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Published: February 25th 2010
Living in Korea for 18 months and not yet visiting any neighbouring countries left me feeling slightly ashamed. The 4-day Chinese or Lunar New Year meant that I had the time to take a short tour of Beijing. I went with a tour bought from a English travel service in Korea: [url=http://www.kangsantravel.com/Kangsan Travel . The tour was fairly expensive for only 3 days but given the time we had available we felt it would be better to be on a tour. We arrived in Beijing at 3pm on Friday Feb 12th and immeadiately went to the "Yashow Clothing Market' this was the first change to the itinary we had been provided with. I was a bit disapointed by this because we wernt expecting to go to the market until the Sunday and we only got to the market at 5pm and had to leave at 6pm for the dinner. It just wasnt enough time to enjoy it. We didnt even make it off the first floor. There were five floors in total, separated by merchandise type. Other people on the tour said it was plenty of time and they were glad it was so short. I know I like to take my
time in places like that. The prices were higher than we anticipated and most things were over 100 Yuan (about $15 USD). The guide we had been assigned to the tour warned us of this and told the group to haggle 50% down. This seemed to be the case and most venders were halving their prices as you walked away. I came out with one fake Ralph Lauren Tshirt for 50 Yuan - not cheap compared to Thailand but better than Korea.
Following the market, we went to the first meal of the trip. The dinner was 'hot-pot'. This gives you a small pot over a stove heater and. You get a selection of meat and vegeatbles on the table to share with all table members. You take items and put them in your pot of boiling water for 30 seconds or so and then eat them. This was an interesting dining experience but overall enjoyable. The table groups were in about 8-10 people and the tour had around 45 of us. This was a nice way to meet other people. The table groupings were subconsciously segregated into '20 something English Teachers' - '40+ older couples (most of whom
were men living in Busan working for nuclear power plants and had they wives with them)' - 'families with children'. The last part of the evening was the Acrobatics show. This was one of my highlights of the trip. We arrived a few minutes late but it was a good show. I feel it was only put on for tourists as we noticed everyone there was in a tour group and all were foreigh. Not like going to a performance elsewhere. Also, the theatre was only 50% full. We headed to the hotel after the show at about 9:30pm. The hotel was the Holiday Inn - Lido Beijing. We all had assigned rooms. The rooms were spacious, twin or double and had everything needed (towels/toiletries etc). We went to the convenience store opposite the hotel to stock up on water for the next day and were amazed at the amount of foreign imported foods that were there!
Saturday was the first full day of the trip and began at 8am on the bus (breakfast optional) but I went to the buffet included in the price and I am SO glad I did. Mainly because it was amazing to eat
western food - Korea learn from China please and provide such foods! The first stop of the day was at the jade factory. This was one of those places that tour operators have some kind of deal and a cut of the profits. The products here were also over-priced and in my opinion not amazing quality. much of it looked like beads you can get at a market anywhere.
The next stop on the list...the highlight of the trip...The Great Wall of China!! It was a fair distance out of the city but it was an amazing sight. It is now split into sections I think for touristic purposes and the section we were taken to allowed us to walk a fair distance uphill. The entire climb was uneven steps and the view got better and better. it was a steep climb with few rest stops along the way. We spent around 2 hrs at the wall and were ready for lunch after we were done!
After lunch we headed to a pearl factory ... yes another factory where things are overpriced and not really part of why you went to a country. The next stop was Summer
Palace. This was a temple with a fair amount of walking. It was all decorated in preparation for the new year celebrations to begin. Following the palace it was dinner time and we made a short, unscheduled stop on the way at the Bird's nest stadium. It was quite strange to see the stadium for real and up close after seeing it on the TV all those times. Dinner was a mongolian feast with lamb kebabs and other dishes. One thing I notices about the food in China was that they served significantly more meat than Koreans do.
The last full day in Beijing began with another buffet breakfast 😊 and an 8:00am departure from the hotel. This was one of the coldest days I'd ever experienced and of course we were going to spend most of it walking outdoors. The first stop of the day was the Temple of Heaven. This was one of those places where you take a picture and then head out. No one in the group wanted to spend long at the places today because it was just so cold. Next stop was Tiananmen Square. This reminded me of Trafalgar Square a lot in
its significance for tourists. I mean, its a square that has some history and tourists go there and take pictures. Again, this was cut short because it was just so cold. After lunch we headed to the Forbidden City which is huge, and took 3 hrs to look around. Now, I would have done it in 30 minutes but in a large group with a tour guide who likes to talk it takes much longer.
The final stop before dinner was to a silk factory. I was expecting another overpriced and unnesscessary stop and I got one, partially. The start of the tour was actually learning about how the silk is made. And we could see the silk cocoons being unwound by a machine and then in the factory there was mainly duvets. Now, who goes on a 3 day trip to Beijing to buy a duvet? Well surprisingly, English speaking folk people from Korea! I think about 50% of people bought a duvet and they were surprisingly cheap ranging from about $40-$80 depending on size and weight. The duvet covers however were more in the $200 range but they were beautiful!
The final meal was a Peking
Duck buffet and then back to the hotel for the last night. The final morning saw one last buffet breakfast at 5am and departure to the airport at 6:00am in time for an 8:45am flight to Seoul.
The trip was good and I'm glad I got to see everything in such a short time. Do I enjoy the tour style of travelling - no. Honestly, it's not or me but on a very restricted time allowance it was the best way to see Beijing.
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