Blogs from Beijing, China, Asia - page 12


Asia » China » Beijing August 3rd 2013

Hello from Beijing! The trip here was 23 hours door to door. All pretty painless, especially for Sand and Carys who got upgrades to business! They enjoyed champagne and smoked salmon while Ben and I battled for bread and water. The good news is that they owe us now and we look forward to payback. First impressions on Saturday afternoon of Beijing are good but honestly we could be in any western city. we were met by the very friendly and talkative Chen Dan Hong aka Alice who did a great job selling us on a trip to The Great Wall. So that's where we are heading today, Sunday. Opening curtains this morning revealed a nasty haze across the city. Last night the air was very clear. Apparently the factories were very busy last night. Yuk! ... read more

Asia » China » Beijing » Dongcheng July 23rd 2013

This morning I awoke at 7am without an alarm. This must be a sign, I never get up before 10 without serious coaxing. This was possibly what gave me the confidence and courage to go forth (well back really) and find the gate into the Lama temple. With the guidance of a Chinese tour guide I did just that. It was swamped with tourists and locals (I'm assuming) waiting for it to open. There was even one guy who appeared to be sleeping in his car ready to drive through the gate. At 9am sharp the gates open and people start running to the ticket line. Yes actually running. I wasn't quite sure what to do, do I run? is that really necessary? I decided briskly walking would suffice. I wait about 3 minutes to get ... read more
Lama Temple
one of a bazillion bicycles

Asia » China » Beijing » Lama Temple July 22nd 2013

Day one of Beijing began like day one of many of my city escapes, a disorganised wander through parts of the city where I'm not quite sure where I am or what I am observing. I started at the Qianmen markets where I bought an iced green tea imagining that would become invigorated and refreshed. Iced green tea is just cold green tea (duh) and therefore it tastes like piss (or at least similar to how I imagine piss would taste). Nevertheless it did still manage to invigorate a nearby pot plant. The rest of the market was just like any other tourist 'market' times a thousand. Asians love to shop and it seems they just can't get enough of cheap tacky mass produced 'souvenirs'. I did manage to find a place that sold hand made ... read more

Asia » China » Beijing July 18th 2013

We had a bit of a sleep in, so went down to breakfast about 0930. Beautiful clear blue sky today. Hot chocolates and pastries for breakfast. Set off to walk to Tianamenn square. We walked down the little alleys to the main shopping street and window shopped along the way. It was very hot so we bought some icy cold orange juices and an apple fanta. Lots of hawkers along the road to the square. We stopped and bought some umbrella hats for the girls before crossing under the road, going through security, and coming up into the square. Emily, Erin and Jemima were the stars of the day with multiple requests from Chinese people to have their photos taken, it was cute, they were so excited! The square is huge but it's history is quite ... read more
Scholar tree in garden of the workers
Hotel 161 our hotel in Beijing
Fried cucumber - delicious

Asia » China » Beijing July 18th 2013

I have traveled on the Beijing Subway every day since I arrived in the city. From a technical point of view, it's brilliant: 20p per journey wherever you go, air conditioning, clear English signage, smooth travel and no delays. Most of the network was built in the last 15 years and, as one Beijinger put it to me, "We learned from other cities' mistakes". The people element, though, is harder for a Westerner to contend with. There is little concept of queuing in China and this is very evident when getting on a Subway train: no one waits for anyone to get off or for the people waiting in front of them to move, so boarding a train is like being in a scrum. Everyone gets stuck in the middle, pushing against those moving in the ... read more


Asia » China » Beijing July 18th 2013

The 798 District is a small area of suburban Beijing with a high concentration of art galleries (in fact, practically every shopfront within a square mile or so is a gallery or trendy cafe serving wraps and ciabattas). A taxi journey is required to get there as it isn't on a Subway line and this seems to put a lot of tourists off - it was much quieter than other parts of Beijing, and because you can pop in and out of most galleries for free and the streets are relatively leafy and shaded, it has a much cooler, more laid-back vibe (no requests for photographs here). It felt like being in another city altogether. The majority of the art on show was by Chinese artists and generally edgy and of high quality, priced in the ... read more
Inside an industrial-style studio
Street pipework

Asia » China » Beijing July 18th 2013

For the next week I will be travelling with an organised tour. Aside from not having to plan anything and staying in hotel rooms rather than dorms, the main advantage is the guide, who has been telling us strange (quite possibly apocryphal) stories about China. Today he told us that Chairman Mao's body, supposedly carefully preserved in his mausoleum, was shot at in the 1980s by an anti-Communist forces and badly damaged, in fact according to him the legs were pretty much severed and now poor Mao is much shorter than he was in life. There is no doubt our guide believed what he was saying, but members of our tour were more sceptical, suggesting this is a convenient way to explain why Mao's corpse doesn't match his famed stature (googling turned up this: read more

Asia » China » Beijing July 18th 2013

Until I joined the tour, meals in China were not entirely successful. Most restaurants in Beijing have picture menus for tourists, but ordering the requisite selection of dishes just from photographs resulted in incongruous combinations (most notably when I ordered noodle soup and what I thought was some kind of bread as a side but turned out to be a cake-sized sugared doughnut). The variety of ordering systems in Beijing were an experience in themselves - sometimes you order from a waitress as in a Western restaurant, but many places have a tickbox menu where you are given a sheet listing all the foods and a pencil, and you mark which ones you want, how many, and sometimes how spicy, on a scale of 1-5 or so (around 2 was always my tolerance limit). In canteen-style ... read more
The table grill
Toast Beijing-style
Daytime street food

Asia » China » Beijing » Mutianyu July 18th 2013

Part of the tour involves visiting the Great Wall, but this time Mutianyu, a completely different part of the Wall from the part I went to the first time. Mutianyu is much more touristy. On the plus side, this meant it was a much easier day - there is a cable car up to the wall and even a toboggan down for the more daring (just like the Great Orme!). The stretch of wall at Mutianyu also lends itself to a half-day visit: it is fairly easy-going for most of the walk, then at the end there is a massive climb up with a huge sense of achievement when you reach the summit (and a couple of enterprising salespeople, selling medals and bottles of Champagne, to help everyone celebrate making it up there, plus a photo ... read more
The new, rebuilt wall

Asia » China » Beijing July 16th 2013

We had decided to do the walk from Jinshaling to Simitai, a walk of around 6km, which sounded manageable but turned out to be very gruelling in the heat. The distance walked along the wall can be measured in numbers of towers as well as kilometres - this was how we were supposed to find the end of our walk, at tower 22. Once fatigue set in we began using the towers as targets - just get to the next tower, and then we can rest (the towers being shaded and cool). Some of the paths between towers are fairly flat, but as most were logically built on the peaks of hills, between many there was a steep drop and a climb up again, usually up seemingly-endless steps. As we got further along the route the ... read more
Great Wall views
Great Wall views
Sample uphill climb

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