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Beijing - Temples and Towers

Wednesday 25.07.2012

We hope you enjoyed Shanghai as much as we did. At 07.45 am a taxi took us to Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station where we took the high speed train to our next destination: Beijing. With a speed of up to 306 Km/h it took us in 5.5 hours to Beijing covering a distance of about 1050 Km.

We had bought a second class ticket. Since the chairs were not very comfortable, and we could not sit next to a window, we asked if it was possible to buy firstclass tickts. A bit more expensive, but with much better chairs, and a lot more personal space (and free cookies!!). It helped a lot to make it a pleasant journey.

On time we arrived at Beijing South Railway station. Without any trouble we found our way out to the place where the taxi's are. Once outside, a man offered us to bring us to the hotel. But, he had no meter in his taxi and told us the price would be 200 Yuan, about 26 euro. From experiece we learned that if they are so friendly, they will use us to make a lot of money, so we told him we were only interested in a taxi with meter. We disappointed him so much that when we saw a normal taxi, the “friendly” man told the driver something, and suddenly this taxi wasn't able to bring us to our hotel. We decided to go back inside and look for another way of transportation, the subway for example.

With some help from a few kind people we bought subway tickets, a map, and found our way to the hotel. Costs: 20 Yuan, including the map (actually, the tickets were 4 Yuan and their help cost 16...). Quite a lot cheaper, and probably a lot faster.

We checked in at our hotel, the Bamboo Garden Hotel in the middle of a nice Hutong. Hutong are old neighbourhoods. For some time they have been neglected and destroyed, but nowadays a lot of them are restored again. More info: The hotel is not in the city centre but close to a subway (within 10 minutes walking), so perfect for us. Since we were a bit tired, we had a meal in our hotel, took a walk around the hotel for about 40 minutes, took a shower and went to bed.

Thursday 26.07.2012

After breakfast we took the subway to Tiannanmen Square and the Forbidden City. This name is only used by foreigners, the Chinese call it the Palace Museum, because it isn't forbidden anymore. The palace is the place where several generations of Chinese emperors have been living. A massive complex of 800.000 m2 filled with palaces, houses, small gardens and big squares, built during the Ming-dynasty about 600 years ago, and it took than 1 million workers to build it. A funny thing, again, was how much people looked at us, and took pictures of and with us.

When we were about to go in a guide asked us if we would hire him, and after some consideration we offered him a lower price then he asked for. Since he was a schooled guide, he did not accept our offer and suggested we ask his friend, Illy (like the coffee she said). A 41 year old (young) woman who took her time and told us about about the history and the best places to visit. She had interesting stories and we were happy we hired her.

She took us to a part were not many tourists were going to and here we met a very special man, the nephew of the last Emperor. This man was a master at Calligraphy. He wrote “Double Happiness” for us, we shook hands and he went on the photo with us. We considere it to be very special to meet this man because he is part of the history of the last dynasty.

After about 1.5 hour we left the forbidden city, with our guide, to go to a small tea house where we got introduced to a tea cerenomy, also quite interesting. In China, tea is a bit like wine in France. Many choices, many flavors, many kinds of qualities. From normal cheap tea to tea that can cost hundreds of euros. After this we said goodbye to our guide.

Next stop was the Temple of Heaven. It took us quite some time to get there, and once we arrived we found out that big parts of it were already closed. Too bad. Still, we had a nice walk and afterwards, we found a good restaurant and had their speciality, Peking (Roast) Duck. Delicious and a great way to end an an interesting day.

Weather: Clouded, about 29 degrees, and some small rain showers in early afternoon.

Friday 27.08.2012

Today we were picked up by a personal chaufeur who would bring us to two places, the Summer Palace and the Great Wall. He was on time and he told us the best thing would be to visit the Summer Palace first.

The Summer Palace is a huge park around a lake where the Emperor and his wife lived when he had no business in the forbidden city. A big place with lots of buildings, like you will see in the pictures. One special thing, The Empress, also known as the Dragon Lady, decided that a part of the annual budget for the Chinese Navy should be invested in .... a marble boat, a nice decoration in her lake.

Second on today's list was a walk to the Great Wall of China. Unfortunely, the closer we got there, the foggier it got. When we arrived it was so foggy that the visibilty was less than 100 meters, on top that, it also started to rain. Too bad, but we were there and have t-shirts to prove it. The visibility was so bad that we only stayed there for half an hour. Alas!

Our driver brought us safely back to our hotel, we had dinner and a walk in the rain. Tomorrow will be our last day in Beijing.

Saturday 28.07.2012

Our last day in Beijing. Tonight we will board the night train to Xi'an, but first a trip to the square again, visit the Lama Temple and stroll through the Hutong. The pictures tell the stories.

The weather is getting hotter and more humid every day .....

See you in Xi'an!

Enjoy our photos