Beijing Round 2

After my classes on Sunday the 26th, Michael and I headed to the train station to catch the sleeper train to Beijing! My previous experience with the train was horrendous but this time it wasn’t so bad. There were a few loud snores from fellow passengers now and then, but nothing to complain about. We reached Beijing at about 8am and we went to catch a cab to our hostel, but were forced to wait in the cabby line for 50 minutes! Finally we reached the front of the line and it was another 30 minutes before we reached our hostel!

Tamlyn and Kyle met us at the hostel once we arrived. Tamlyn had been travelling with her friend the previous week and Kyle had met up with her in Beijing for the weekend. The four of us headed to an interesting lake/park area near to our hostel that we hadn’t discovered during our trip to Beijing in October. It was very beautiful, lots of interesting restaurants and shops surrounding the lake. We sat and drank coffee on the boardwalk and admired the view; you could see the Bell and Drum towers in the distance. Following the lake, we ventured down random streets in search of food and found a very delicious pizza restaurant that had outdoor porch swings hanging from the roof instead of chairs. We enjoyed some pizza before wandering the streets for a few hours. Tamlyn and Kyle were leaving that night on the sleeper train back to Hohhot, so we said goodbye to them around 8pm and got ready for the busy day to come!

The next day Michael and I joined a tour group to a Chinese jade factory, the Ming Tombs, a silk factory, and the Great Wall. The Jade factory was pretty interesting. I learnt about how jade is found and produced, it’s significance to chinese culture, and how to tell cheap jade from valuable jade. We watched factory workers carving beautiful shades of green jade into famous Chinese “Family Balls”. My dad has one, it’s when they carve a small ball inside a bigger ball inside a bigger ball inside an even bigger ball, all from one block of jade! They represent the many parts of the family and are very traditional. The factory held (surprise surprise) a lot of jade decorations, jewellery, statues and ornaments to look at and buy, and it was fun to look at the beautiful styles of jade carvings.

Next our group headed to the Ming Tombs: Mausoleums of 13 Emperors of the Ming Dynasty. The one we visited is called Dingling and it’s significance is to Zhu Yijun, the longest ruling emperor during the Ming Dynasty, and his 2 Empress’s. When we entered the sight it had wonderful and traditional scenery. There was a mountain in the background and coming into the foreground we could see a large tower, or “Soul Tower”, peaking out amidst large ancient trees and the Stone Bridge. The tomb was very large and located very deep down. The many halls underneath have stone thrones and areas of offerings piled on with money that people live in respect for the long dead emporer. The tombs were quite interesting, but we were eager to get to the wall so we didn’t stay here too long. One interesting thing that we did here was learn about how to enter and exit the area. There was a large archway leading into the tombs and we were not to enter through it but only exit out of it. Women had to step out with their right foot first and men with their left foot while saying “I will come back” in Chinese. Chinese tradition states that if you don’t do this and promise to return, your soul will part from your body and remain in the tombs forever.

Our next stop was the Great Wall! The last time I visited the Great Wall I had walked the Jinshanling location, which is very long and winding. This time we visited the Mutianyu location, which is shorter, higher, and has significantly more stairs to climb. This section of the Wall was so breath-takingly beautiful because of the mountains and forest that surround it. Even though the end of winter left the countryside dry and brown, it was still a beautiful scene to witness from so high up. This section of the Wall ends at the highest point of the mountain it’s situated on and climbing the stairs towards that destination was extremely exhausting! Sure enough, we made it up in good time! I remember that I reached the top before the rest of the tour, sweaty and out of breath, and shouted “CHAMPION!!” before realizing that there was a family of French people in the watch tower behind me. They laughed, but I was just so exhilarated after the climb and from the view from the top! It was very interesting to see the Wall continuing past the point that was opened to visitors because it really showed how renovated the visitors sections are. The un-renovated sections of the wall are extremely ancient looking, with tree’s and shrubs growing on top, twisting and tangling down the sides and connecting with the forest below. A lot of the stone sides have crumbled away and it’s easy to see how difficult and dangerous climbing the majority of the Great Wall could be.

After spending 2 hours on the Wall, we needed to head to our next destination. But there was no climbing down the Great Wall at the Mutianyu section, oh no. There is a giant, winding slide!!! Michael and I obviously opted for this route down. We got to sit on individual sleds with clutches that allowed you to control the speed as you spiralled down to the parking lot! It was a lot of fun! It took about 5-10 minutes to slide all the way down and there were workers now and then monitoring the sliders from different sections of the slide, shouting “GO GO GO! FASTER FASTER FASTER!” as you slid by. Very fun and unforgettable!

Our final destination was no big deal. We went to a silk factory and learnt all about the process of making silk bedsheets, blankets, clothes and furniture, starting from the silk worms all the way to customer consumption. Upstairs was the silk clothes shop and I considered purchasing a traditional silk Chinese dress, but decided against it for practicality reasons. Michael loved the traditional-style Chinese men’s shirts with the cuffs and button clasps in the front and bought a few, much to my amusement. Following silk factory, we were brought back to our hostel around 6pm.

That night, Michael and I ventured to an area of Beijing that is very touristy but so interesting! There was an outdoor food market where over 300 venders were set up and selling all sorts of food, from fruit drinks to seafood to dumplings to candy! Michael actually bought snake on a stick to try! Literally a snake de-skinned and wrapped around a long stick. He had tried starfish and beetles with Kyle the previous day so this didn’t surprise me too much and I have to be honest: I had a bite and didn’t like it. It was very salty and waxy tasting.

The next day we visited a few different market places in Beijing, had fun haggling with merchants and wandered the streets. We used to subway to get around because it’s so convenient and cheap! I think I’d really like the subways in Beijing if it weren’t for the crowds. There wasn’t a time we rode on the metro when we weren’t surrounded by people. It was very hot and stuffy in there as well. But despite all the people I really find the Beijing subway clean! Not all areas, of course, but some places are very well kept and it’s nice to see. Michael’s greatest wish was to eat Beijing’s famous Peking Duck before leaving Beijing the next day, so we found an excellent restaurant that served us delicious (and well priced!) duck that night.  We checked out the night market as well, which had a lot of interesting stores. It was very crowded though, I didn’t stay there for long because I was so exhausted from our day of venturing!

The next day we were flying to Xi’An mid-afternoon, so in the morning we did last minute Beijing shopping and visited the Lama Temple that was located close to our hostel. It was very large and traditional, but I find that temples in China are all similar. It’s kind of like, if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. So the Lama Temple didn’t blow my mind, but we still managed to snap a few lovely pictures before heading to the airport. We took the express subway train there instead of a taxi, just to try something new! And so ends my final vacation to Beijing! Another success I think, I really do hope that will get a chance to spend more time in Beijing sometime in my future.

I’ll update you on our Xi’An adventure in the next one! xoxo

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Blaine Copland
    Apr 10, 2012 @ 06:06:47

    Since I will probably never get farther than Toronto, I hope you know I live through your adventures. 🙂

    Reply

  2. maryanne rooney
    Apr 10, 2012 @ 06:11:02

    hey…i don’t recall a slide when i was on the WALL…and yes if u c 1 temple u’ve seen them all…haha….your story brings back happy memories.. 🙂

    Reply

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