Friday, November 05, 2010

Beijing Travelogue

Oooo, finally got down to writing my travelogue after 2 weeks. Procrastination is such a powerful yet dangerous habit. So here goes, with some narrative and photos to showcase the fun I had with 2 other frens!

1st of, to answer tons of qns floating in the minds of my frens out there (i've answered every single one with the same reply) - Why are u going to BJ for hol? Ans: Song! Cannot meh! Sometimes, u gota go to places u'r more familiar with, with familiar faces (chinese) and familiar language (mandarin). Somehow it makes for a much easier task during travelling when u can actually speak the language. & pple think u'r from China too (southern part)

Yes, why can't I go BJ for hol? Now, answer that pls... I don't have to be visiting all exotic plcs all the time, in time these plcs will no longer be exotic! Anyway, who is to say BJ is not exotic, it's relative to where u'r from! Anyway, it was a good trip to BJ, fun & great sight seeing. Of cos, there's sth abt BJ that u nd to know, or even is wide spread enuff for e'ryone to know:

人多,车多,交通差!(Translated: Crowded with people & cars & terrible traffic)

Yes, u do know how many pple there are in China, so it seems majority live in BJ, + tons & tons of visitors make BJ damn crowded! U don't have to fret abt being lonely or alone, cos there'l be a grp of pple next to you every min! No matter what time u take the MRT, it'll be so crowded. We nvr had a chance to sit in the MRT for the entire duration (& we took the train almost e'ryday, at diff times too!!)

Traffic is bad, almost all the time, & loads of cars on the road!!! Bicycles which used to be the main sight on roads, are overtaken by cars! Foreign made cars! But i must say, their public tpt is cheap! MRT is RMB2 anywhere u go (it's per trip basis), public bus is bet RMB1-2 (per trip basis unless u take a really long dist), and cabs are very cheap!! Meter starts at RMB10, and we took a 20min cab ride for RMB11 only!! Yes, the meter jumped RMB1 just mins b4 we alighted. But of cos, to fight the traffic, opt for MRT, even tho u have to fight ur way through the massive crowds, but still better than stuck in non-moving crowds of cars on roads!

So anyway, let's do a summarized chronological list of events/places during the 8 day trip (only the highlights):

Moi & Mei Mei arrived on Sun morn, while Angeline arrived at night (different flight), but the 2 of us spent most of the day just sleeping in the hotel & walking abit along Wang Fu Jing (our hotel is walking dist from there).

Officially, our journey begins on Mon with a trip to Forbidden City. & Yes, crowds & crowds of pple even though we arrived at 9am which is damn earlier already!!! Guess u can forget abt trying to fight the crowd (u just can't win). So forbidden city, well majestic buildings & such, but after a while, all the buildings look the same with different names... But it's a large area! And we spent 2hrs just walking thr from south to north.

At TianAnMen Gate en route to Forbidden City. U need the skill of quick snap in order to avoid crowd in ur photo

Doing our jumps in a 'secluded' area of Forbidden City, only to start attracting crowds

One of the highlights of the trip was the visit to Great Wall. We purposely chose a more remote & less well-known Great Wall - Huang Hua Great Wall aka Water Great Wall. So called because a dam is built ard it, so u sorta have a great wall surrounded by water (got mountain, got water). The view is fantastic, weather was fab! & best of all, NO ONE!!! Ok not entirely no one, but like 10 pple only?? That's like a great feat considering u'r in China! So it's like a paradise! Take all the photo u want, & u'r guaranteed (almost) no excessive or unwanted images!! We went crazy snapping ard at the fantastic view & posing funny for the camera, not afraid cos no one is there to laugh at us! And all these for just RMB2 per pax! Yes, we paid only RMB2 not cos tt's the entrance fee, but cos we went up through local villagers' farms, so we'r paying to trespass.

Look at the view man!! & Yes very steep

The view is fantastic!!

Air is so much fresher in the remote area!! & so fun climbing up the super duper steep steps and walkway! Mind you, this great wall is not refurbished at all, so it's quite worn down, with fallen walls, shelters, and slippery walkways, so gota be careful when trekking up! We had to climb up a small part of the mountain & access the great wall via a metal ladder that is just put there by someone (maybe the villagers??) with not much security. Just have to trust that the ladder is still there after many (a few??) pple have used it. It wasnt even secured to the wall, just placed against it. But we survived! & so did many others b4 and after us! Yes, we thot we were only like the 2nd grp up, but shortly after, a grp of ang moh joined in the fun.

The makeshift ladder to go up

Very slippery... No friction!
THe view makes the tough climb worth it!

It's not an easy climb, and really quite steep & slippery, so hold on to the walls (if there is) for support. But it is a really great plc for photography or portfolio cos u don get disturbances from unwanted pple walking by keke.. Yes, we spotted a couple taking wedding photos there! We just wondered how did the bride climb up that ladder cos they did not bring much eqpt up, and we didnt see changed clothes...& she was wearing a big puffy red evening gown.

A series of group shot, jumping, posing.. Lots more, these are just a few

Yes, I'm standing at the edge!! No walls!!

After almost 3 hrs, we head to Ming tombs & sacred walkway. Let's just say, paying RMB65 for Ming tomb is the worst investment of the entire trip. U go in, nothing much to see or photograph, just a few fake replicas of coffins & signs. It's like 'That's it?". But then again, it's the feeling of 'I'll regret if I don't go, but after going I regret even more' Hahahha... & that place was the least crowded place of all touristy places!! Really can feel the difference...

