Edit Blog Post
Published: March 7th 2011
I'm happy to say that Amy and I were joined on the first leg of our travels by my parents, who took the long flight from England to join us in Beijing. Having not seen them for a year, it was great to spend time with them again and also to have a few familiar faces to embark upon our adventure with.
Our travels began in a city steeped in ancient history, flowing back to the creation of China itself. Whilst not always existing as the capital city of China, Beijing has always maintained its importance in Chinese culture. Dating back to 1,000 BC, there have been city dwellings around the Beijing area; however it was only in the 15th Century that the city was identified as the capital city of China. During ensuing centuries, this capital status was somewhat influx until in 1949 Mao Zedong, the ‘revolutionary’ communist leader recognised the importance of Beijing by restoring the name of the city (it had been called Beiping since 1928 under war lord rulership) and identifying it as, once again, the capital city of the People’s Republic of China.
Beijing in its enormity and dilapidation holds a charm which, in
our experience of Asian cities is sometimes lost. Despite Chairman Mao’s attempts to obliterate many of the ancient relics of Beijing, given his distain of the Emperor rulers and the effect of their rule on the people of China, the city in many areas is crumbling but in my opinion, this only adds to the character of Beijing. It is a city which blends together the traditional with the modern, its ancient structures accidentally woven in amongst the Russian influenced architecture.
For our base, we decided to stay in the Beijing hutongs. These narrow, winding streets speak perfectly to the aforementioned character which the city has retained despite some modern developments. The hutongs are filled with small Chinese homes, restaurants, cafes and of course – bicycles. These dusty streets provide a labyrinth through the heart of the city and surround the central Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. If you have time to spare whilst visiting Beijing, they are the perfect place to relax with a drink and a book. Sadly, our schedule was pretty full so we were not afforded the opportunity.
The first day in Beijing, we put on our tourist caps and headed for the infamous
Tiananmen Square, the colossal space representative of Communist China and of course, so much controversy. Arriving in the square I was immediately struck by the two faces of China being thrust together – the gray dullness of Tiananmen Square and directly opposite, the Forbidden City, symbolic of ancient China. Tiananmen Square itself is flanked by the National Museum and the Hall of the People, both housed in heavy concrete structures so miserable in comparison to some of Beijing’s other architectural jewels.
After taking a stroll around the square we headed south, meandering through the streets of Beijing until we reached the Temple of Heaven Park. This pleasant park houses a giant circular Buddhist temple, adorned in bright red and blue. Sitting high on a central hill, we were able to get views over large areas of the city. From here we headed for the famous Lao Che Teahouse, close to Tiananmen Square. The Indiana Jones fan in me was expecting the same room as movie fan are greeted with at the opening of Temple of Doom with Indy battling the bad guy (Lao Che) and his cronies. Unfortunately not so – rather it is a collection of traditional looking
rooms, which serve very expensive tea (Lonely Planet hadn’t warned us about this!). We opted for the cheapest one, a £30 pot of Jasmine tea, before drinking up and leaving!
Our second day in Beijing, we decided to see the Great Wall of China. Having been to the Pyramids in Egypt in my youth, I can say that they simply do not come close to being as impressive as the great wall. The enormity of its construction is incomprehensible! Stretching over mountain ranges for over 5,000 miles, the wall was initially constructed in the 5th Century BC, before extensive modifications were made by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, to prevent roaming nomadic groups from the north from attacking the people. There are many places to see the wall itself, with each offering a different draw! We opted for Mutianyu, approximately 90 North East of Beijing. This had the advantage of keeping away from the many tourists who frequent Badaling. Mutianyu has a stretch of wall around 3km long which is accessible to tourists, who will see outstanding mountain views and the wall is frequently punctuated by Ming-dynasty watch towers. The weather was great and we took
a fairly easy walk along the wall, all the while marvelling at one of man’s grandest creations.
Our final day in Beijing, we were again treated to sunshine and a cloudless sky. We headed for the Forbidden City – a city which was restricted to only the Emperor and his loyal subjects for over 500 years. It’s immediately noticeable that although attempts are constantly being made by the Chinese government to restore the buildings in the Forbidden City to some of their former imperial grandeur, the city, like much of Beijing is still in some disrepair, with the red paint on outer walls cracking under the heat of the sun and the strain of time. However, once inside the city itself, it’s impossible to not be taken aback at the sheer size of the place. It seems as wide as it is long and while most may feel a day is enough time to explore the city, it could easily take more than that. The city, once a haven of tranquillity for dynastic families now buzzes with tourist activity, showcases some of China’s most precious jewels and treasures and affords those with the stamina a great day exploring some
of China’s most impressive past.
Leaving somewhat weary, we took a subway back to our hutong dwelling for a much deserved dinner – sizzled bullfrog for me!
The following day we were to leave for Pingyao.
Tot: 2.34s; Tpl: 0.05s; cc: 31; qc: 143; dbt: 0.0815s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.8mb