meter and doesn’t change for a good 10minutes or a couple of kms.
After that it creeps steadily upwards - but we typically pay between 12 and 20Y - a mere $3-$5 for a ride across this vast city!
There was a huge thunderstorm during the evening which turned into a really heavy hailstorm - yes hail!
Date Tuesday 31st August 2010
Climate low 24c - high 30c
Today is special. It marks the day - eight years ago when we met! The morning dawned clear and cooler after the thunderstorm the night before. Today we were going to do The Forbidden City but we figured we needed most of the day to explore this, so we checked out Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest public square. We did the obligatory photo in front of Chairman Mao’s picture before heading through the underpass to go stand in the middle of Tiananmen Square. After absorbing the atmosphere we headed off to check out the pedestrian shopping street on Wangfujing Road. The only thing we bought was a heat pad for Jen’s hip from the 10 Yuan shop!
Our next mission was to find Snake (Snack) Street. An hour later and a couple of km’s later we realised that Jen
had spotted it near the beginning of Wangfujing St! Snake Street is about 200 metres long with loads of stalls selling about 200 different sorts of delicacies. We tried ostrich, silk worms, snake, octopus, banana balls and venison with a local beer to wash it down. Most of these were on skewers and were sprinkled with special herbs or chilli, whichever you preferred. So Snake Street ended up being Dinner Street for us. Even though we were very full - the salesman at the "fruit with toffee" stand could not be turned down. So yes, we ate even more! We managed to waddle to the nearest subway for our trip home.
Date Wednesday 1st September 2010
Climate low 21c - high 28c
We had a nice surprise this morning with a Skype chat with Max, so had a quick catch-up on what he’s been up to. Today we had an earlier start for The Forbidden City and started at the Northern Gate instead of dealing with the big crowds at the Southern end. From the North you enter into the inner sanctum where the Emperor and his concubines hung out when they weren’t ‘working’.
Imperial gardens were a haven from the city grind outside the gates, with no noise making it over the high walls. There are supposedly 9,999½ rooms in the Forbidden City but we barely touched the surface as we meandered through the labyrinth of rooms, walls, gardens and plazas. We really enjoyed the Hall for Achestral Worship - where there is the gallery of clocks and the Palace of Tranquil Longevity - the gallery of treasures. There were some awesome clocks that were gifted or made for the Emperor. These things had walking elephants, moving men, singing birds, spinning flowers and bell ringing figures amongst other things. We eventually made our way to the Southern gates and escaped out onto the street. We caught an electric open-air van around to the East gate to make our way back towards Wangfujing St. While we were getting off the van a convoy of police vehicles arrived and a melee erupted! All the street vendors leapt onto their trikes carrying their produce and fled in all directions, dropping their wares as they scattered. Within 30 seconds the street was clear except for the police standing around chatting. Obviously the street vendors weren’t supposed to
be there! We later discovered that a month before China's National Day (1st Oct) they do a bit of a "clean-up" around the city. This would include banning street vendors and them risking losing their assets if caught. So today was the first day of the "clean-up" and the Police were certainly taking it seriously.
We found a great restaurant around 5.30pm right on Snake St behing the stalls and we ordered way too much food as we were starving yet again, having not eaten since breakfast. As is turning into a common occurrence, we rolled out of the restaurant and grabbed a cab for the hotel. Early night tonight as it’s off to The Wall with our driver John tomorrow.
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