Our days followed with more tourist attractions like TianAnMen Square, where we Q-ed for 1hr before getting inside to view Chairman Mao's preserved corpse (it's just a 2min walk through the plc), Temple of Heaven. Of cos we went to the summer palaces (old and new) and WOOHOO, how big are they!! I mean if u thot the new summer palace (YiHeYuan) is big, wait till u see how big the old one (YuanMingYuan) was!!! Super big! Words can't really describe. Let's just say BJ Uni & QingHua Uni are currently occuping space used to be YuanMingYuan. Add those 2 up, plus the current site of YuanMingYuan, & i suppose even more acres of land..... We walked like a million miles that day!!! FYI, we didnt' manage to complete the entire YiHeYuan. TOo big I tell u...

The Suzhou street @ Yi He Yuan

YiHeYuan, the view is fantastic, photos don't really do justice

The ruins @ Yuan Ming Yuan

Attractions wise, we also went to Tianjin for a day trip (nothing much there) and Da Guan Yuan (site of filming of the old Dreams of Red Mansion). The last one was not intended, but added last min as we were all caught in the fever of the Dreams of Red Mansion which was showing on TV during our stay in BJ. Yes, it captivated our attention such that we rushed back every nite for 2hrs' dose of the TV series!!! Even though it's hard to understand what the heck they were talking abt, we were still mesmorized by the entire tv series for whatever reason! Sometimes, u cannot tell why u like sth, u just like it :)

Night scenery @ TianJin

@ Da Guan Yuan. Aunties & Uncles gathering to dance.

Of cos, one of the impt event of the trip was shopping & food. Food wise, we realized Bj-ers have huge appetite!!! They really eat ALOT!!! Portions of their food are like super huge!!! & prices r reasonable! Like RMB6 for a plate of dumplings (12 pcs), that's like SGD1+ for 12 dumplings! & the dumplings r not small. RMB2 for mutton satay twice the size of LPS satay. Oh, not to forget the delicious yogurt!!! Lao Beijing Yogurt... Yum Yum!! I miss it man!! RMB3-4 for 1, thick, creamy, smooth & not too sweet! Got liquid & solid version (custard like consistency). Yum Yum...... But one thing is, the food there is damn oily & salty... & they like mains rather then sides. Like a bowl of beef noodles consist of tons of noodles, but only 3 pcs of beef, or heaps of rice to go with the veges.

Angeline taking a bite. It's a damn small worm, fried to crisp

Street Food!! We tried dumplings, hot pot, beef balls, soya bean curd etc etc

Some pan fried fish with doughy cake. It's nice but abit salty

A story about the above photo. One day, straits times happen to publish a story on Beijing Snack food & featured this place called Niu Men Snacks (九门小吃)being a disappearing art/culture. So we ventured to this place to check it out. So happen, Angeline brought the newpaper article, which featured this man. HIs not some ordinary street vendor ok. His some 6th generation famous sugar man! He makes shapes out of malted sugar (by blowing air into the sugar to create the shape) & he has been on TVs etc (many clippings at his store). So we asked Angeline to present the ST article to him as a gift, & she did!! In return, he made a sugar dog for her FOC (she even did the blowing). So that's the story of the english newspaper article seen pasted on his store (in case next time u go & see an english cutting). We hereby presume he will paste it on his board... Morale of the story, bring along all kinds of newspaper cutting of places u'r gg to visit, which feature particular famous person. U nvr know what u get in return.

Tianjin Dog's Don't Care bun (狗不理)FYI, not so nice (according to my frens). Skin is thick, filling is minimal.

A quite famous custard shop! Delicious custard!! Oh & BJ yogurts are the best man! I miss it so much.....

Abt shopping, hmmm good man! Keke, remember to go Beijing Zoo MRT station, walk out & u'll find the big wholesale market!! Damn crowded yes, but good shopping! Quality of clothes there is pretty good! I bought nike jacket & pants for like RMB40 each! Super cheap, and good quality ok! ALot of things r under RMB30 each!!! No nd to bargain (like what u have to if u go silk market). Bags for RMB39 each, sweaters for RMB30, or long sleeve blouse for RMB75 (gd quality material). Haven!!! Ya, sometimes i regret not buying more, esp winter clothes. Ya so next time, immediately head for Wholesale center @ beijing zoo (don't go silk market liao). Heard from my fren still got other plcs like Dong Si, or Wu Dao Kou. Too many places!!

Yes, u may have qns in ur head, thinking 'Hows the toilet condition?', 'Is spitting still common?', 'Taxis safe?'.

Ans: Toilet conditions are aceptable. At least they have doors, and flush works. Only they don't have toilet paper most of the time, but really it's good enuff! At least u can bear to enter & finish ur biz. Spitting not so much now, tho it still happens, but has improved. Altho we noted that act the younger generation spits more than the uncles. So.....Mayb it'll nvr really go away?? & taxis r safe! We've taken then quite a no of times, & they'r all very honest, by meter & wun take you for a ride! Ask for the receipt after the ride just to make sure, cos if they cheat or sth, they'll most prob not give u the printed receipt.

8 days, some pple say 'Wah spend so many days in BJ got things to do meh?'. We didn't travel out of BJ, only Tianjin for 1 day, yet we feel just right, not too slack. SO imagine those tour grps doing 8 days including BJ, TJ & CD. Must be very rushed. I like the way we travelled, relax, & we can do what we like according to our own timing. We didnt go out very early, like 9+, leisure leisure, still we enjoyed all the things :) Able to shop at our own timing. Good experience. U do improve your chinese after 1 week. Like what we imposed (to speak Mandarin in BJ, which unfortch didnt quite make it cos Angeline kept breaking the rules!!) Fun, look forward to the next trip


Angeline said...

Great summary! Would help many to consider BJ as a possible destination. It's worth a go really! As I said, it's one of those places I wouldn't mind staying for a year especially when there's cheap and good food.

DShan said...

why not u go there to work as a social worker? Then we can go visit u often